Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail“. Warren Buffet said it a little differently when he said “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago”.
Then there’s John Maxwell, who wrote an entire book on it called Thinking for a Change.
These three all understand the simple, yet powerful concept of starting with the end in mind. If you plan to succeed at anything, start with the end goal, then you can plan strategically a very direct and fast route to get there.
Before looking at how to start with the end and reverse engineer a strategic plan, here’s a quick story of why failure to plan can be so detrimental.
I had an interesting trip to Wal-Mart the recently that I hope will illustrate this. Actually, it was more depressing than it was interesting. It was a late night shopping trip and I found myself checking out in a line with a sweet old lady as my cashier.
My wife prefers I take cloth reusable bags, which is fine with me because they hold much more than the little plastic bags. However, I can tell the cashiers hate them and for good reason, they are more work to pack.
So there I am standing and waiting as my cashier rings me up. As I said, she was older, probably in her seventies, and I could tell it was difficult for her to do the physical labor required for her job. But she didn’t complain, she just went through the motions as best she could.
As she started, another employee (a young man) walked up and began to help her bag everything up. If you’ve been to Wal-Mart lately you know that this is not the norm. Most times, the cashier does all the bagging. So I was relieved and pleasantly surprised to see somebody helping her.
My relief quickly faded because almost as soon as the young man began to bag my groceries up, his manager strolled over and said “take your break”. You could see the older lady flinch and the young man looked at his manager and said “really?… right now?”.
The manager didn’t skip a beat as he said “Yes, right now. Go.” So the young, helpful bagger stopped helping and walked away. I might add that the manager didn’t step in to help, he also walked away.
There is sooo much we could focus on here.
We could focus on leadership (or lack of) but that’s not the purpose of this particular blog post.
We could focus on the need to pay attention to your surroundings. Was this manager purposely being a jerk or was he so incompetent he didn’t notice what was going on? Who knows?
But what I want to highlight is the thing that was on my mind the rest of the way home that night.
The poor old lady who found herself in that position at that point in her life.
Why did this woman need to work so hard in her later years? Nobody should be working long hours on their feet late at night at her age. She should be relaxing and enjoying the fruits of her labor from years past.
She shouldn’t be working her butt off for a manager and company who is leveraging her energies for their benefit. So why was she in that position?…
Lack of execution on a solid plan.
Notice that I didn’t just say lack of a plan. This is an important distinction. We will discuss how to create a plan so you don’t plan to fail, but it’s also the execution of the plan that brings success. So you must plan the execution as well as just the overall plan.
Most people have some sort of plan, even if it’s vague. It isn’t just a lack of a plan, it is the failure to have a plan AND to carry out that plan that puts people in positions like this.
I can’t know for sure (without talking to the lady) if she had an alternate plan for her life that didn’t end with her working for minimum wage in her later years.
What I DO know without talking to her is that if she had a plan, she didn’t make it happen. She didn’t execute on her plan. This of course assumes that she had a plan and it was a good plan, which is an entirely different discussion.
There is a great question that emphasizes this concept.
If there are three birds on a fence and two of them decide to fly away, how many birds are left on the fence?
The answer is THREE.
Just because two decided to fly away doesn’t mean anything until they actually do it. The same is true in your life. You can plan to do something or decide to do something, but until you take action on your plan nothing happens.
Some would argue you haven’t decided until you take action, but I would argue that action is more an issue of commitment than anything else.
So how do you start with the end in mind and create a solid plan?
How to reverse engineer a plan so you’re not failing to plan and planning to fail.
1) First Decide Exactly What You Want
If you don’t know what you want you can’t possibly expect to choose the proper door to lead you there.
This step can’t be skipped. You can’t achieve with vague ambitions or goals. You’ve got to take the time to sit down and figure out exactly what it is you want. Do you want to lose weight? Or do you want to lose 40 pounds and be at 7% bodyfat? Do you want to add muscle?
The same reasoning applies to your finances. ‘I want to be rich’ is not specific. There’s a popular song (or used to be popular) with a line that goes “I want to be a billionaire… so freakin’ bad”. At least that’s specific. Rich or wealthy is not specific enough.
