Have you received advice that starts like this?
“All you need to do”
“You only have to”
Me, too. I also get requests all the time for advice on how to live the life I do – unapologetically mine, in line with my values and priorities. And many of the people who ask those questions, are looking for answers that start with one of those three phrases. What’s the problem with that? Only this: having a great career is no easier than having a bad career. Both are work. Hard work. The good news, is that the work is worth it, if you get to have a rewarding, rich life along the way. And it’s important to realize that every day won’t be sunshine and lollipops.
The truth is, no life is ever easy. We will all have struggles and setbacks. Every overnight success story has many, many steps and stumbles that led to that moment of achievement that everyone gets to see. In the world of the striver, there are always many people watching every wobble along the way…some cheering, some jeering, and some just wondering when they will just give up.
“I wish I could work for myself like you do,” they say. “Then I’d be in control of everything.”
If you’re embarking on a journey with the vision of never being accountable to anyone else, let me let you in on one of life’s big secrets. It’s very likely at some point, that your vision is going come to a screeching halt. (Unless you want to live in a cave, on a mountaintop. In that case, have at it.) You can be the pilot of your own destiny, that much is absolutely certain. However even the most powerful individuals in the world have responsibilities and commitments to others. Most of us want a richer, fuller life, that lets us be more, give more, share more, and enjoy more. We want to have time with our kids, or our partners, or to serve in our communities. We want to be secure in the knowledge that there will be food on the table. And we want to know that we’re able to contribute our best work, every day.
Living the life that you choose means you must make choices about where to invest your time, talent, and resources. That part isn’t a choice. It’s an obligation. To be everything you want, you can’t always do everything you want. Sometimes things won’t go your way. Families, partners, collaborators, and customers all want different things from me, and sometimes all at once. And they will from you, as well. The one thing I’ve learned (and you can, too), is that I must choose how to handle those requests. And I can live with that. Can you?
Megann Willson is one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA, where we help you see everything, so you can make better decisions.
Never say never! Maybe you’ve tried starting a business or changing careers before, and it hasn’t worked out. Or maybe you’ve considered it, but talked yourself out of it because of your responsibilities, the risks, the time involved…who knows? One thing is for sure, unless you approach it with a plan of action, just like any other business endeavour, you’re doomed. The first part of the plan is to figure out what kind of chance you want to make. Here are five tips to get you started on the right path again:
1.Envision the future. Give yourself a long runway, maybe five years. Where would you like to be? What will you be doing? Who’s with you? What’s your message? Who’s listening? Painting a clear, detailed picture will let you get a handle on what you want and need from the change. This will help you focus on what you’ll get, and that’s important to keep yourself going when the hard parts of the change begin (because they will).
2.How did you get there? Look backward from the success you’ve achieved. What skills or talents did you use to get there? These are the tools in your toolkit that you want to use. It’s important to know whether you’ve got everything you need – or whether you’ll need to build regular learning into the picture. (Hint: if you’re not learning and stretching, you’re not thinking big enough – and it won’t feel like you’ve changed anything when you arrive).
3.Why did you want to go in the first place? Author Simon Sinek recommends that you start with “why”, and then work on what and how – but sometimes it’s difficult to get your brain around the motivation before you figure out what it is that you are motivated to do. If you’d rather start with the purpose, because you already know you want to educate kids or save kittens, go for it. Start here, then backtrack to Step One.
4.If you tried before, what didn’t work? Don’t do that. Seriously, evaluate what it was about your first effort that failed. You’ve probably done plenty of thinking about that already. Now figure out the actions and attitudes that did work – and work on those. You’ll get a much clearer picture of actions that were helpful and harmful than you had, the last time.
5.If you’ve never tried, start now. Honestly, start anywhere. Work on your business model. Interview some people in your ideal role. Profile a customer. It doesn’t matter. As soon as you break them logjam and start moving toward the change you’ve been looking for, you’ll start to pick up momentum. Make time to commit to a few steps every day, and just keep going. Eventually, it will all come together. Just dreaming about it won’t get you anywhere.
Are you experiencing a specific challenge with your new business, your dream business, or your career change? Let’s talk – or leave a comment for us, and we’ll respond.
