Build momentum toward reaching your goals by simplifying your vision process.
How many times have you been asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” While it seems like a silly question when you are applying for an entry level job flipping burgers, or any job for that matter, it is one that can be helpful for your personal development. Where do you want to be in five years? Do you have a vision for your professional life trajectory? Hellen Keller was born both deaf and blind but refused to allow those major setbacks to define her. Her words and example are an inspiration as well as a kick in the butt when she says,
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
Start with what isn’t.
If it isn’t enough that 2020 is trying to slap you in the face, you’ve just been called out by Hellen Keller. Before you despair, let us help you simplify your pursuit of a clear vision by ruling out those items that are not critical to being purpose driven. Having vision is not about seeing the future. You are not required to be a fortune teller or a practicing daytime television psychic in order to have vision for your future. We are enamored with the false idea that only the special can thrive. Do not buy into the concept that in order to be an effective leader you have to also be a seer of the unknown.
Do you heap pressures upon yourself by believing it is your job to think about what will change in the coming year so that you can seize upon those opportunities? By contrast, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos finds it helpful to ask, “What won’t change.” He knows that customers will always want lower prices, wider selection and faster delivery. These expectations are a constant. Jeff knows he will never have a customer come to him and say, "Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher. I love Amazon; I just wish you'd deliver a little more slowly."
Change is a constant, adapt.
While it serves purpose well to ask yourself, what won’t change as opposed to worrying about what will change, this does not mean that we aren’t required to adapt. Jack Welch is viewed by many as the key figure in General Electric’s reportedly 4,000% growth during his tenure as CEO from 1981-2001. He speaks often on the importance of leaders creating clarity in vision, structuring the processes around purpose and seeing things through to completion. Two decades of sustained growth, leading teams through transitions from the 80’s to the 90’s and then into the new century, makes for some unique perspectives on growth.
Vision must be revisited regularly as the market evolves. As a leader you must lead yourself before you can lead your team as both you and the organization have to be prepared to adapt regularly. Even in a company as large as GE, Jack Welch understood the importance of continual growth, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Finding the means to clarify your vision in the midst of uncertainty is essential. Build upon a sense of purpose for yourself and help your team members to grasp theirs.
Eliminate the unsuccessful.
We have bought into the belief that in order to be prosperous we need to emulate the habits of the uber successful. Author Darius Foroux talks about meeting a wealthy (aka “successful”) person for the first time. In sharing this, Darius counters the idea of copying the rich, as the entrepreneur told him, “I just try to avoid being unsuccessful. Study what makes you unsuccessful, unhappy, broke, fat, stupid. Then, eliminate those things out of your life.” Simple but never easy. Turn your sights towards reducing wasted energy and transfer that to productive outputs.
It is important to establish your own purpose and to define your own goals. Your definition of success may be different from the next person, and it should be. If Jeff Bezos leads Amazon by asking, “What isn’t going to change,” you will also find value in asking yourself, “What have I been doing that is not bringing me closer to my vision and goals?” It takes time to develop broken thought patterns and bad habits, so it will also take time to create new routines. Recognizing the need to change is the first step in pursuing positive changes.
Simplify and make progress in the process.
With so much information at our disposal, it is important to remember that mastering the basics and building from that foundation is still a solid course towards growth. Bruce Lee had some great comments in this regard, “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” This imagery is excellent, we are in a fight to literally “hack away” those things which steal our focus and energy from gaining momentum in our pathway to success. You have limited time and energy, if you can direct those resources at useful endeavors you will win.
The key is to STOP doing what isn’t working.
With these perspectives you can start to simplify the path towards conquering your growth goals. Author and coach, Lex Sisney, recaps an effective strategy for coaching your employees that is apropo to leading oneself—the Stop-Start-Ideal approach. Lex says, “If we can first get clear on what old behaviors or mindsets need to stop, and actually stop them, by law that frees up energy and capacity to develop new mindsets and behaviors. If we don’t first stop the old behaviors, the inertia of the status quo will continue.” We are all too familiar with the allure and the consequences of the status quo. 2020 is a great year to operate from a place of clarity as we make progress in the process.
Four results of yearly forecasting
It’s the end of the year. We feel the pressure to make our resolutions. What should we consider when drafting plans to grow ourselves and our business in the coming year? Math may or may not be your strong suit, but planning and success are measurable points upon an X and Y axis.
