Tomorrow in Pompeii

I visited the ancient city of Pompeii last week. This is the city near Naples, Italy that was swallowed up by a volcanic eruption in the year 79 AD. It was buried in ash for over a 1000 years and rediscovered in 1599 when excavation was begun on a costal highway.  

It was an amazing, surprising, incredible, and shocking place. I was amazed by the sheer size of it. To say it was sprawling would be an understatement. Some of the dwellings were huge, even by today’s standards. There was clearly a class system in place and some were obviously better off than others. I was surprised by how advanced it must have been for the time. There were many shops and storefronts, there must have been a pretty advanced system of commerce. Speaking of commerce there were somewhere around 20-25 brothels in Pompeii to service the visiting sailors who arrived in their port. 

The layout and engineering of the city was incredible. Their ability to collect and direct water was very advanced and we even saw what was described as the first retail bakery shops. I don’t know how they can be certain they were the “first” but no other civilization is coming forward to dispute the claim so I guess they have it.

Most of all I was shocked by how suddenly it all ended for them. They figure the people of Pompeii were gassed by the volcano and then buried by the ash. That’s why the bodies, buildings, and roads are so well preserved. It’s that preservation that shows so much detail about how the people lived their everyday lives. 

It looks like they had pretty darn good lives. They lived very much as we do today, it appears they had jobs, hobbies, family, and friends. They enjoyed a good meal and time to relax. They worked hard and it showed in what they were able to build. They prospered right up until the time they didn’t. 

People being people I’ll bet many of them had plans for tomorrow on the very day that the volcano erupted. People they were going to talk too and important things they wanted to accomplish. An unfinished task they were finally going to get completed. Perhaps some were finally going to deliver a long overdue “thank you” to someone who had shown them kindness. So much to accomplish tomorrow.

But tomorrow never happened. 

Here we are thousands of years later, I’ll bet many of us have plans for tomorrow. Some little things we want to do. Some big big plans to begin that we know will change our lives. Some of us perhaps have some relationship fences to mend or we owe someone a long delayed apology. Tomorrow will be the day we make it right. 

But what if tomorrow doesn’t happen? 

The people of Pompeii were literally frozen in place. They died and their plans died with them. Many of us are metaphorically frozen in place, frozen in today, always waiting until tomorrow to tackle that tough task or unpleasant, challenging conversation. 

But what if tomorrow didn’t happen?

What are you putting off until tomorrow that you could just as easily do today? Take a moment right now to ask yourself why you’re not starting today. Be honest with yourself and be especially honest about whether you have a legitimate reason or just a procrastination inducing excuse. 

Whatever you can do today, do today. We may not all lose tomorrow the way the people of Pompeii did but for each of us there is a day when tomorrow will not happen. Perhaps we’re better off living as if that day might possibly be the day we’re living now. 

The Problem with Planning – Part Two

In part one of this post we laid out the first four steps in 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 know what? 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. 

Now, let’s talk about the remaining 4 steps.

Next we determine our timetable. One of the reasons many plans fail is that people get behind with deadlines and they just simply quit or go “off plan” and begin winging it. That’s almost as bad as having no plan at all. Your timetable, when closely followed will and should put pressure on you to stay on task. It provides you with a guideline to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan while you’re working your way through it. 

Your timetable is what will provide your feedback as to your level of productivity. Successful people all understand this irrefutable fact: there is a huge difference between being productive and being busy. If you’re not moving forward with your plan and getting closer to at least one of your goals then you are not being productive, no matter how busy you are.

The next step is key and everything you’ve done up to now is just to prepare you for this step. Step 6 is prepare your plan. This is where you use all the information, goals, and timetables to actually construct your plan. This step requires tremendous specificity and detail. What EXACTLY will you do and when EXACTLY will you do it. When EXACTLY will you start and when EXACTLY will you finish. 

This step includes who and what your resources will be. How you will acquire those resources. How you will measure your progress. How you will know for certain the objectives of the plan have been met. Who will help hold you accountable to follow your plan.  You need to have concrete answers in this step. Everything you leave to chance provides the chance that your plan will fail. 

This step is plum full of actionable items. Action is the key to the success of any plan. 

No plan succeeds until it is put into action and that’s step 7 – Implement your plan. It is amazing to many how many organizations and people work to develop a plan, often a very good plan, and then never implement it. No plan succeeds until it is put into action. Start slow, but start. You’ll likely have a few bumps but if you’ve done your work in steps 1-5 you’ll have the motivation you need to press on. If you did the work required in step 6 you’ve got the work-arounds required to overcome any setbacks. 

Plans don’t give up on the people who make them, it’s people who give up on their plans.

The final step is follow through. Not just follow through at the end of the plan but all during the plan. This is where a coach or mentor can make such a big difference for you. It’s hard for anyone to be completely objective about their efforts, their progress or even the viability of their plan. You need a mentor to “tell you like it is” in a way that is affirming and motivating. It is why step 5 includes determining up front who will hold you accountable. 

