Stay Focused On Plan A

Here is the truth – I always have a Plan B. So this concept scares me to my core. But stick with me and see if you can dare to eliminate Plan B from your business planning.

The concept came to mind recently when my son was applying to medical school. In that anxious time between interviews and getting “the” letter I asked him in my most casual voice “Hey sweetie, have you given any thought to a Plan B?” I will never quite forget his look or his words. Steely eyes, strong, steady, determined voice and uncharacteristically, an immediate response: “There is no plan B.” How exactly do you reply to that? So I did my best and said, “Well okay then, what do you feel like for supper?” I know it was a mother-fail moment but the whole concept shook me.

phil knight and the meaning of plan a.

I devoured Shoe Dog, Phil Knight’s memoir. The book is a perfect example of story telling at its best. I became more loyal to his vision with every page. Then again, even way back when I was an early adopter, and in a pair of waffle trainers as soon as I could get them – so likely I was a shoe-in to read the book.

Nike’s success was not an easy road or a straight road (which brought even more appeal.) Many, many, times even with sales well past the million-dollar mark Nike was still courting bankruptcy. In fact a re-occurring conversation in his book were the countless times his wife would ask, “what will happen if this doesn’t work?” and repeatedly he responded “I don’t know.” (There should be a special shrine for the spouses of entrepreneurs.)

Phil Knight had no Plan B. His “crazy shoe idea” as he calls it, was never, not going to work. After each crushing setback and each triumph he did the same thing. He just kept re-committing to his vision. That takes back breaking, soul-sourced courage.

plan b zaps your energy.

Plan B takes so much work! The “staying up all night, what-if worries”, the “maybe I should” moments, that never generate action. The dizzying spin of “if this happens, then I will do this and if it doesn’t – then …” thinking. Honestly, it is so exhausting and such an extravagant waste of energy. The good news is we don’t have to go down this path. We can simply eliminate Plan B and illuminate Plan A. Get really clear on what Plan A means to your customer and to you. Shine the light on where you are going and dissect how it aligns with your vision. Not easy stuff, but neither is worrying all night long.

all in with plan a?

What if we put every ounce of our energy into Plan A and not take one sneaky peak at Plan B, what would happen? Seriously, what would happen?

I am going to give it a whirl. Care to throw your hand into the pile and declare: “I’m all in with Plan A”?

*This is not a paid for or solicited review of the book Shoe Dog. They usually get people like Michael Jordan to do stuff like that.

Do You Hurdle?

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I loved track and field (and likely in high school I may have taken it just a titch too seriously). Always wanting to get in the extra mile, or find the perfect shoe, the most idyllic shorts. The thrill of walking onto a track where the air was thick with doubt, confidence, triumph and tragedy – second to none! Being amidst the circus-like activity of warm ups, warm downs, and personal bests was for me one of life’s greatest experiences. There was something about the fact that there was no turning back. When the starter said “ready, set,” and then fired the starting gun – he wasn’t kidding, like ever! You had to go! You couldn’t say, “Hey, hold on I just need like 5 minutes”. Not to mention that overwhelming scent of A535. Just a whiff of that stuff still brings back the pre-race jitters, in a comforting and jittery kind of way.

But nothing stopped me more in my tracks than the hurdlers. I was in absolute awe, as they would thunder by. It seemed counterintuitive to put a series of roadblocks in front of you and demand that you still run as fast as you could. As a middle distance runner I was all about smoothing it out, and gliding. I would agonize when I would watch how the hurdler’s slightest clip of a spike could sent a hurdle clattering to the track. Sounding so catastrophic. But most of the time, the truly amazing part was that the runner seemed to barely notice the clanging and clattering of the fallen piece of metal. Always fiercely focused on the next hurdle and not the last. (Forget living in the moment, this was living in the nanosecond!) Eyes fixed clearly and cleanly on the finish line, never altering their gaze.

All these years later I realize that the hurdlers were truly on to something. We can all hurdle through business and life – with or without the fancy spikes. It just depends on whether or not our gaze is firmly planted on our goals, or the roadblocks that will invariably be on our path.

Do you hurdle?

Put an End to Work Life Balance

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Caught up in the debate about work/life balance? It sounds so good doesn’t it, to keep everything balanced? But why are we always chasing this elusive concept? Judging by the amount of chatter about it – why do we keep failing at it? Maybe we need a shift in our thinking.

I am a fan of Pam Slim’s work and her book: Body of work. To me she gets at this concept in a way that validates what I have felt for a long time.

When we separate life and work we put them in competition with each other. Like all competitions, there is a winner and a loser (I like it better when everybody wins!) We are either working too much or not working enough. Not at home enough, or home too much. Rather than constantly trying to battle the balance between work and home life, what happens if we shift perspective and look at our lives as one big body of work and our gift to the world.

