“The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.” — Bob Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Co.
This is just an observation, but the vast majority of people I talk to are struggling like a drowning person. They are frantically flailing about, all their energy expended just to maintain the status quo of their lives. Miserable and besieged, they desperately try to keep their heads above water.
They may claim they are doing everything they can and then some but haven’t been discovered or gotten their lucky break yet. Then, some say they don’t have the money to make money or that the old-fashioned way people make it big is to inherit money. In addition, they don’t have any rich relatives. They say they are barely able to make ends meet and don’t see any way out. (However, they do seem to have money for beer, cable TV, and a smartphone—anything to dull or distract from the pain of the struggle.)
I completely understand the struggle—I struggle too. I have struggled and panicked and splashed like a drowning person too. There are some weeks that I still struggle to make ends meet. Weeks like the one when one of my main sources of budgeted income was cut by 45% overnight. I get it.
The difference is I have set a clearly defined target and have adopted an actual plan to get to that target. I work that plan every single day, without fail. Instead of thrashing about, I redirect my energy from panicked floundering to executing a well thought out, long-term strategic vision and plan.
Don’t maintain the status quo
I’m compelled to ask the people who tell me they are struggling, “Have you set a target? Do you have a plan or are you just going to maintain the status quo?”
Ask yourself these questions the next time your bank account screams out at you that you can’t afford something:
Am I okay with this struggle being the norm?
Do I want my life to be this way in 5 years? In 10? What about in 20 years?
If not, what is my plan to end this incessant struggle?
Is my plan to “do more with less”? Clip more coupons? Always buy someone else’s stuff off of Craigslist?
If I keep doing what I’m doing, why do I think my life will be any different?
The lottery? Might my luck change? Some will discover me?
Hint: If you are waiting on the lottery or your luck to change, the evidence shows you have a better chance of an airplane crashing into your car while going 65 mph on the Interstate.
Setting the target
If you don’t have a set target, then you better start to enjoy the status quo and the struggle. In past several months, I have talked to hundreds of people who are sick of the struggle but have set no target and therefore have no plan. They haven’t even thought about setting a target. They are almost shocked when I ask them about it. Trying to get by on less money is neither a plan nor a life—it’s bare survival. And then when an opportunity does come along, they usually don’t recognize it.
Set a target and be ready to adopt a plan today, right now, and then do it! (Or don’t and continue to lie to yourself. Tell yourself: you’ll think about setting a target and will come up with a plan when you get some bills paid off. Just keep drowning; they say it’s the most peaceful way to go).
Identify the target
Many times, when I’m walking clients through the introspective process of gaining clarity, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to tell me what it is that they want (i.e., what their target is). In fact, it’s exponentially worse with corporate clients. As the size of the organization increases so increases the difficulty in identifying specific targets.
Ask yourself this: “What do I want (in life, in relationships, in business, etc.)? What does it look like? What about in 5 years? How do I want it to look like?”
Inevitably, the answers are what we don’t want:
“I don’t want to the lose the job, the house, the relationship, my largest customer, etc..”
A large part of the critical thinking process is to teach business professionals to use the same thinking tools that snipers use. Imagine being a tag-along on a mission with a sniper, perched high above a road through a mountain pass.
“Hey, what’s your target?” you ask.
“Well …um, see that big rock over there?”
“That’s not it. And that tree, over there? That’s not the target either. Neither is that mountain in the distance, and it’s not that little enclave of shacks to the south, either.”
Meanwhile, the convoy of enemy fighters, on their way to the Spring Offensive, drives straight down the mountain pass road, right under our noses. Ridiculous? Exactly!
For many of us, targets drive right under our noses, unnoticed, because we are too busy pointing out everything that is NOT our target. Focus on what you want, paint that picture in great detail in your mind’s eye, and then write it down. Identify your target—then deploy to the sniper’s perch. Going on the mission before clearly defining that mission and its target is like eating a soup sandwich.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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