Success is no Accident

Success is no accident. Success is the result of hard work, perseverance, help from those around you and a solid plan. The more solid the plan, the better. Developing a plan for success increases your chances of success 100%. Yep, a plan doubles, at least, the likelihood of success. I find that statistic very interesting but here is one even more interesting, or scary depending on your point of view. 80% of people go through life with no actionable plan for success. 80%!

     

I’m pleased that everyone reading this has a real plan for success, one that truly drives their behavior. I must admit however that I am a little suspect that everybody reading this is indeed among that 20%. So let’s see if it’s true.

     

First let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

     

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put the plan into action:

 

1.  Clear picture of current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

 

2. A clear understanding and vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

 

3.  Development of short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change

 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important

 

5. The investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

 

6. Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

 

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

 

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you enough to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

So there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me tell you something else: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a real plan.

     

Your plan is not work, it is an investment and it is one of the greatest investments you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. 


So, what’s your plan?

Do Back-up Plans Lead to Failure?

There is a school of thought that says having a back-up plan is acknowledging that your original plan will not not succeed. The people who hold to this school of thought also believe that it’s that apparent lack of confidence that causes the ultimate failure of the plan.

I do not agree with that. I think not having a back-up plan is absolutely irresponsible. I like confident people but thinking you will never need a back-up plan is beyond confident, it’s more like cocky. Cocky may win the day but confident wins all the tomorrows.

I have plans. Well thought out, detailed plans. I have total confidence in my plans and when I have complete control over every aspect of my plan I don’t bother with a back-up plan. The trouble is, I can’t ever recall a plan where I had complete control over every aspect of the plan.

So for everything I want to accomplish I make a plan and one or two, or more, back-up plans to go with it. The back-up plans are full of “what if” scenarios for all the things, and people, outside of my control. My first back-up plan is the one that takes into account the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen and the subsequent back-up plans are all developed to improve on that worst situation. 

Some of my back-up plans are little more than thoughts, some are actually quickly written plans and some require some serious thought and investment of time.  

Regardless of how in-depth the back-up plans are it’s actually those plans that make my original plan more likely to succeed. After I make the back-up plans I review the original plan to remove as many of the uncontrollable elements as I possibly can.   

Considering alternate possibilities when planning doesn’t make you a failure, it leads directly to your success. A solid back-up plan allows you to pursue your goals and objectives with confidence, knowing that if something doesn’t go according to plan you’re well prepared to succeed anyway.

Don’t listen to people who tell you to work without a back-up plan, the best way to avoid needing a back-up is to have one ready to implement at a moments notice.

 

It’s Never Too Late

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

One of my favorite stories is the one about the wise old man in a small village. Two young boys once approached this wise old man and asked about a bird that one of them had in their hand. They asked if the bird was alive or was dead. The wise old man knew that if he said it was alive they would simply crush the bird and kill it thus proving him wrong. If he said it was dead they would simply open their hand and release it, again proving him wrong. So his answer was this; he told the boys that the answer to their question was in their hands. Their actions would determine the answer to the question.

Will 2016 be a “better” year for you than 2015 has been? 

That’s a big question and the answer to it is in your hands. A “better” 2016 depends almost entirely on the decisions you make and the actions you take. You see, your future is in your hands.

One way to ensure a better 2016 is to finish 2015 strong. Perhaps 2015 was an awesome year for you, you’ve made your goals and are basking in the glow of success. If so you may be tempted to coast through the reminder of the year. Don’t do it… the most successful people finish well, they don’t stop simply because they are ahead.

Maybe 2015 has not met your expectations, if so you may be thinking about just taking your foot off the gas and gliding into 2016. Don’t do it… successful people don’t give up just because it’s late in the game. Successful people make the most of the best and the best of the worst. Finishing 2015 strong is the surest way to make the most of a bad year and ensure a strong start to 2016.

Another way to ensure a better 2016 is to plan for it. The best time to plan for next year was several years ago, the second best time is now. The more you plan the less you’ll find yourself counting on luck.

Successful people don’t rely on luck, they make luck. They don’t respond to circumstances, they make their circumstances. The don’t complain about the unexpected, they expect it and their expectations are reflected in their plan. 

I can’t tell you how many thousands, yes literally thousands of times I’ve been told by someone that they couldn’t plan because their life or job had too unexpected things happen nearly every day. 

If that’s your case too then I have a question for you. Why the heck aren’t you planning for those unexpected things? Seriously, why isn’t there an hour or two on your calendar every day to handle those unexpected things that pop up…. every day?

Lack of planning is a major cause of stress in people’s lives. You can actually plan a good bit of stress right out of your life. Even if you’ve never made a plan it’s not too late to start. Here’s a couple of posts from my archives to show you how.

http://wp.me/p2nthJ-p1 

http://wp.me/p2nthJ-p6  

If you’re planning on a successful 2016 and you don’t have a plan to make it happen then the odds are against you. Play the odds…make a plan.

