Andy note: Best of WSO - this post originally went up December 2009 and we thought it deserved to go back on the homepage for those who may have never seen it.
After reading and commenting on this board it is very clear that everyone has goals/dreams and an idea of how to obtain them. Another common theme is how neurotic people are in landing that dream, , etc. Yes there are clear paths to those positions and I myself wondered how I will get to the point in my career in which I have truly crossed all of the T's and dotted all of the I's.
Here is my point: There is so much time ahead of you. If you are smart and have the drive, you will achieve what you desire (within reason). My dream would be to found/co-found a boutique investment bank. I know it may seem like a stretch, but its a dream. In a perfect world this would happen by age 35-40. Now right now I'm 23, which gives me 12-17 years. I still have another 10-15 assuming I take 2 years out for b-school! Think about the sheer numbers!
Think of your career as not only the steps that you need to take to get to the end goal, but how long you have to get there. I think many of us worry so much about the near term that it can be overwhelming and unnecessary. Put things in perspective.