Well, there you have it. An 8-step process that when used fully can go a long way towards helping you achieve success in whatever you choose to do. There are no shortcuts in this process, you should either do it all or don’t bother doing any of it. 

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!

Continue reading “The Problem with Planning – Part Two”

The Problem With Planning – Part One

Most people don’t have plans. You probably disagree with that or at least disagree for yourself. You have plans! Most everyone says they have plans but the reality is that most people don’t have plans. You probably don’t really have plans either. 

You may have ideas, dreams and wishes but none of those are plans. You may even have goals, those goals may even be written down. But goals aren’t plans either. In fact, one of the primary reasons people fail to achieve their goals is that they don’t have a plan to achieve them. Real plans require real work.

That’s the problem with planning!

If you’re not spending at least a part of nearly everyday, yes everyday, on planning them you’re not doing enough planning. It’s no coincidence that the most successful people also happen to be the best planners. Successful people have a plan for every area of their life and they also have a plan for when their original plan goes wrong. 

Ever since my years with the Dale Carnegie Organization I’ve used the 8-step planning process taught in their classes.

It begins with a clear and honest understanding of your present situation. What we call the “as is.” Surprisingly this is where most plans get off track. If you don’t know where you are today, or more likely, won’t admit where you are today, then it will be very difficult to get to where you want to go. If you can’t be clear-minded and honest with yourself about your present situation then you can’t be honest with anyone. People will find it very challenging to help you if you can’t or won’t be honest with them.

The next step is called the “should be” or desired situation. This is a realistic take on where you want to be or what you want to achieve. The key word here is “realistic,” no plan succeeds when it’s so far outside the realm of possibility that it becomes almost silly. Push yourself yes, aim high, don’t listen to the people who say it can’t be done. But always remain grounded in realism.

The next step is to determine the investment you’re willing to make in your plan. This may include a cash investment and it most certainly will include a time investment. No matter how cash strapped you may be the time investment is the biggest obstacle for most people. You can scrimp, save and borrow to get the cash. The time is much much harder to come by and no one can borrow you any and you don’t get to save it up. If you’re not committed to making an investment in your plan then you’re not committed to your plan.

Next you need to set some realistic goals. You’ll need 3 types of goals; short range, usually less than 30 days, you’ll need medium range goals, 30 days to a year and long range goals that can go from a year to 10 years or longer. It would be easy to write several posts on the process of goal setting alone but let me give you just a few thoughts here. 

You’ll notice we started this step with “realistic” goals. You should only set goals in areas where you have complete control. If you set goals in areas where “things need to fall into place” in order for you to achieve your goals then you’ll give up the minute “things” fall the wrong way. You should also set goals that are achievable. I don’t mean easy goals, we want our goals to stretch us but the goals must be possibly. It must be able to come about through your actions and effort. Setting a goal of driving your Honda to the moon is a bad goal because nothing you can do will cause that goal to be achieved.  

The goal setting step in this process is critical. When you have attainable goals set you have the motivation required to execute your plan. When you achieve a short range goal you also achieve the motivation to push on to a medium range goal. Without goals to achieve there really is no need for a plan at all and you likely will not feel the urgency to invest the time required to make one. 

The goal setting step is the longest step, the one requiring the greatest investment of time. It is also the most valuable and perhaps the most enjoyable. It’s the most enjoyable because you get to dream a bit in this step. Remember to dream big because big success comes from big dreams. 

In part two of this post we’ll explore the next four steps in this process. Those four steps will help turn your dreams into reality. 

What Would You do to Succeed?

I would do anything in order to _____________________. Go ahead and fill in the blank for yourself. Have you ever said that to yourself or to someone else? I’ve said it when it was clear to the people around me that it wasn’t true. When I took the time to reflect on what I had said it became obvious to me as well that it wasn’t true. 

That statement is said so often it has almost become just a throw-away line. Something we say when we’re envious for example. It’s something we say when we wish we had the skill, accomplishment or success that someone else has. 

Lots of people say they would give anything at all to succeed. But when you watch them for a while it appears as if they actually wouldn’t give anything at all. They are not willing to do anything to help themselves succeed. When they say they would “do anything” it’s simply not true.

They want a skill, accomplishment, fame, or success but what they don’t want is the effort and commitment it takes to acquire it. 

Lots of people also say they are committed but others see no evidence of that commitment. If I or another coach or trainer were to observe you for a week would we see any outward signs of your commitment? Would we see you doing anything, anything at all, that would indicate you’re serious about making an effort to achieve your coveted goal?

Commitment Requires action! Action, action that leads to success anyway, requires a plan.