The Perils of Planning – Part Two

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.

In part one of this post we laid out the first four steps of an 8-step planning process. Those 4 steps represent a fair amount of effort and thought, more than the average person puts into an entire planning process. 

Despite that effort and thought you STILL don’t have a plan! Those first four steps are only about preparing to plan, they are not the plan. 

In part two of this post we’ll finally get to the actual plan. Before we begin let’s review. Here are the first 4 steps in the process:

  • Develop a realistic picture of the “as is” or your current situation.
  • Paint yourself a picture of the “should be” or your desired situation. 
  • Determine the investment you are willing to make in order to successfully execute your plan. This investment should be thought of in terms of both financial and time.
  • Set short range, medium range and long range goals that will stretch you while remaining realistic and obtainable. 

Ok, let’s continue with the process:

Step five – Develop your timetable. A plan is serious business, it’s not a “someday I’m going to” thing. Someday is not a day of the week. Doing anything in your free time doesn’t happen because your watch doesn’t show free time. There is no free time any more. A plan must include a timetable, the timetable has timelines, dates and deadlines. It includes when you will begin implementing the plan and when the plan will be complete. It includes start and end dates for each and every goal, whether they are short range, medium range or long range. Timetables create the pressure and accountability required to make something happen. A plan without a timetable is a plan doomed to failure.

Step six – Prepare the plan. This is the step where the rubber meets the road. You list, with great, great specificity exactly the steps you will take to achieve each goal within the plan. In this step you determine the who, what, when, and how of your plan. Who will help you, who will mentor you and hold you accountable to stick to the plan when the going gets tough?  What will you do and when will you do it? When will you review your plan and make adjustments if required? Perhaps most important how will you respond to a failure within the plan?  Remember, always remember, a failure in part of the plan does not make the entire plan a failure. No plan survives real life completely intact. 

Step seven – Implement the plan! It’s amazing how many people do a pretty decent job with the planning process and then never actually put the plan into action. No plan has a chance to succeed until it’s implemented. It’s okay to start slow but it’s vital to start. 

Step eight – Follow-up. This step is critical to the success of any plan. Not just follow up at the end of a plan but follow-up during the entire plan. Review and review some more. Tweak and adjust. Keep your plan alive by changing it as required. It’s not a mistake to admit you forgot something, it’s a mistake to ditch the entire plan because of one or two mistakes. Have your mentor or coach help you review your plan, a good mentor will help you keep it real. 

So that’s it, an 8-step process that can lead to success. 

Successful people plan, they know that even when the plan doesn’t work as designed proper planning always pays dividends. If you truly want success then do what successful people do….plan!

The Perils of Planning – Part One

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.

People tell me all the time that they don’t plan because plans don’t work. They say “stuff” always comes up that keeps them from executing their plan. People interrupt them, things outside of their control go wrong or someone, likely a boss or customer throws a wrench into the plan. All of those things are the enemy of your plan.

As common as I know those things are they are also the very reason everyone needs a plan.

Success comes from planning!

Someone may achieve some level of success without a plan but it’s the kind of success that is nearly impossible to sustain. It’s short-lived because they are not certain how they achieved it and even less certain about how they will maintain it. 

Here’s a fact about planning: while plans often don’t succeed planning almost always does. The thought process that goes into developing a plan is always useful whether the plan succeeds or not…. if the planning process used was a good one. 

Below is the first half of an proven 8-step planning process that can help you find success, whether the plan succeeds or not.

Step one – Determine the “As-Is” or current situation. Before you can get to where you want to go you must know where you are. Many plans fail in this very first step because people don’t always take a realistic look at where they are at. They sugar-coat their issues, they believe they are farther along the path to their goals then they really are. Sometimes they have convinced themselves they are working hard enough to succeed when they are barely working at all. You MUST be brutally honest with yourself in this step, if you fail to develop an accurate picture of where you’re currently at you’ll find it very difficult to chart a course to ultimate success.

Step two – Determine the “Should-Be” or desired situation. This is a highly personal step, in this step you determine what success means to you. Many plans fail because people chase somebody else’s dream. When the inevitable bumps in the road show up we give up because we don’t want the dream in the first place. Don’t determine “a” desired situation, determine “your” desired situation. 

Step three – Determine the investment that you’re willing to make to achieve your goals. The common mistake people make in this step is thinking of investment solely in terms of money. The money is the easy part when compared to the physical and mental part. I can’t tell you how many dollars I’ve spent on fitness club memberships; writing the check was the easy part. I seldom was willing to invest the time required to use the club. When you think of your investment you must ask yourself if you’re willing to invest the time and effort required to succeed. DON’T FORGET, if you’re going to start doing something new you’ll likely have to stop doing something you’ve been doing. What are you willing to give up to get something else?

