What’s your life plan?

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Well, I finished the first draft of book #4. This one will be called, The Culture Turnaround, and unlike books 1 – 3 (which focused on leading like an entrepreneur, leading during a crisis, and building a great team), this one will focus on building what I’m calling an Undeniable Culture.

In six weeks I’ll open the first draft up again (hopefully with fresh eyes, hence the six weeks) and look to revise it down by about 10%. Then a lot (A LOT!) of editing, some publishing magic by the amazing Ripples Media team, and the book should be out in October or November.

In the meantime, consider picking up a copy of the book that Ripples Media published most recently: What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?. It’s doing incredibly well, with some people (including me) buying multiple copies to give as gifts!

The importance of having a plan

Last year, my 12-year old daughter was struggling to win tennis matches. She has all the skills necessary to win – solid groundstrokes, good movement, an ability to focus, and, most important at this age, an actual desire to win – but she couldn’t put the pieces together.

After watching her lose yet another match, I realized the problem – she had no plan to win. So, before her next match, I gave her a basic plan:

#1 – Try to hit as many forehands as possible (in tennis we call this ‘running around your backhand’). I wanted her to do this for two reasons. First, her forehand (like most people) is stronger than her backhand. And second, it would force her to constantly move her feet.

#2 – Hit as many balls as you can to your opponent’s backhand. I figured, 90% of kids her age still struggle with their backhands, so why not attack that side of the court relentlessly.

Simple, yes. And, while certainly not foolproof, it was a plan.

She dominated her next match and the one after that. In the second match, I got worried because the girl she was playing had a much better backhand than forehand. But it didn’t matter because my daughter had a plan that gave her confidence and focus. Executing that plan cleared her mind of all the other distractions that might have popped in her head. Each point, she was able to think of those two things – hit more forehands and hit the ball to my opponent’s backhand.

What’s your life plan?

I would argue that I could have given my daughter any plan and she would have immediately been a better player.

Hit the ball high over the net, and take a deep breath before every point. That could have been her plan. It really didn’t matter what the plan was, the important thing was that she had a plan.

This same concept works even better when applied to your life.

My life plan is the combination of my personal Purpose + my Areas of Focus. Here’s how it works:

My personal Purpose is to have an outsized, positive impact on the world.

On top of that, I have Areas of Focus, which continue to evolve:

Here’s how my life plan works.

When I say “yes” to something, it needs to be something that I think will a) help me achieve my Purpose (to have an outsized, positive impact) and b) matches up against one (or ideally, more than one) of my focus areas. (You’re not being strategic until you say “no”, by the way.)

The sweet spot is that green circle in the middle. When I can do something that hits all four of my focus areas at the same time, I’m doing life right.

I color-code my calendar so that when I look at the week ahead I can easily see which buckets are being filled. I have a color for each focus area, and I even have a color for things that don’t fit into any bucket. It’s that color that, when I see too much of it in my calendar, makes me cringe.

I’ve used this formula – Purpose + Areas of Focus – for the last five years. It’s helped me to write four books, launch three companies, read a ton of books (56 last year), and run a marathon during that time. I say “no” to so many things in order to say “yes” to the things that matter the most.

The point

In life, we need a simple, focused plan. When you don’t have a plan, you’ll never feel fulfilled because (guess what) you don’t really know what is going to fulfill you!

Life is tough. Having clarity of why you’re on this earth and where you should be spending your time will give you a sense of peace and belonging that you’d never feel otherwise.

Spend the time to figure out your life plan. Revisit that plan every time you’re deciding what to say “yes” or “no” to. Every time you have a tough decision to make. Every time you find yourself in a seemingly impossible decision. It’s worked for me, and I know it will work for you.

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