I remember when I was talking with my lawyer (who had also been my best friend all through high school) about starting a business. He patiently explained to my non-business brain about the differences between Limited Liability Companies and Sole Proprietorships and the like, and listened patiently as I explained what I was hoping to do with my company. His official advice was “Yep, you should form an LLC.”
At least, that’s what I remember hearing. So I went home, went online, and found out how to establish an LLC with a few minor clicks of the mouse. Then I called him back. “Ok, I formed the LLC,” I said. “What’s the next step?”
“You what?” I remember him answering. Apparently what he had meant when he said “You should form an LLC” was “We should plan out what it would look like, investigate the best places to incorporate, come up with a business plan, and then file the papers.” I had skipped a few steps.
Learning curves are quite an experience, especially when the curve is based on “support your family.” Ah, those were some wild times…the point is to illustrate that I am really good at jumping off a cliff and building a plane (or a parachute, or a landing cushion, or even learning to fly) on the way down. I’m a big fan of “damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!” or the more recent Star Wars version: “Never tell me the odds!”
In a lot of ways, this has been a character strength for me. It’s led to many wonderful and beneficial experiences, including this blog; conceived in a laudromat in Amsterdam by me and my friend Erik, it launched shortly after and has been going ever since. At an average of about 900 words per post, about 150 posts per year, that works out to over 400,000 words written in three years (plus a podcast that’s approaching the one-year anniversary). All without planning more than “I’ll write about practice, and life, and love…”
The Limits of Spontaneity
Over the past three months I’ve been doing an experiment: T. Harv Eker’s Life Makeover Coaching program. It’s a weekly conference call with his certified coaches and a monthly lecture by him. I won’t give away the entire program – that would be unethical. I can refer you to his interview with James Altucher if you’d like to know what I heard that made me want to try it. The truth is, I can’t really recommend it, because even the initial interview used high-pressure sales techniques to get people (myself included) to buy. To be completely honest, part of why I joined was out of admiration for the slick way he used the techniques of the “sales funnel” to get people to join (and make it difficult to cancel). The more I dig into the organization, the more it feels like a carnival barker trying to sell magic ointment. It may be simply that I’m not in the target demographic, it may just be (as they imply) that I’m “just not ready” to succeed, but I am canceling my involvement with them as of August (the final billing for the initial program).
At the same time, the last three months have been absolutely game-changing. I’ve written a book, improved my health, built a bike with my own two hands, severed business ties that were draining and created new ones that have given me amazing new opportunities. I’ve vacationed on the coast, I’ve improved my personal relationships, and in general I feel more in control of my life.
The question is: why? What is it about his system that has given me this new super power of making things happen? What is the ingredient in the snake oil that actually is making me feel better?
The answer – the one thing that I’m seeing myself do with the program that I didn’t do before – lies in planning. A good deal of the program is spent thinking about the big picture and then distilling it down into actionable items. Now, my spontaneous practice does that to – in fact, I’ve often described it as “Don’t look at where you’re going. Just do the Next Right Thing, and trust that where you end up will be a good place.” It’s worked pretty well – I’m in a very good place.
But with a little more planning – and I’m talking one hour a week, if even that – I’ve gotten more of what I wanted in the past three months than in the previous three years.
Now my goal is to learn to integrate that planning into my routine without needing the sales funnel pitch. Take away the parts I still need, leave the parts that don’t serve or resonate. How about you? Do you take time to plan and act? I know many people who have the opposite habit that I do: they plan and plan and dream and dream but never actually take action. That’s likely the subject for a different post.
Plans and dreams. Hopes and schemes. What are yours?