January 29th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Letters to the President #1105: 'Where will you be?'

Reporter's Note: Next January the president either will or won’t be sworn in for a second term. For now, he can read my letters.

Dear Mr. President,

I know that you are fully dug into this re-election bid, and I am sure you are acutely aware of the months until the big vote. But have you stopped for a moment to really, clearly consider where you will be one year from now?

You will either be celebrating the fact that you have taken the oath for a second term in office, or you will be…well, a civilian again…a former president.

Either one is going to mean big changes to your outlook on life, I’m guessing, so you might want to start preparing for that even as you scramble around in campaign land.

If option A pans out, then you’ll be facing four years in which you don’t have to worry a bit about staying in office, because once that four is over, you’re done no matter what. Many presidents, as you may have noticed, find that to be a wonderfully freeing realization. They stop playing to the crowd; stop trying to placate their political cronies; and start actually doing some of the things they were elected to do. They become bold, brave, even daring.

If option B pans out, then you’ll face something altogether different; the challenge of figuring out what to do with the rest of your life. Because trust me, nothing else will ever rival the job you hold now. The professional high point of your life will be past, and you will be forever judged by it.

That’s why I recommend a simple plan: Do it now. Whatever it is that you want to do with the presidency, do it now. Don’t look around in a year and say, “If only I’d stepped up and hit the ball, I’d be leaving a bigger legacy,” or “If only I’d been more dynamic in my leadership, I might have been re-elected.” Do it now.

Because while you may get a second shot the office; you also, may not…and time is wasting.