Step four – Set goals. Set short-term goals, perhaps as short as a day or a couple of weeks but no longer than a few months. Set medium-range goals, somewhere between 3 months and a year. Set long-range goals, from a year to 5 or 10 years. Some of the goals may be “slam dunk” goals but some should be stretch goals. Push yourself, if you easily achieve your goals it’s likely your not pushing yourself to your full potential. That said, do not set unrealistic goals, they demotivate you and can cause you to give up on your entire plan. 

That’s it for this post, we’ll look at the final 4 steps of the planning process in out next post. Those steps are the difference between a plan that could work and a plan that will work! 

 

The Value of Planning

I talk with people nearly every week who tell me that they can’t plan because “things” change. The thing is, that’s exactly why you need a plan. The greatest value of the planning process may not be the actual plan, it may just be the fact that you stopped long enough to do some planning. 

Plans may not always work but planning always does.

In order to plan we need to think and thinking is always good. We need to think about where we are, where we want to be, and how we can get from here to there. A good planning process will include decision making on how much we are willing to invest to get there. Good planners remember to think of investment in terms of BOTH financial and time investments. 

Good plans of course include timelines for goal achievement to help build a little accountability into the plan and any plan worth the time it took to put it together includes periodic follow-up built into the plan to ensure it’s still on track.

That follow-up is where most planners miss the mark. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke is credited with first saying that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” In business it’s fair to say that no plan survives contact with reality. In sales it’s safe to say that there has never been a marketing plan that fully survived first contact with a customer. 

Yet many “planners” assume once the plan is complete that the planning is done. The most successful people, from any walk of life, will tell you that planning is never “done.”

All good plans begin with a clear view of the “as is” or current situation and many of those plans fail because they are never adjusted, even though the “as is” will often change.

That’s the biggest reason why what got you where you are will likely NOT get you to where you want to be. Things change, circumstances change, technology changes, customers change, everything changes… and so must your plans.

It’s a great idea to stop on your journey to success once and a while to see where you’re actually at. Look around, see what’s different from the day your initial plan was developed. Determine if where you are at is still aligned with where you want to be. 

If the plan is still aligned with your goals and objectives then perhaps a few tweaks to your plan will suffice. If the alignment is way off perhaps a blank piece of paper is the best place to begin again. 

Most importantly, when reviewing your plan is this: Don’t attempt this alone! If it’s “your” plan, if you developed it, it’s very likely that you’re to close to really see it for what it is. Get help, if you’re a leader then task your people with a review of the plan. If you’re an entrepreneur and just starting out then ask your mentor or someone you trust to periodically review your plan. 

However you choose to review your plan the key is to actually review it, at least a couple of times a year. Things change, if your plan isn’t changing with them then what got you where you are most certainly will NOT get you to where you want to go next.

You’re Gonna Need a New Excuse

Ah, next year! It’s the ageless excuse for procrastinators and low performers alike.

Wait until next year. I’m gonna do it next year. Next year will be different. Next year will be MY year. Use whatever variation of “next year” you like but if you’ve used that excuse for waiting on anything in 2014 I have some bad news for you.

You’re gonna need a new excuse… because next year has arrived.

Maybe, just maybe instead of a new excuse you ought to make a plan. A plan to REALLY accomplish something great in 2015. A plan to actually make 2015 your best year ever. A plan that gives you an opportunity to truly succeed.

If you’re interested in replacing excuses with plans then here is a simply process you can use to develop a workable plan. One little caveat; developing a plan is the easy part, executing it takes discipline and the desire to accomplish something. Before you invest time in planning I would encourage you to set your mind to putting the plan into action.

So….

To develop a solid plan you must first have a realistic understanding of where you’re at today. You need to be very honest with yourself, if you have $50,000 in credit card debt you are not a “little” in debt. So let me repeat, you need to be very honest with yourself about where you are today. If you won’t admit where you are you’ll find it nearly impossible to get to where you want to go.

Once you are certain where you are then focus on where you want to be. Honestly and realism is again the key here; wanting to be The King of England for instance is not realistic unless your name is Charles, William or George. Even that isn’t realistic unless you have like 20 last names too.

The distance between where you are today and where you want to be is your “opportunity gap.” The greater the gap, the greater your opportunities… and the more work you have to do.

Once you’ve identified your gap you can set some goals. You’ll need short range goals, medium range goals and some long range goals. Short range goals are anywhere from 1 day to a week in time, medium range goals are measured in weeks and months and long range goals are a year or longer.

Make your goals specific, most people are good at making deadlines for their goals, to improve your odds of success you also must set a starting time, as in, “I will begin working on this goal on…..” and then set your date.

The most successful people are well balanced people so set goals in several areas of your life. Work goals, financial goals, spiritual goals, and health goals are just a few that come to mind.

Here’s the most important part of your plan…. SHARE IT! Share it with someone who cares about you enough to hold you accountable for executing your plan. This person needs to be willing to review your plan with you periodically to help you stay on track. Select this person with care because they can greatly impact the odds of your plan getting you to where you want to go.

Excuses hold you back, plans push you forward. Don’t start the New Year with an old excuse, make a plan for success today.