This year isn’t unique; everyone wants to work harder and get results.
Everyone wants to be wiser, faster, conjuring better results, working smarter, with fewer efforts. Web-tools, processes, charts, Venn drawing, critical-path planning calendars, courses, seminars, and coaches standing by – point, click, pay, happily separating us from our money with little likelihood lofty goals, high incomes, or ultimate prosperity will show up as promised. I get several pitches weekly, baited with ‘free introductory webinars.’
Most, as reliable as that lottery ticket you bought yesterday.
No worry if you forgot to buy one. I did. Our odds are about the same.
There is much reliance in my line of work, and likely in many other industries too, much buy-in to ‘gurus with a plan, seminars and Zoom calls’ to lure people into having someone else teach them, show them, charge them, to learn someone else’s tried and true steps to success, high income, and a better-managed life. Easy-peasy, no thinking required. And there’s an APP. And we all know who profits most from those programs.
Still, I like to check in on some of them from time to time, sift through oft-repeated generalities, systems, methods and clichés in search of gems, searching for that one thing, that catalyst to make a big difference for me, the one thing I can try or revisit that will offer extra punch to my effectiveness, just like everyone else. Experience has taught me the best ideas are produced by listening to my thinking rather than someone else’s opinion of what my thoughts ought to be. I’m not being smug or refusing to learn from others, but clear that my mind has to ‘get it,’ or it won’t work for me.
Many times that one thing is one something that I’ve known all along, or forgotten, or ignored for too long. One thing could contribute enormously to build a better year, a better transaction, a better relationship – that one elusive and transformative thing. But what is that thing?
2020 was an inhumane year.
I have too few years to waste.
This year has little room for severe error, but every year has plenty of runway for adroit moves.
But where to get ideas that align with ideals and guidance to an unknown target gets tricky. Buying into someone else’s mojo without doing my SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis first is as logical as it was for Jack buying those magic beans …
There is something pivotal in us, though, that we’ll find at the heart of our best work, a unique skill set, an internal gyroscope, a one-word mantra to clench, embrace, and celebrate.
Everybody wants that one thing.
What is your magical something?
What is mine?
Starting a new year of work involves momentum building and plan-execution, right? Or, is it better if we start like a sprinter in the starting blocks for a race, madly leaping forward rocket-like out of the blocks and going as far and as fast as we can imagine?
Whatever plan we start with, I think most people do a flip-flop of these two activities. Part indecision, part execution, and also having events of any given day becoming excuse roadblocks to creativity and productivity.
We are judicious if we don’t let ourselves slip back into convenient habit-ruts.
Doing the same old things will likely yield the same old results.
2021 deserves bold steps, clarity, and commitment to one thing, one guiding principle.
Allow me to tell you mine:
I’ve never felt more ‘left to my own devices’ than this year – more important than ever to figure things out better, to achieve my BHAGs, to make ends meet and pay my bills when every cost seems to go up, and every revenue source is more competitive than ever, and it would be nice to only work 12/5 in a 24/7 world.
I’m resolved to manage differently. But making a decision and then implementing a lot of change cannot roll out in a week; my conclusion is self-assured, my activity change is a simple single one, but the result cannot fully manifest between a Monday and Friday of one week, yet I’m pleased with some early results. I wish results could come as quickly as the clarity came because I’m impatient.
I’m convinced, if I do the work, the results will come.
One of the coaching resources I follow was encouraging a focused approach to planning for 2021 – that of reducing plans and consolidating approaches we might typically employ but boiled down – reduced to just one thing, one strategy, and then reduced further, to that one word that should be the cornerstone of our innovative business plan for the year.
I spent a good deal of time working through my December wrap-up and building a plan focused, drilled down to just one thing, to one word.
Part of that analysis was looking back at what has worked well, best, consistently for me over the long term, and I’ve found it, figured it out. I’ve done every process, strategy, and trendy thing people in my business employ – I’ve tried them all, done them all, spent time, effort and money on them – and in the end, there is one thing, one thread woven through everything that has proven successful for me in the past, and to guide my future actions. This ‘one thing’ could be conveniently described as a communication strategy or marketing or an 8-step plan – my industry is good at those buzz-words.
