By Rich Horwath
Think about where you are today. Do you enjoy your job? Is your mind active and fully engaged? Are you physically healthy? Are your finances solid? Are your relationships inspiring and supportive? Now think about the bridge that led you to your current position. Was it planned and well thought-out, or was it more similar to Alaska’s infamous Gravina Island Bridge, often referred to as the $398 million “bridge to nowhere”?
The most common example I run into involves career satisfaction. When I ask people to trace the bridge of events leading up to their current job, it tends to go like this:
When I finished college, my dad’s friend was the VP of sales for a paper company. I didn’t have any other job opportunities, so I interviewed and took a job in sales. I worked for three years and received an offer from another paper company for $10,000 more in salary. I joined their sales team, but was asked to join customer service six months later when they eliminated a bunch of sales territories. Two years later, another company was hiring for an IT position that interfaced with customers and marketing. I got the job, but did mostly data entry for the marketing team. I’m nearly 10 years into my career now and doing IT work I can’t stand.
This story of an individual’s bridge to nowhere would be amusing if it weren’t so true. Think about it: The average working adult spends about 50 hours a week working and commuting to work. That translates to 2,500 hours a year, and more than 100,000 hours over the course of a career—all potentially being wasted in a role that’s either not fulfilling, not enjoyable, or both. We all have resources consisting of time, talent, and money. How we use those resources each day determines our level of happiness and success in four areas: Mind, Body, Relationships, and Finances. Are you investing your time in activities that keep your mind actively engaged? Are you investing your talent in work that is valued? Are you investing yourself in relationships that strengthen the bonds of family, friends, and colleagues? Are you investing finances to ensure longer-term prosperity?
In the world of business, strategy can make or break a company. If you don’t have a strategic plan today, you may not have a business tomorrow. The same holds true for individuals. If you don’t have a strategy, you may not have a future—at least, not the one you want.
The Five-Step Plan
My work as a business strategist is to help managers develop the strategies that will, in essence, create the bridge to their greatest business performance. During the last 10 years working as a chief strategy officer and founder of the Strategic Thinking Institute, I developed tools and frameworks to help multimillion- and even multibillion-dollar organizations identify their business goals and the strategies for reaching them. I had never, however, helped people apply these business strategy principles for success in their individual lives—until now.
“Strategy for You”is intended to provide you with a five-step plan for creating a bridge to the life you want. It is unlike other books in that it takes the foundational principles of business strategy and helps you apply them to your life. The result is a simple plan you can follow to become effective, successful, and happy at work and at home.
The “Strategy for You”five-step plan includes the following elements:
Step 1: Discover—Selecting Your Bridge’s Location
Just as you can’t build a bridge without first determining the starting and finishing points, you can’t build a strategy for your life without understanding where you’re starting from and where you want to go. The Discover step is the process of uncovering your purpose—what you want and why. Purpose takes the form of a mission, a vision, goals, and objectives.
Step 2: Differentiate—Imagining Your Bridge’s Style
Bridges come in all shapes and sizes, from small, wooden covered structures to shiny, sweeping waves of metal. Their differences begin in the mind of the designer. The Differentiate step requires you to identify the unique characteristics of your personal bridge. These elements include your individual combination of strengths, weaknesses, background, and abilities that set you apart from the pack. To differentiate means to deviate from the norm in ways that people value.
Step 3: Decide—Choosing Your Bridge’s Materials
Before a bridge can be built, the designer must decide which materials to use, based on functional needs, the size of the span to be crossed, and desired aesthetics. All these choices require trade-offs. The Decide step involves the process of allocating your resources—time, talent, and money—to achieve your goals. The act of deciding requires you to make trade-offs, choosing what to do and what not to do.
Step 4: Design—Building Your Bridge
It’s one thing to think about a bridge. It’s another to actually build that bridge. While natural bridges like logs over streams exist, the majority of functional bridges are man-made. The Design step asks you to develop an action plan that will help you reach the goals you’ve set, using the appropriate resources. Just as a designer creates a blueprint for a bridge, we can design a StrategyPrint for life.
Step 5: Drive—Crossing Your Bridge
Once the bridge has been designed and built, the true test begins. Can you move across this bridge, from one side to the other? A bridge that looks good but crumbles when used is of little value. The Drive step guides your actions and moves you forward on a daily basis according to the strategy you have designed. It includes the ability to execute your plan without becoming distracted and taken off task by “urgent” but unimportant things that eat away at your time.
What is unique about “Strategy for You”? It is built on a set of universal business strategy principles and tools that have been tailored to another purpose: developing strategy for all the areas of your life. Thinking strategically about your life requires a framework, tools, and discipline. I’ll provide the first two. Are you ready to bring the third?
Excerpt from “STRATEGY FOR YOU: Building a Bridge to the Life You Want” by Rich Horwath (Greenleaf, January 2012). Horwath is founder of the Strategic Thinking Institute and author of the bestselling strategy book, “Deep Dive.” For more information, visit www.strategyskills.com.