You made it! You're on top of the world. But this isn't where the learning happens.
Think about the most important lessons you've learned. Did they happen when at the moment you achieved your goal? More likely, they happened afterward, as you reflected on your struggle. You may have even had a richer learning experience when you didn't achieve your goal. Think about all those "I'll never make that mistake again" moments you've had. Win or learn, mistakes, failures, and struggles mean you will enter into the next challenge stronger and more able to deal with the difficulties you may face.
What does this tell me? That each roadblock or difficulty prepares you to be even better next time. That the reward for the journey is the journey itself. And that you'll gain experience and confidence, no matter which path you take, or no matter how everything turns out. Now that's something to be on top of the world about.
Do you have a long list of things you want to do, and never enough time to get them all done? Take your time!
No, I don't mean slowing down, although that can be helpful if you use the time to plan, prioritize, and jettison unhelpful commitments. I'm talking about making sure you take the time back, that others want to take from you. That unwieldy list of meetings? Ask for an agenda, and figure out whether there is something you need to learn or contribute. If your presence is simply to be another "warm body" in the room, you may be better off using your time and talent elsewhere. And what about those well-meaning colleagues, neighbours, or friends, who just want "a couple of minutes", when you've scheduled time to work on an important project, or study, or follow through on some other commitment you've made to yourself or others? This is truly a time when you need to take [back] your time. Make sure you have a polite response ready, such as "I've made a commitment to work on something right now. Can I call/email you when I'm done?" or "i'm working to a deadline at the moment - let me put some time in my calendar for you for when I'm finished, so I can give you my full attention."
Your time is valuable, as are your commitments to yourself and others. You owe it to yourself to take the time you've allocated. Remember: someone else's lack of planning doesn't need to be your emergency.
Too often, business owners and entrepreneurs forego educational opportunities and occasions to learn because they cost money. Oh, they'll spend money on advertising, or sales collateral, or even a new point-of-sale system. But when it comes to researching customers to serve them better, or worse yet, adding new skills to their own personal toolkit, they try to only use the "free" option. This is wrong-headed thinking, in our opinion. Why do we think that?
We believe spending money to learn is an investment. Investing in customer research can help you target more effectively, or move into more productive markets. Investing in tools or skills that make you more productive and a better seller will pay dividends to your business in short order. Thinking of either of these things as "spending" is a little like saving for retirement by putting your money in a sock under your mattress.
Of course you can't invest your money everywhere - so just like that retirement fund, you'll need to do some research to find what works best for you. And also like your other investments, you may have trouble figuring out just what that is. If that's the case, find yourself a coach who can help you evaluate your options.
There's a new skill or new information out there that will help your business grow. Start looking for your next investment, today.
You've got a great team of mentors who have helped you get this far, there's no way they could be holding you back, is there?
If you have ever taken lessons in a sport, or music, or some other area of your life where you did really well and it seemed to come naturally, you may have also experienced a time when you had to move on to a different teacher, at a higher level. You can have a certain need for support and interaction, and someone can be exactly the right teacher or confidante for that time and place. But as you grow, your needs may change. The good teacher will recognize this, and encourage you to move on. Someone who wants you to stay at the same level, may have their own challenges to work on – and you will need to work on gaining the wisdom to know the difference. This is your job to manage.
As you become faster, fitter, stronger, or whatever goal you have set for yourself, you also need to be looking for those around you who will help you keep up the challenge. At the gym, when the set of weights become easy to lift, experts at fitness know that it’s time to try something heavier or harder. The same is true with your career. Otherwise you are possibly just playing it safe, and coasting. You don’t have to be constantly dissatisfied with your progress, that’s not the point. It’s that by pushing to the next stage, you will begin to build your confidence in just how far you have come - and how far you can go in the future. People who have lost significant amounts of weight say things like, “I can’t believe how much I used to eat”, or “Wow, I would never drink so much on the weekends now, it seems so unhealthy”. Each new challenge is an opportunity for you to build your confidence, and knowing when or whether you need a new teacher is also part of your growth.
If you feel like you're not progressing, it may be time to look for the next teacher to appear. If you believe you're ready, you are.
Megann and Steve, Partners in PANOPTIKA, are working for our clients every day to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions in their complex business environment.
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