Joseph Campbell told us to Follow our Bliss, and Marsha Sinetar said Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. Although inspiring as titles, they are not maps. In fact, sayings like ‘let it go,’ ‘conquer your fears,’ or ‘you must love yourself or nobody else will’ are just too conceptual. Practical people like me are left wondering what does that even mean?…how does one actually do that?
In other words, “what’s the plan Stan?”
I feel fortunate to have had a mentor who thrived in plan-making (he would call himself an architect) for living a fulfilling life, specially suited to each individual. If you are also tired of oversimplified advice, here are 3 important things for crafting a life and livelihood…
1- Focus on the Whole Picture, but do One Action at a Time – Rather than focusing on one specific thing, focus on multiple pieces of the whole of your puzzle (systems-thinking). “You need to focus”, is advice that sounds helpful but isn’t. It’s unhelpful because nobody does that nor do they want to. But more importantly, it’s not helpful because people interpret that to mean only focus on one of the many puzzle pieces that make up your life. Of course, you focus on one action, but that one thing is part of a big picture made up of all the parts of you. Those parts deserve focus too. True focus creates a larger perspective by organizing all the activities that go into a great life.
2- Your Enjoyment Matters – This is not fluffy, feel-good advice. Whatever makes you shine with enthusiasm and pleasure is what makes you interesting to others. Adam Lean in 10 Steps to Your First Small Business for Teens says “You are unique, you have unique skills, talents, interests and abilities. There is no one else on earth like you, so you have to come up with a business idea that is unique to you”. Transforming the activities you enjoy into products and services that benefit others is good advice for ambitious teens…and adults too! Play is the magical ingredient that brings us together as human beings. When children play they are spontaneous and authentic, and so are you. The things that delight you combine to become a service that spontaneously organizes your mind and body. This service is your organizing function.
3- Train in People Skills – Service models in our economy are rapidly changing. Harvard press refers to this evolution as an ‘experience economy in which people will earn their living by educating and entertaining’ We need to learn new social skills because we cannot deliver new services with old communication patterns. Interpersonal complications with clients, staff and team members are the number one killer of dreams, and your business. The next generation is learning to interface with new service delivery models, with what they experience, they will arise to build a global system of cooperation between entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are typically more flexible and adapt quickly, but we have to read people pretty carefully to tune into the many possible ways an interpersonal relationship can go awry.
Rapid change – like we are experiencing right now – requires agility and adaptation. Finding a map, calibrating the infinite stream of available information to fit your life, and learning to accurately read events as they unfold around you is all more important than glib cliché’s. Look at your map, make a plan, or secure a playbook, and start your game!