You Need Strategy

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Many times when we are working in the grind we get so busy that we can’t see the forest from the trees. You may be working hard, but your hard work may be on things that don’t contribute to the bigger priorities.

It’s why having a regular and focused time for strategy keeps you from wasting energy on the wrong things.

If you are growing a business, you can’t afford to be unclear. It becomes costly quickly.

And if you have had much experience in business, you realize that there are not any shortcuts. The reality is that two things matter: strategy and hard work.

Knowing what to do and doing it consistently moves the needle. There’s no gimmick, magic or back door that hands you success on a platter.

You have to work just as hard at clarity as you do the actual work. And clarity is not free. It comes with thinking through the competing priorities, opportunities and constraints that are part of your mix.

Has the work you have been putting forth the last month mattered?

How can you make space for strategy regularly?

Always Monitor Relevance

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I went through a lot of old digital files recently in my Google Drive as part of a pruning day. I had everything from client projects from years ago to books I was working on to consulting and coaching tools for strategy.

The vast majority of information was irrelevant to what I am doing today. I would never use those files or information again, though they may have been building blocks to where I am now. What was highly relevant ten years ago had context. Furthermore, innovation has created an immense amount of new tools and ideas that make sense for me and doing business now versus before.

Relevance has to always be questioned. Otherwise, we are stale and holding on to what doesn’t matter anymore. The habit of relentlessly getting rid of the old to make room for the new keeps you in the game.

I want to focus on now and the future. And the last thing I need to clutter that pursuit is entertaining irrelevance.

 

How to Drive Clarity

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Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing? Is the work you have been doing for many years as relevant today, or are you having to unlearn and reinvent?

I think that effort and working hard are relatively natural for many driven and successful people that I know. The hard part is the paradox of success. Once you have  achieved success, there are new, ambiguous horizons to pursue. It is unending, and in a sense, overwhelming.

What do you do to get clarity?

Well, one thing for sure is to heed Marie Forleo’s insight, “Clarity comes from engagement not thought.”

You can’t get clear by sitting and thinking. You have to engage the world around you. You have to be fully present in the moment, and listen to your intuition and heart about what you desire and align with.

The world provides feedback continually, and when you tune into how you respond – what you like, dislike or are attracted to – you gain clues on where to put your energy towards next endeavors.

Perhaps you have hit a jackpot. Or you may have finished a giant project. The temptation is to rest and enjoy downtime. But, a void comes quickly where inaction, apathy or clouded thinking can lull you into passivity. This is happening while the world is moving swiftly by.

If you can’t find motivation, bide your time by working in new gigs and projects. Explore. Engage. Be with people and keep solving problems. If you don’t like what you are doing, pivot to something else. The key is to keep moving.

Then, pay attention to the feedback you are getting in the world through engagement. If you are continually growing by learning new skills and helping as many people as you can, the clarity comes. You start to see patterns about what you want next.

Then you can rally and put all that passion, energy and time into what you have discovered.

You have to seek clarity continuously as a life process if you want to keep growing, performing and getting results. There is no resting on your laurels. Movement is life.

The Value of Bookends

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Starting something means you committed in some way. You gave a, “Yes,” and now you are in. Your new yes is one of the items that are in your life and now demands attention, whether small or large.

The temptation is always there to commit on the front end. A moment of inspiration, someone else’s request or a legitimate priority can solicit that easy response.

Starting a thing is highly asymmetrical compared to ending something. It’s easy to get into something and because of our desire to please others or our inability to decide on a good thing vs. a bad thing. We jump in too easily.

Our bias towards the status quo overwhelms our sense of a good thing vs. an irrelevant thing as well. A commitment may have made sense previously, but today’s priorities and reality have changed. However, we find ourselves with a sunk-cost bias still working on something that doesn’t make sense today compared to a week ago.

This is where having bookends can help, something that holds up and defines your boundaries. On one end, you want to let few, but great, things in. On the other end, you want to cross-off or get rid of commitments that simply don’t make sense.

Letting go is hard for many reasons, largely emotional. But burning out, living with a heavy burden of work or relationships, can be costly. How do you get to your goals if you are holding up many commitments by not having clear bookends? It’s not scalable. You’ll simply keep letting half-hearted things in and not letting go of the things you should.

Bookends work because they are clear and defined. You don’t hold onto some clothes you may wear. You get rid of them and get something you love. The same goes for projects, relationships, business ventures and all the pursuits you have built that are part of your life.

Allowing things to stick around because once upon a time you made a commitment is costly. The best things are subservient to the mediocre.

If you can be discriminate about what comes in and vigilant about getting rid of things that don’t matter, I have no doubt you will live a little lighter and a lot clearer.

Leaders Decide

“There are really only two ways to approach life, as a victim or as a gallant fighter, and you must decide if you want to act or react, deal your own cards or play with a stacked deck. And if you don’t decide which way to play with life, it always plays with you. ” – Merle Shain

How good are you at making decisions? Do you still have the bad habits of a ninth grader? You might recall that typical conversation. Your friends are in a circle. Someone asks, “So what do you want to do?” Blankly staring and compliant, everyone bleats, “I dunno. Whatever.”

Finally, someone asserts themselves. You know, the same person that always does – the leader, “Let’s go see the late show.” Everyone else follows along. Continue reading