What emerged in my deliberations, however, is something that has worked so well for me over time, better than anything else, is something simple, boiled down and clear: letters
Call it common denominator, golden thread, or silver lining – it’s just one thing, one word.
The best projects in my career and my volunteer world – things I’ve played a role in happening, or played a role in stopping something I was opposed to, and many relationships I started, were begun with letters. Not cold calls, not advertising campaigns or marketing strategies. Just letters. I’m not talking about newsletters per se, though they have been powerful too, but, instead, letters articulating an idea and sent to the right party. It helps if it was good timing or fortunate timing. Mostly they produced a logical result – someone calling me, starting that conversation with something like: “The letter you sent to ______ has been sent to me for response,” or “Sorry I’ve been slow responding – but I got your letter, and we should talk.” And letters to the editor too. So many things I’m proudest of began with a letter to stir action, to stir response, to stir ideas, and sometimes to stir a pot …
Emails and texts, social media and mass marketing are essential elements of everyone’s business in every industry, but what has worked for me more than anything over time – with surprising impact, are letters. Not a text, not an email. A letter is personal, it is specific, and it communicates an idea. It’s not a speech, it’s not an essay; it’s a letter explaining why people should talk. It’s not a business case, it’s a picture painted with words; it’s a letter.
So, to my great guru Larry, to my colleagues and friends, this will be a year of making better use of time – communicating more effectively to accomplish ten things. I wrote them down. I sent a letter to a friend the other day, whose response was, among other things, telling me I’d miscounted – I didn’t have ten things on that list, there were only nine. A conversation with another friend suggested the nine was too many, that I should let something fall off the list. While I consider that, I’m not sure I will agree – but there is no time for that now, because I have to go …
I have to write a letter.
OK, to be clear, more than one letter, not the same letter duplicated, but individual letters about things that matter, sent to those I can work with to develop some better project, transaction, or thing. One thing. Then another thing – but always, about just one thing. I have nine BHAG’s, so there will be many letters. And letters to friends, to colleagues, to strangers, to people I want to engage in serious discussion about a project, or about fixing a problem, or about helping someone, and yes, some will be emails that are only 100 words long with something important to say rather than a 10-word spurt of flinty minimalism in our email/text world of immediacy.
In 2021 I’m writing letters. Meaningful ones, personal ones, thoughtful ones, long ones, focused ones, directed to the right person ones. I’ll not be waiting for the right tactical time. This week’s efforts has produced responses, longer calls, longer meetings – and a resulting long list of things not done at the end of the day, but wow – what a week of great days I had.
Yes, Larry, I found my word for this year: l etters.
Thanks for giving me inspiration to pause, to work through to arrive at that one thing, and with this process, I’ve convinced myself this will be the best year I’ve ever had. That’s a 51-week forward-looking self-talk projection, but I know deep down that I’m right. This year I’ll do more, do better, dream better, sleep better and achieve more than I ever have before – not by the hard work alone, or being creative, or more experienced at anything, or from better technology, but from the magic of writing more letters of value, meaning, and connection to more people I can do good work with than I’ve ever done before.
Looking back on the best projects, best relationships and best feelings have always started with one-to-one quality, well-intentioned and clear communication.
Hardly anyone does that anymore.
Everyone is too busy pointing, clicking, spread-sheeting, Zooming, Slacking and all the other social media ways of being in touch with the many, crowd-sourcing friends, clients, capital, likes, thumbs-up, without looking one person in the eye across a table, across a room, and putting ideas and experience toward finding new solutions to old problems: people skills, problem-solving, straight talk, and simple truth.
I was going to quote Mark back to Mark: “ it could be easier, if I did less …” but I will hold off until tomorrow’s revelation, RH, Calgary, AB
Mark, you of all people, do not lack energy or ambition, goals or objectives. You are tenacious and you persevere. You embody Grit. I suspect, from your recent musings, your expectations of yourself are well beyond the norm - which I know is not your benchmark. Enjoying the wonders of the world around you, nature, your fitness, health and mental well-being are paramount to you. You are continually looking to improve - to run the next mile faster than the one just run before. You have a lot of people who care about you. Don’t be afraid to ease up on the gas. We are, only one week into 2021, RT, White Rock, BC