Do you have a plan? Have you made a personal investment? Have you made a personal sacrifice? Have you in fact done anything at all to succeed other than want success? I hate to be so blunt but wishing for and complaining about what other people have does not get you anything worthwhile. The reality is if you just sit on your behind and wait, hope and wish you’ll never get close to reaching your potential and earning the success available to you.

If you’re not willing to give anything up or do anything different then you shouldn’t expect anything different or better in return. The truth is, not only would you not “give anything,” apparently you wouldn’t give anything at all.

You need to make a plan, you need to set some goals, you need to have a timeline. You need to have a coach or mentor who will hold you accountable to all of the above.

Time can be your greatest asset or your biggest enemy, it all depends on whether you use it or waste it. Don’t let another day, hour or even minute go by without making a real commitment to take action. 

You can achieve your goals, you can accomplish great things. People and “things” will seem to conspire along the way to try and stop you. Never, never, never become a co-conspirator with them. 

Let other people spout the “I’d give anything” talk while you’re taking the steps required to succeed in your quest.

That’s how successful people do it!  

Now Here’s a Plan

I am not a big fan of sayings or clichés. Two of my least favorite are the saying that says  “plan your day and work your plan” and the cliche that says “if you don’t have a plan to succeed then you do have a plan to fail.”

The problem with both of those, as with many sayings and clichés, is that they happen to be true.

I’m also a big believer that you should avoid using the words “always” and “never.” Those are pretty big words and there are usually exceptions to both of them.

That said, I would say that if you don’t have a plan to succeed you’re almost always going to fail. I’d also say that if you don’t have a plan for your day then your day is never going to go according to plan. 

Now, here’s the problem with this whole planning thing: it takes time. If you’re like most people, you would much rather be out there “doing it” then sitting around planning to do it well. 

The most successful people fight the urge to “just do it” and instead first develop a plan to do it well. Here’s one thing that almost all successful people have in common – they see planning as an investment of their time and not an expense of their time.

To increase your chance at true, long-lasting success you should have short, medium and long-range goals and plans to achieve all of them. Your plan for tomorrow does not have to be elaborate, it could just be a couple of bullet points. Your long-range plan should be as detailed as you can make it. 

Whether it is a one-day plan or the plan for the rest of your life, the key to making it work is to include action steps along the way. No plan, not even the best plan, succeeds if it is not implemented. 

 Each day you should be getting closer to a goal and as each day begins you should know specifically what you will accomplish that day in order for that to happen.

You should also know that almost certainly your plan will not survive intact. It will require changes along the way. Circumstances, events and even people in your life will change and you will likely want and need to make some adjustments. The fact that your plan will change on your path to success is not a valid reason for not making a plan.

If you’ve never had much success at developing plans then start small. Just make a plan for one day this week. Adjust it as required throughout the day. Do that a few weeks in a row and then make a plan for an entire week. You’ll quickly discover that your plan will seldom stay together exactly as you had in mind. You will also discover that you still had more control over your day then if you had no plan at all.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re planning to succeed then you had best be planning!

Plans or Resolutions?

thDo you make New Years Resolutions? Most people do, and most people are very good at sticking to their New Years Resolutions, some for as long as 3 or 4 days.

The diet industry loves the New Year… every New Year. It’s by far the most popular time of the year to start a diet. For a good many people losing weight and eating healthier is their top resolution.

There is not much research to be found on the subject but I suspect the second week of the New Year is the most popular time of the year to end a diet.

Fitness clubs love the New Year even more than the diet industry because their memberships soar in early January. People sign up for a year, commit to monthly withdrawals from their bank accounts, get their tour of the facility and fitness assessment and then never see the inside of the place again. I had an executive of one of the big fitness chains tell me once that if even half of the “members” actually used the club they would have to triple the size of the facility to fit everyone in.

Regardless of the resolution they almost all have one thing in common, they are made out of good intentions. When we make a New Years resolution it’s because we really want to make a change; we know we need to and we are willing to make a commitment to do it.

Or are we?

So many people make resolutions because they are easy to. We make them in casual conversations with friends, sometimes we make them after a few beers, sometimes we might make them after a few too many beers. The beauty of making resolutions is that the less we think about them the easier they are to make.

The funny thing is, successful people rarely make resolutions. Successful people make plans. Real plans. Well thought out plans. Plans with steps, goals and time-lines.

They make plans with accountability built into them. They determine the investment they are willing to make in their plan. They know that success will likely require both a financial AND time investment. They know that a plan, at least a good one, can’t be made casually and shouldn’t be made after a few beers.

They know that the time they use to make their plan is an investment and not an expense. Most importantly, they know that a good plan will beat the best resolution 99.9% of the time.

Resolutions don’t create commitment, plans do!

As we end 2012 and begin a New Year, don’t SPEND time making resolutions, instead INVEST time making plans that will lead you to a more prosperous 2013!