Do you want a ten million dollar net worth or a million dollars in cash? Do you want no debt and passive income to enjoy life? Is time important to you? Why do you want lots of money, is it to buy cool stuff or is it because you really want the freedom of time you think it would bring?
These are fundamental questions you’ve got to ask. So when you’re at the beginning of the planning process be sure to use SMART goals. This is a popular acronym that means goals should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Timely.
Specific- it means just what this section is about. Specifically identify exactly what it is you want to accomplish.
Measurable – You must be able to measure and quantify success (or failure). In the weight loss example, losing weight is not measurable but a specific amount of weight or a specific body fat percentage is.
Achievable- This one can be argued and debated. After all, who determines whether something is achievable or not? Great forward progress is made by people who think the unachievable is achievable, just ask Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla.
That being said, you have to believe you can achieve it or you won’t take any action.
Realistic- This comes down to belief and resources.
Would it be realistic for me to think I could get a loan and build the best casino Vegas has to offer? No. So this wouldn’t be a good plan for me. It may be a good strategy for Donald Trump but not for me because the resources wouldn’t be available to me.
The other thing about a realistic goal is that it has to work with your psychology, not against it. Just like the Achievable section, you shouldn’t construct a plan you don’t think you can realistically achieve.
You can always adjust the goal once you hit your target or if things are going faster than you anticipated. But if you don’t belief it’s possible, you won’t take any action toward the outcome.
For example, if you want to lose 100 pounds but the thought is overwhelming to you, implement a plan to lose 10 pounds. Once you hit that marker, plan for the next ten pounds.
As time goes on, you’ll eventually get to your 100 pounds of weight loss just by focusing on incremental improvements.
But if you look stare at the 100 pounds you need to lose on the scale it can be overwhelming and mess with your psychology and belief system.
Your psychology and mindset can (and will) stop you from taking any action at all if you don’t set yourself up for success.
Timely- The time frame needs to be realistic and measurable as well. If you want to make $10,000 a month in passive income by next month, it’s probably not going to happen.
Is it possible? Yes.
Is it likely? No- not unless you already have a foundation to build on such as a platform or momentum in something you’re already doing.
Again, creating a plan that is too optimistic can drastically reduce your success because it can make slow progress seem like no progress, which isn’t the case.
Slow progress is still progress!
Basically, if you look at your plan and it demotivates you instead of motivates you, then you may need to adjust the time frame to something that will inspire you to take action.
2) Research What Others Have Done to Reach the Same Goal Successfully
In this day and age of information at our fingertips, most plans don’t require you to invent them from scratch. A little online research goes a long way. That’s what you’re doing right now. You can easily learn strategies, tips, and tactics that can dramatically speed up your success in any field.
Whether it’s how to do keyword research, how to manage business finances, how to get more sales… whatever problem you’re facing, you can find good information online and make it part of your strategic plan.
The key is to do the research before you plan because you don’t know what you don’t know.
Until you start researching, you may have a bunch of assumptions or misinformation you don’t know is wrong. I’m still learning what a SERP is in keyword research.
So use the internet to begin basic research before you start planning strategically.
To show you just how powerful Google is, here are some links that prove you can find information on ANYTHING.
I encourage you to try it for fun. Just put “how to” in front of any phrase in Google and you’ll be surprised what you can learn that can be implemented into your strategic plan.
3) Formulate a Strategic Plan
Okay, you’ve done your research, now your ready to plan your work and work your plan. Step one is to plan your work. After researching ideas that are applicable to what you want to do, make a plan that centers around taking action.
Use the Pareto principle, which is sometimes called the 80/20 rule. In a nutshell, this theory basically states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your action. It has been applied and found to work in many different instances.
So you’ve got to ask yourself, what key actions will produce the most results. Then focus your energy on taking more of these actions. This is a huge deal for creating a good strategic plan because it follows a specific strategy! The strategy is to do more of the actions that produce results.
