You already know about failing to plan. Here’s another axiom: it’s only a goal if you write it down. Otherwise, it’s just a hope and hope is not a strategy. Each of us strives for something – relevance, clients, credibility, results, but how much of just happens and how much is the result of a calculated effort. That doesn’t mean you script every moment of life, it means you do not go into things totally blind, you have an outcome in sight and adjust to changing conditions in order to reach it.
Earlier this year, I left the corporate cocoon and struck out on my own for the first time. Scary as hell. The first lesson was that the 1st and the 15th are just two days in the month, no more or less significant than the 28 or 29 others. (Or the 26 others in most Februaries.) I had an outline in mind and filled in the blanks as they surfaced. On occasion, I colored outside the lines and that’s not always bad. It helped to formulate a good part of the path for 2015. The outcome for next year is my mark on the wall; that’s what I am preparing for as this year winds down and the next one unfolds. Spots on the calendar are filling in, ideas are taking shape, projects are coming together.
Military folks love to say every plan is genius until the first round is fired down range and that is true in business, too. You can scheme out every step but reality is going to force you to adjust. Your initial idea gets refined and sharpened as you try it out, it extends beyond its original bounds as ideas take root, it heads into areas you had not originally considered as your network expands. This isn’t just some guy BS’ing you; I am living it. What started has taken at least two turns I did not envision, and that’s to the good. That came from having a goal and the ability to adjust to unforeseen opportunities.
Unforeseen opportunities, the philosophical mirror to “foreseeable consequences are not unintended.” I realize the latter is a double negative but give it another go: when actions have predictable outcomes, you cannot act surprised at the results. Too often, you hear about someone being “victimized” by outside forces or bad advice or flawed strategy, but that sounds a bit like rationalizing bad ideas. If you take a wrong turn when driving, it usually does not take long to realize your mistake. Same thing with plans and strategies; you have some benchmark in mind and if the meter is not moving in a positive direction after a reasonable period of time, reconsider your approach. It doesn’t mean you are 100% wrong and have to start over; you just have to be aware of the variables that surfaced along the way, how they impacted what you were trying to accomplish, where adjustments need to be made, and keep moving forward.
A colleague of mine in a networking organization has based his philosophy on removing negativity from your life and focusing on the positive direction in which you are headed. It’s not happy talk. If the goal is to drink a glass of water, then the glass being half-empty is moving in the positive direction of totally empty. If the goal is 10 meetings this week or three new clients this month, and you get seven of the former and two of the latter, you are moving in a positive direction. Look, all these motivational speakers and success coaches and productivity experts are in demand for a reason – whether or not what they offer actually works, people think it does and they are willing to pay for a dose of it. No one shows up at work and says “how can I screw up today?” And while I believe in the notion of “first shown up, then see what happens” to a point, it is conjunction with a desire outcome and the part about ‘what happens’ is the variables that may surface.