There are more resources, instructional content and tools available to business owners today than in any other time in human history. We have the ability to get answers to questions almost instantly via search engines and social media media sites. Industry leaders and gurus have blogs where they show step-by-step how to do what they do best. But with all of this, many businesses never get off the ground. Why? With an overload of content, it’s easy to get stuck “planning” instead of taking action.
When it comes to marketing, building a business or life in general, I am a firm believer in strategy. You need to have a plan of attack before you go to battle. But, if you wait for the perfect plan, you’ll be waiting forever. There are so many great people and businesses that never met their full potential because they spent all their time researching, planning and waiting instead of leaping.
This scenario is a familiar one for me. I spent years hoping and waiting for the perfect time to leap. While I learned a lot in those years, my business was stagnant and I was losing confidence in my ability to turn it into what I dreamed it could be. I wish I could say that I woke up from an inspirational dream and changed my approach, but the truth is, I bottomed out. I had my back against the wall and leaping forward was the only action I could take. Maybe you’ve been there or are there right now. No matter what your situation is, there comes a point where we have to stop planning and start taking action. Below are 4 key lessons I’ve learned in my journey of creating the dream I had invisioned.
A Plan is More of a Guideline
When it comes to building a plan of action, too often we over commit to the things we put down on paper. Reality is always different than our dreams and more often than not that's for the better. Learning to plan and build strategy is a powerful tool and life lesson. I believe this is a skill we should constantly be looking to improve. If you want to reach your goals you have to have a plan.
The problem comes in how we define the word "plan" in the first place. For many, the word “plan” is seen as a noun. It is a concrete list of how to reach a certain objective. It is static. It is binding. It doesn’t work. Plans need to be able to breathe. They need to be able to shift with the environment so that they actually meet their end goal. I don’t care who you are and how good you are at planning, when it comes to the real world, nothing is ever executed perfectly.
So instead of getting stuck on words you wrote down weeks, months or years ago, learn to adapt to your environment and shift your plans as needed. Sometimes the best thing you can do is throw away the directions and use your imagination.
Failure is Not an Option
After reading “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, I looked at the old adage “Fail early and often” in a very different light. Here is an excerpt from Jason’s blog.
"I don’t understand the cultural fascination with failure being the source of great lessons to be learned. What did you learn? You learned what didn’t work. Now you won’t make the same mistake twice, but you’re just as likely to make a different mistake next time. You might know what won’t work, but you still don’t know what will work. That’s not much of a lesson."
It’s easy to buy into these old sayings without challenging their validity. I never even thought to challenge the notion of failure. After reading this short paragraph, I had to challenge what I believed about failure. The truth is, failing doesn’t get me closer to my goal, succeeding does. Now, I do believe you can use your failures to catapult you forward. The biggest problem with buying into the “fail to succeed” mindset is you actually make failing an option. This gives us a false sense of security and in my opinion delays or derails a ton of people and businesses.
Leap and Don’t Look Back
The biggest thing I’ve learned over the last year is to leap and don’t look back. For years I let fear be a limitation instead of using if for motivation. Staying where you’re at is safe. But safe is risky. If you really want to see yourself and your business grow, you have to take action. You have to leap. "The lizard brain", the most primitive part of our brain, kicks in when things get hard. It tells us we can't do what we've set out to do. So often we sabotage our plans before we ever put them into action.
What we need to do is overcome our fear of “what if’s” and go for it. While we can plan for some things, most resistance happens all on its own. If we continue to allow the resistance in us to hold us back we will never do anything that makes an impact. I believe you have what it takes to go to the next level, the real question is do you?
Most of the time when we leap, we make sure there is a safety net to catch us if we fall. Now, I am all for making smart decisions, but these “safety nets” are really dream catchers. They give us excuses not to finish what we’ve started. When you have the opportunity to do something great, leap and don’t look back. Before you know it, you may catch yourself flying.
The Power of People
The great part about making change happen is that you don’t have to, and can’t, do it alone. So often we tell ourselves that we have to do it all. I get it, I am like this. The truth is, there are things we don’t know and really don’t need to know. In order to put our plans into action we need other people. People to support us, push us, guide us and do for us what we can’t do ourselves. Building a team of support is critical, but be careful who you allow to be a part of your team. Everyone must be unified on the end goal and be dedicated just like you. One bad member can bring the whole project to a halt.
For many of us, trust is difficult. We have been burned in the past and we have very thick walls. The only way to overcome this is to push against our own walls and let people back in. Sure, you may get burned again, but you also may have an experience like never before. For me, altMBA was this experience. I immersed myself in a group of like-minded people with one common goal, to ship. What ever group you join or form, make sure that the people you are with actually take action! This will force you to do the same.
You have a choice to make. You can stay where you are, do what you do and dream, or you can make something happen. Why wait another day?
Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.
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