I’ll stick to the weight loss example since it’s easy and I’ve already used it. Working out and exercise is great. But the biggest results come from being strategic about what you put into your body.
My gym has a poster up that says “you can’t outwork a bad diet”. This is to remind people that just because they ran 30 minutes on a treadmill and did some weightlifting, doesn’t mean they can go have a Big Mac and some Dairy Queen when they’re done. That would put more calories into their diet than they just burned off.
So stick to the 80/20 rule when you’re formulating your plan. It’s an essential part of making sure you don’t fall into the category of people who fail to plan, and thus plan to fail.
A bad plan is just about on the same level as no plan at all. Actually, it can be worse because it can do more damage to your life or business.
4) Commit your Plan to God
I don’t know what you believe.
If you want to skip this section, it’s entirely up to you and it won’t hurt my feelings. But there may be some ideas that are still valuable to you in this section, so don’t be afraid to hear me out.
I’m a strong believer in the God of the Bible. You know, the Alpha and Omega, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; The great I AM.
It’s so easy to forget that we are just dust in the wind and try to make things happen on our own accord.
Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and He will establish your plans”.
This is so important to me as a Christ Follower because the verse says He will establish our plans. This tells me that God is not only interested in what we are doing, but will also help give us direction.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve found in my life that sometimes God tells me to turn left even though everything I see tells me to turn right. When I fail to listen and instead rely on my own instincts, thinking, or research, it rarely goes well.
However, when I listen to the gentle direction of God, I always have more peace, more success, more joy, and more happiness.
The thing about God is… He is God.
He knows what’s around the corner that you can’t see. He can direct you before things get nasty or sustain you during the storm.
Once you have a solid plan, I encourage you to take some time to commit the plan to God, ask for His wisdom and guidance as you move forward.
5) Take Massive Action
Once your plan is set, pray like it’s up to God, but take action like it’s up to you.
From here on out, consider it your responsibility to make it happen. If you’re working with a team, share the credit of the successes and shoulder the blame of the failures.
That’s called leadership.
It drives growth and momentum.
If you need help with this, here are a few of my favorite reads. Clicking on the link will take you straight to Amazon. I’m an Amazon Associate, so ordering from these links will support me as I’ll get a small commission.
6) Re-evaluate the Plan
As you start making progress you will learn and grow- it’s inevitable (as long as you’re taking action). As you learn, don’t be afraid to go back and adjust your plan to take into account the new knowledge and experience you have.
It’s like a course correction. Imagine yourself on a ship on the ocean. If your route gets off by a few degrees you can end up completely off track. The captain of the ship must continuously check to make sure they are on track and adjust as necessary.
This is your life and your plan. You’re the captain. So it’s up to you to continuously check and double check that your on course to hit your destination. There is nothing wrong with adjusting the plan.
I don’t know who said it but there is a quote that says something like”marry the results, not the plan”. This basically means you need to make a commitment to the end goal, not a commitment to how you plan to get there.
If something isn’t working and isn’t getting results, don’t be afraid to change your strategy.
7) Keep Moving Forward- Expect the unexpected
Rocky Balboa said it best when he said “…the world aint all sunshine and rainbows”.
As you start to take massive action and do course corrections as you implement your plan, expect to get beat up a little and knocked around by life. Life happens. It doesn’t stop for our agendas. But if you expect this and have made this part of your strategic plan, it makes it easier to get back up and keep going.
If you stop or give up, you’re back to where you started. Henry David Thoreau said that most “men lead lives of quiet desperation“. This is such a powerful observation. I think it’s because at some point, life knocks us all down and sometimes we just decide to stay down.
We may not acknowledge to ourselves or others that we have made this decision but our actions reveal it to be true. We are good at lying to ourselves. Everybody is, it’s a defense mechanism but it doesn’t serve us well in this context.
I don’t know where you’re at in life while reading this. But you must take time to stop all the noise and honestly assess whether or not you got knocked down (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) at some point in life and never got back up.
