Working solo can get monotonous and lonely sometimes so I’ll occasionally pack up my gear and work at a coffee shop or a pub (if it’s the afternoon). Working on a laptop or writing notes seems to make people curious about what you’re up to. Every so often someone sitting nearby will get curious about what I’m doing and strike up a conversation. I genuinely enjoy my work so I’m pretty excited when I tell them about helping out small businesses and entrepreneurs. Since I’m excited, they often get excited too.
A lot of people dive right in and try to get some free advice. I’m usually game for the first few minutes but then I’ll slip them a card and set up a real consultation. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about some idea someone had that “just didn’t work out.” Many of the people I encounter have seem to think of success and failure as if they’re both simply things that just happen – like a thunderstorm or the lottery. If things are going well then it’s happy days and full steam ahead. If not, then it’s “just not meant to be.” Either way, whatever caused things to turn out the way they did is a mystery to them.
Stop thinking that way about success.
I don’t know how they got that way. But for some reason they stopped participating in the process directly. Instead, they just wait and see and hope for the best. If they’re satisfied with that then this message isn’t for them. As a rule, I reserve my time for the person who wants to participate, the one who wants a seat at the table.
To take hold of the wheel, you need to stop passively accepting circumstances and start taking taking part. You’ll have to change your ideas about success and failure. There’s no way we can change our ideas about success and failure without changing the way we think. You mantra needs to be “Success isn’t something that happens on its own.”
I don’t believe in relying on luck or good fortune. Luck is really the combination of opportunity and timing. That’s great. Who wants to argue with a lucky strike? However, there’s a big difference between waiting for something good to happen and actively looking for opportunities. This doesn’t mean that success can’t be at least in part the result of capitalizing on chance. Chance can be a big help but the thing is: “it’s chance”. You can’t count on it.
Long term success is always the result of a plan. This is great news because that means it’s also usually repeatable. The quality of a plan is only as good as the quality of the thoughts that came up with it. In fact, a plan is really only thoughts that are grouped together and directed at a goal. Period. You can ask yourself, “have I considered enough to have a good chance of success with this plan?” The next question is “what’s a good chance?” Is it 80%, less, more? If you can’t estimate a chance of success then you don’t necessarily need a better plan but you may need more of a plan.
This all seems so crazy simple, right? If you think so then you’re an exception. Pat yourself on the back and then tell someone else who could use the help.
I guarantee that this boiled down view is not common. Most people just wing it.
You can’t simply “believe” your plan will succeed.
What other variables can be packed into your plan? Sit with it for a little while. Think of what assumptions you’ve included. Why did you assume that every male between 35 and 45 will love this idea? Why did you assume that saying “that one thing” to your client would get the result that you wanted? Why did you assume that he or she would like that gift? This sort of thinking is great before and after you execute your plan. But it only helps if you do something with it.
If you want to increase your chances of success, then you need to bring your number of assumptions down to the absolute minimum. “None” for assumptions might be a bit extreme. You don’t want to paralyze yourself into inaction. Instead of assumptions you want conclusions. So instead of a vague, wishy sort of thing, you can have something more like: “Based on my experience with (whatever), I conclude that this response will get the result I’m after.” Or, “Based on the available data (hopefully the data is already vetted), I conclude that men between the ages of 35-45 will not love this idea but the 25-30 bracket would respond really well! I’ll change my marketing to focus there.”
Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Make a mistake. Make a statement. Put yourself out there and test it. I make mistakes all the time. I’m choosing the tone of this post and what information to include. I want to deliver my message to as many people as possible but I don’t know who you all are. So what next? Think about it for a week and stew over the smallest detail? Maybe. Or, I can write it in the most centrist way I can think of without watering down the message. Then I send it out to world where it gets savaged. Then I write another one. Hypothesize, test, analyze results, do it again and look for patterns.
There Is No Such Thing As “Over Thinking”
Hearing this expression gets me every time. Over thinking does not exist. It is not a real thing. “Don’t over think it” is often part of the well meaning but usually not-so-helpful advice from friends and family to help you not stress out over some small detail about one thing or another. It’s usually pretty innocent. When it’s not are those times when we absolutely need to think something through down to the very small details.
There is relevant information and there is extraneous information. That’s all. When you have a goal, whatever relates to it is the boundary for what is relevant or what is extraneous. You might need some t exercise mental hygiene while you’re planning. If you spend half of your planning time thinking about the color of the icon then you’ve probably overestimated how much the icon will have to do with the project succeeding. The icon’s appearance matters but its importance doesn’t match that time spent thinking about it. A good rule is to spend your time discovering the leverage points that will deliver the greatest results. Those are the key points that will end up making your plan succeed.
Success Is The Result Of A Plan
Seriously, always! Whether you know it or not, you’re always planning. Sometimes it’s deliberate and done way ahead of time like buying a house. Sometimes planning happens in the background of our thoughts and on the fly like picking a route through the grocery store. Milk, then apples, then… oh I need eggs too… of and Pinto beans. Eggs are back by the milk and then I’m hunting for the canned vegetables aisle. If I had actively planned my trip to the grocery store maybe there would have been a list that covered everything I needed. If I’m budgeting then my spending limit is part of the plan too.
Your business probably deserves better than “on the fly”. If you don’t have a documented plan for your main business goal (or a really good memory) then it’s easy to lose track of what elements were instrumental and what turned out to have much less impact. Then you can tweak it and dial in that confidence level to 90 or 95% That means, “I know damn well this will work!”
Plan well. Consider all the parts. Measure the results. Then refine it and start on the next one!
Photo by Shawn Rossi