1. I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t reach my goals
I didn’t have a plan.
I was not able to achieve my goals.
This may or may not be the result of not having a plan. For the coming year we would have nothing to lose by drafting and implementing a plan. The bar was set low last year and we knocked it over. This year it’s time to give setting the bar a chance, unless we want to continue in mediocrity.
Did you have a plan but you just don’t want to admit that you failed? There is something to stating your goals aloud or at least in writing. If you want to increase your achievement potential you may find some value in our video on personal organization.
2. I didn’t have a plan and I reached my goals
I didn’t have a plan.
I was able to achieve my goals.
As noted before, perhaps you did have a plan but you didn’t want to state it for the record just in case you didn’t reach your marks. Many are afraid of failure, but it is also common to be afraid of success. Don’t allow yourself to fail in planning simply because you are afraid to fail. If you are experiencing fear of failure you may find some value in our fear mantra.
You can take a gamble on not having a plan and being able to reach your goals in the coming year. Or you can take the momentum you had from last year and improve that through composing and declaring your plans for the coming year.
3. I had a plan and I didn’t reach my goals
I had a plan.
I was not able to achieve my goals.
This may or may not have been the result of having a plan. Was the issue with the plan, the execution or a failure to adapt? Having a plan does not mean that we can guarantee our results. We like to practice rigid flexibility. We want to have a plan but we must be able to adapt as we receive new information or experience obstacles.
If you crave success you will need to prepare to succeed. If you want to take yourself to the next level in your personal and professional development, it’s time to make a plan for how you are going to use the hours that you have — make a plan for what you will do with the hours everyone else is wasting.
4. I had a plan and I reached my goals
I had a plan.
I was able to achieve my goals.
Take a little victory dance. You did it. You were intentional about your approach to last year. You were able to execute your plan, adapt in the face of obstacles and persevere to the end of the year. Now that you have tasted success, can you repeat it? It is likely that the same exact plan executed in the same exact way will not bring the same result. The only constant is that things are constantly changing.
The good news is that you now have a habit for success and you have tasted the glory of it. This should provide you with a template as well as the motivation to repeat your efforts from last year and carry them into the new one.
Whether you planned and/or succeeded, this is a new year and a fresh new opportunity to chase life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In drafting your plan, consider the following:
1. Is your vision clear for the coming year?
2. Are your goals rooted in your mission?
3. Are there habits that need to be eliminated?
4. Are there parts of your system that can be simplified?
5. Do you need to adjust your structure?
When we invest in creating an end of year plan, we help to clarify and solidify our vision. If vision is tied to reality than it should filter through our personal and organizational disciplines. Vision fuels our habits. Vision combined with goals will clarify our mission.
Whether we want to grow or not, growth is essential. Whether we think we need change or not, adaptation is the root of survival. Failure is not final and neither is success. Whether last year was one of achievement or disappointment this is a fresh new year and we can change things or build on our momentum through the simple act of planning.
Prepare yourself to succeed. Success tomorrow starts with making a plan today.
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It’s a new year and we are approaching the celebration of the life, work and message of Martin Luther King, Jr. What better time to reflect on the keys to building a life of purpose that he shared as one of his final speeches.
In October of 1967, 6 months before his death by assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia. Even after all of his accomplishments and his renown, Martin still took the time to encourage and challenge young people. As a man of vision and purpose, he exemplified investing in others, especially those who needed a word to inspire them to continue their journey. For this speech he spoke on the idea that like any well constructed building our lives should be built upon a solid blueprint.
Dr. King asked the students, “What is your life’s blueprint?”
Here are six keys to recognizing purpose and developing in your personal growth from Martin Luther King Junior's speech on life's blueprint:
1. Have a blueprint (clarity)
“Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.” - MLK
Even though this message was shared with junior high students, the wisdom is no less applicable to any age. Those adolescent years are critical in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Our early years lay the foundation for how we will see the world and our role in it. Too many haven’t made solid foundations on a sound blueprint at these transitional stages in their lives and so they are wandering through life without a clear vision. Leadership starts with leading yourself. Leading yourself starts with mapping out a plan, a blueprint for where you want your life to go, how you plan to get there and what steps you will take to move in that direction today.