If you did, it’s time to stand up. Today. In this moment. Not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not next year. If you commit to that decision right now but don’t know where to start, contact us and we’d certainly like to talk to you about it.
8) Embrace the Journey
I have to remind myself of this over and over. Once I think I have it, it’s time to remind myself again.
It’s about the journey, not the final destination. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Whatever your plan, dreams, and goals are, you’ve got to have fun while taking action or it just becomes a grind.
Part of this is just reminding yourself constantly of what’s really important in life. Another part is staying positive and remembering to laugh and enjoy the process.
On another note, you will enjoy the journey more by operating within your strengths. Writing comes naturally to me, working a crowd does not. I like people but I’m an introvert by nature. My wife is an extrovert. So we build this website with that in mind and both of us operating in our strengths.
Sure… I’ll do some videos but my strength is in the writing, keyword research, planning and development, etc. My wife is more natural and comfortable in front of the camera, so she gravitates toward those.
It gives us both an opportunity to enjoy adding value to people while still enjoying the process. If I could just do videos I wouldn’t last very long.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you’ve got to do things you don’t like to get what you want. There’s no way around that.
However, you can still enjoy the learning process and the journey by having a positive attitude about it. If we all only did the things we like, nothing would ever get done.
9) Celebrate your Successes
This final step can be easy to leave out if you’re not careful. Don’t allow yourself to focus on your future goals and the execution of your plan so much that you forget to celebrate your successes.
Every time you successfully implement a piece of your plan or get some traction with your action, you should allow yourself to enjoy it.
Those small goals add up to your large goals.
In our previous example of losing 100 pounds. The person who has lost 30 pounds should not be beating themselves up because they still have 70 to go. They should celebrate that fact that they’re 30% of the way there.
In our industry, I like to celebrate taking action. If I reach out to 5 people and they aren’t interested in what I’m doing, it’s a success, not a failure. Most people in our industry see that as a failure, but it’s really a reason to celebrate because it indicates that action was taken.
The action of reaching out to people (if done consistently) is what creates results. So collecting a decision is a thing to be celebrated.
Recap: If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
This article was born in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. During that trip I realized that there people in life that are dealing with poor financial situations because they didn’t have a solid plan. The good news is that at any time, you can change your plan and by doing so, change the trajectory of your life.
Maybe you’re reading this and you realize you need to make some changes. This can be done by simply reverse engineering a plan based on what you want to accomplish and implementing that plan as best you can.
Let’s review how to implement a strategic plan
1) Decide exactly what you want
2) Research what others have done to reach the same goal
3) Formulate a strategic plan
4) Commit that plan to God
5) Take massive action
6) Re-evaluate and adjust the plan
7) Keep moving forward
8) Enjoy the journey
9) Celebrate your successes
Sitting there reading this, you may realize you need to get serious about formulating a plan. So let me be blunt, do something NOW.
If you want something more for your life in the future than what you have right now, must take immediate action in order to start some momentum. At the very least start to seek out the information you need (which you’re already doing by reading this) and make some commitments.
How do you know you’ve committed?
More often than not, you put your money (or time) where your mouth is.
I would love to be your guide and help you create the life you’ve always wanted. If you connect with my writings, thoughts, and ideas, then maybe we would be a good fit.
Simply click on change your world at the top of this page and fill out the form. Be sure to be as complete as possible.
If I think we’d be a good fit, I will reach out to you to help formulate a customized plan for you. Time is ticking away and every minute you aren’t working your plan is a minute you are not moving forward to making your dreams a reality.
Remember, you absolutely fail to plan and plan to fail if you aren’t taking consistent action toward your goals.
Maybe I’m not the person to lead you to where you want to go. That is possible.
If that’s the case, then find a program or person you do connect with and get started immediately. Regardless of how you move forward, I challenge you to take some sort of immediate action in the next 24 hours.
By this time tomorrow, you should be working on something that can move you toward financial independence or any other goals you have.
It’s not important to me that you work with us specifically, it’s important to me that you get back up when life knocks you down.
If you found value in this post, please consider sharing it on social media or comment below.
Jason & Daniele