We have all heard these examples from so many walks of life. Try to do something and even if you fail, you are further ahead in the game of life. Most of us know the fact we are here is because we are meant to do something and make things happen. We are meant to better ourselves and impact the world around us.
But something that I sometimes wonder, especially in this hyper-connected digital age is how to focus energy in a strategic way. It’s important to have the drive and ambition, but how do you harness the strength strategically to move into developing business, perhaps failing and then keep going?
Commit – You need to commit to a life of action and what you want to achieve out of life. As Hunter S. Thompson asked, who is happier, the person who braved the storms of life in the tumultuous oceans, or the person who played it safe and never left the shore and merely existed?
It’s easy to be safe, but if you choose the path of greater resistance, that takes a great deal of courage and commitment. When the inevitable naysayers are providing you their voice and the deck is stacked against you, staying the course and having that inner drive and commitment is the first key to success.
Risk – The actor, Jim Carey was recently a speaker at a graduation commencement. In a very short piece I saw on the Internet, he explained how his father could have been a great comedian, but he made the “safe choice” and he became an accountant. When Jim was 12 years old, his father was let go and the family had to do whatever it could to survive. And Jim poignantly noted that we can all fail at what we “don’t want”, so if we should fail, we should at least be doing what we want to do with our lives. We should be doing what we love.
Plan – Even if you don’t know the direction where the bend will turn on the path you have chosen, you need to develop a plan. At the highest levels, like the old seafarers of the past, like the warriors facing down their enemy, like a corporate titan about to make the biggest acquisition of his or her life – they all had a plan. The plan needs to be thoughtful. It needs to weigh the pros and cons of varying scenarios along the line as pieces become executable.
However, since none of us know what tomorrow brings, it has to be a living and breathing plan, which means that it needs to be permeable and flexible enough to address unexpected turns or forks in the road. One can derive from Max Levchin’s words that with each company he started, even if it failed, he learned and adapted what he learned to the new company, and eventually to PayPal.
Support – As John Donne said, “No man is an island”. As much as we like to be self-sufficient and our culture is one that harkens back to the great explorers, even they did not do what they did alone. Someone built boats, guns, and gave them food. They surrounded themselves with good people. That is the same thing we need to do in our own lives.
We need to surround ourselves with people who support us, share our vision – and even if they do not agree with our plans, they nevertheless have faith in us as individuals and are supporting our efforts through their energy.
Persist – and although this is the last point, it may be the most important one on being strategic. So many times throughout the day we are expected to make decisions. We certainly make hundreds if not thousands of decisions during a 24-hour cycle. Decisions can be as simple as getting out of bed, when to take a shower or eat.
When you are at the beginning or middle of a start-up or endeavor, there will come a moment when you are facing yourself in the mirror and you are questioning if you should go on. When those moments haunt you, and they will, that is when you must stay the course and muster all of the energy you have on reserve to drive yourself toward small successes. Behind all of the hard work and the challenges, you need to find that light and that reason to go on and the only way to be able to do that is with inner strength and persistence.