Our calling is to be people of excellence. The beauty of a blueprint is that it is not the finished product but the plan we will follow in order to build our lives upward. As we move forward in our mission we refer to our blueprint to inspire us to action. When we get lost along the way we can recall our blueprint to remind us of our vision. As obstacles arise we understand that the core principles remain the same but we adapt to new information throughout the process. Martin challenged the strudents, “Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.”
2. Understand your value (accountability)
“Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness.” - MLK
When children are raised at a disadvantage whether that be economically, socially, structurally, spiritually, emotionally, physically or a combination of all of these factors they have more obstacles to overcome. Too often our current situation influences our perspective of who we are as people or what we are capable of. The path to our purpose does not ignore our circumstances, but Martin Luther King, Jr. and those voices of strength call upon people of vision to carry forward. He says to the students, ” I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil. I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live in — stay in school.”
Purpose requires courage to see past our immediate situation to work through and build for our long term goals. Vision provides energy in the struggle when the winds have died down and the power is out. Remembering that we have a blueprint calls us back to the clarity of our mission. Understanding our worth as people and our role in the bigger picture reminds us to carry on the good work we have before us regardless of the opposition facing us. Valuing our worth helps us to embrace and value the worth of others. Our great documents call for liberty and justice for all, and by pursuing that high goal in an equitable manner we find we enrich our own lives as well.
3. Determination for the pursuit of excellence (consistency)
“Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor.” – MLK
The cult of success causes us to idolize the achievers who are most apparent in movies, business and who have attained affluence. If the vision of your blueprint is to build a purposeful and happy existence than the result of our life’s work is no guaranteed to bring those physical rewards. Dr. King admonished the students, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”
Life is progressive. As we learn and industry and build skills we develop ourselves into those who stand out for mastery in their current duties. Being teachable, consistently learning, growing in our abilities and challenging ourselves to take risks all lead towards advancement. Trust is the most valuable commodity for advancing in life and business, those who can establish and leverage trust can go far. Success should not be exclusive. There is plenty to go around for all. Achieving our goals should include building opportunity and bringing others along, as fellow citizens, mentors and co-laborers in the journey.
4. Embrace your opportunities (courage)
"And I say to you, my young friends, that doors are opening to each of you, doors of opportunity to each of you that were not open to your mothers and your fathers and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to enter these doors as they open." - MLK
Life is about opportunity not convenience. When the doors are opening they don't always swing wide and they don't always remain open forever. Understanding our value enables us to take some risks in moving from where we are to where we desire to be. Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to rise to the challenge even when we are scared.
The other side of success is that living a blessed life is not just found in the attaining of affluence or accumulation of material possessions. Many have trophy rooms of their exploits with no one to share them with because their sacrifices on the altar of prosperity included the persons who would have helped and celebrated with them. Capitalism creates endless opportunities but the corrosion of personal values through devious practices that devalue others makes for hollow victories. Rise to your opportunities through the assistance of those who have invested in you and continue that cycle of mentorship by bringing others along with you. Do justly.
5. Be the best of whatever you are
“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” – MLK
Worrying about what we are not will rob us from the opportunities we have in the present. Complaining about what we have not become will not help us to reach for who we are and who we can be. If you fail to build excellence in where you are currently you will struggle to build excellence in the future. Excellence is a habit and a muscle that must be exercised. Excellence starts with clarity through outlining a blueprint. Preparing to succeed does not guarantee success. But failing to prepare does prepare for failure.
It's a new year. There is an opportunity to create a fresh start and to daily take claim upon the vision and mission that you have set out for your life. Whether we are proud of our current position or not, we can still operate with excellence and move towards our goals. Whether our responsibilities are glamorous or plebeian, there is still beauty, love and justice that we can infuse into this orb while we still walk upon it.
6. The bigger picture
"And finally, in your life’s blueprint must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice" - MLK
In everything that we do we first have a responsibility to do it with excellence, to do all to the best of our ability. As part of the broader picture, everything that we do should carry with it the commitment to enhancing beauty, spreading love and establishing justice for all. Conversely, our work should not rob the world of beauty. Our efforts should not be without or exclude love. The building of our dreams should not forsake the justice of others but rather build such for all.
Dr. King nears the closing of his speech with this admonition, "Let us keep going toward the goal of self-hood, to the realization of the dream of brotherhood and toward the realization of the dream of understanding good will." In turmoil there is talk about what God would or would not do and what those who claim him should act like. The prophet Micah makes it rather plain and simple when he declares, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (6.8)" Doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly are not the standards for political or spiritual leaders alone, those are principles that are for all persons in their daily dealings with others.