Imagine that the many aspects of your life are threads in your own masterpiece. We have a choice of what threads we pick up and which ones we don’t. If we only use one colour and one weight of thread, our masterpiece will be pretty dull. When we pull from all of our experiences we create a unique work of art – that is when we thrive and are at our best. Sometimes the beauty of our masterpiece will be compromised and only certain threads will be used, while others go untouched. Be ok with that. It won’t last forever and with conscious effort we can gently reach out again and weave with many fibers.

So, take the pressure off. Don’t chase the illusion of work life balance. Instead, live fully and surround yourself with the beautiful and diverse threads from all parts of your life. Silky, nubly, twisted, and colourful ones. Then weave your body of work with great joy.

Another Business Tip from Duke the Dog

Duke the Dog

Take the leap?

I am a passionate optimist. So, clichés like “take the leap” and “jump and you’ll find your wings” naturally appeal to me. However, these philosophies could never apply to my business. Nor do I think it applies to many successful businesses.

Even Duke, the well-loved dog gets it. He looks like he is flying through the air with abandon, free from all the cares in the world… but that only happens when he is sure the ball is out there waiting for him. In fact, if at the last minute I decide not to throw the ball for him, he comes to a screeching halt. His focus is laser sharp.

As entrepreneurs we can learn from Duke’s approach.

First off, want it. Want it badly.

Duke wants the ball – all the time – day or night, in snow, hail sleet or sun!

Know how to get where you want to go (aka a business plan). Expect that winds and rain will throw you off course and that you might need to paddle harder than you’ve ever imagined to get where you want to go.

Like Duke, keep your eye on the ball. Whatever it is that you are reaching for, keep it in your minds eye, write it on post it’s, put it on a t-shirt, vision board it, journal about it, just keep it close and in sight.

If the ball you are chasing is not really the one you want? Come to a screeching halt and re-evaluate. Trust your instincts, be open and hoenst to what your instincts, your research and your heart are telling you.Listening can be as important as doing.

Then take a page from Duke’s play book. Get the ball in your grasp, head back to shore, shake off, soak up some sun and get ready to do it all over again. Eyes gleaming.

Successful entrepreneurs only look like they are leaping into thin air. The ones that make a difference in the lives of others have a firm grasp on what drives their passion, have a clear plan on how to get there, and have the grit and determination to paddle hard.

Ready to take the leap?

Go Ahead, Make My Day!

Make It Count

Highly unusual for me to quote a Dirty Harry movie but stick with me for a minute.

I’ve got twenty something boys who are poised and ready to set the world on fire. We have been talking a lot lately about next steps and where life might take them and it’s pretty invigorating to see their thought processes and like many in their generation their intense desire to make a difference.

Then serendipitously,  I came across the Alexandra Franzen’s blog that talked about the “be a day maker movement” and I fell in love with the concept that no matter what we do, or where we do it, we can make a difference. You don’t have to donate a million dollars (but very cool if you can) or stand on the other side of the world supporting a cause, you can make a difference with a kind word, smile or just being the genius you are at your workplace.

Good brands want to make a difference everyday too. Sure, we hear and share the bad brand stories. When the talk isn’t walked, and actions don’t align with purpose we can usually see it a mile away. And a bad service story – well that can irrevocably damage a brand in this “kiss and tell” era of social media. But there are so many good brand stories. I think of how thankful I am for the many people, business and brands who make my day. So here is a shout out to the “day makers” who have recently crossed my path:

  • the stellar staff at Essential packaging who made ordering a delight. Personal touch. Check. Gained a loyal customer. Check.
  • Coutts courier. For the last 25 years whenever I need a courier I only call one company. Coutts courier. They don’t have a FB page or an app, nor do they insta everyday. They have been doing what they do, the same way for a long time. And they do it perfectly. I have even had one of their drivers call to give me an update on all the deliveries he had done for me. Living their brand….yup. Trust earned. Check.
  • Connecting good people with good people – love to do that. Good luck at Synergy, Laurel!
  • A favourite client making it in the “bigs” selling her children’s book at the NHL all star event. Witnessing success, that makes my day – check it out here: www.afanforlife.com
  • A favourite shop – Crocus and Ivy. Arriving at their store to pick up a gift I had ordered by phone that was already beautifully wrapped! Saving me time for the win!
  • Annual planning with a client – TCM Financial Studio. They are truly value based. They just “get” how to care for people and each other and have a blast doing just that. Living their brand so authentically everyday. No wonder such blazing success is finding them.

What would happen if not only did we want to find and tell the good stories, what if we also wanted our businesses and our work to be someone’s “day maker” ?

Goodness. Unleashed.

Thanks for the inspiration to all of the above and a special nod to Clint Eastwood “Go ahead, make my day”  turns out to be a wonderful way to live and to do business.

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