Your mission big or small is important. Clarify your blueprint, value yourself, seek excellence and be the best of whatever you are.
To be productive one has to first produce and secondly to produce productively.
Productivity is rather simple and in the pursuit of enhancing productivity perhaps therein lies the key to success – keeping things simple. What are we producing and are we producing it efficiently?
It may not be that surprising to discover than many companies are not that clear on what their core offering is. In the business world there are goods and there are services and there are companies that do both, but those two components are the primary mode of value for any entity in the marketplace. Those organizations that know what their value offering is and how to position that value are the companies that have the best opportunity (nothing is guaranteed) to operate as a viable business.
The primary obstacle for any individual who seeks to start a business is to make the decision to go for it. Put another way, the primary step in starting is simply starting. When a person has identified a good or service that they can bring to the marketplace with value, they must first overcome their own fear of failure (atychiphobia). This applies to starting anything, whether it’s a new business, a new direction or a new discipline within an existing organization.
Productivity requires vision.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy, former U.S. President
Everything has a consequence, those who are looking to start something or make a change need to find the confidence to move forward with what their vision and values are telling them to do. Having vision is of great value, when an individual sees a need for change the next step is to put some thought, action and endurance into motion to see that thing through.
Productivity requires movement.
Efficiency is a measure the ability to produce something in relationship to the output of resources utilized. Resources include raw materials, capital and labor. For so many that make the leap to start their own business, they think, “If I was making $20 per hour and now I am making $30 per hour as a business owner, I am really making it.” What they don’t take into account is that they are self-employed and paying themselves $30 an hour but if that is also all they are charging then they are setting nothing aside for overhead costs such as vehicle maintenance, office supplies, utilities, taxes and etc.
Productivity requires data.
“If your business depends on you, you don't own a business-you have a job. And it's the worst job in the world because you're working for a lunatic...You can't close it when you want to, because if it's closed you don't get paid. You can't leave it when you want to, because if you leave there's nobody there to do the work. You can't sell it when you want to, because who wants to buy a job?” —Michael Gerber, author of E-Myth
Productivity has to do with being efficient with your resources while providing your product or service. Being able to measure productivity involves knowing your production costs, the adage that the numbers don’t lie is true as long as you track your numbers accurately and allow them to speak for themselves without manipulation. If you seek to be productive the first steps involve finding a means to track your costs such as labor, materials, overhead costs and profitability goals.
Productivity requires listening. (Video on listening HERE)
While the point of this article is not to be a deep expose into the intricacies of cost analysis in relationship to productivity goals, it is important to note that they only way to track productivity is first to be tracking something. A simple excel spreadsheet can assist to track time and materials applied to a project. Start by tracking expenditures and revenue daily and where there are spikes in either dig into where those inconsistencies are coming from. Allow the numbers to show you what is and what isn’t working, or to at least understand the expenditure of resources going into pursuing your vision.
Productivity requires tracking.
“I never lie because I don’t fear anyone. You only lie when you’re afraid.” – John Gotti, crime boss
Failure to launch is rooted in the fear of failure. We stop ourselves short of putting our vision into motion because we undervalue our ability to create value, rise above obstacles and adapt as we receive new information along the way. Failure to improve is rooted in the same fear of failure (more HERE). Often we deceive ourselves into thinking things are working because of tradition, ie this is how things have always been done and so it’s safe to continue swimming with the stream, or because of blind commitment to a system of productivity that has handed down to us, where there is less resistance by simply keeping with the plan rather than challenging the machine.
Productivity requires honesty.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results, yet the status quo is doing the same thing expecting the same results. The market is constantly changing and the pace of change is running at a rate that is leaving those who are not adapting in the dust. When we don’t ask the hard questions, such as is this working, is this sustainable and is there a better way, then we cut ourselves short of unlocking productivity improvements.
Productivity requires adaptation.
Productivity can seem complex, but at the core it is rather simple. Stay clear about what it is that you are producing, a good or service, and whether you are doing so efficiently. Keeping things simple is a key to being productive. Having a clear vision is the foundation, operating on your values is essential to keeping your identity intact, challenging your fears is a daily test and tracking your numbers is a key discipline. The numbers are simple, they don’t lie but they can be silenced.
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.