In What Next I write that “it’s not the plan for the expected outcome that saves you, it’s the plan for the unexpected outcome that does.” This is what preparation is all about and why I often have a plan B, C, D, E, and F.
I haven’t written many blog posts in a while because I’ve been busy working on my latest What Next venture, my current priority.
The reason I’m writing this is that two months of planning, two months of high expectations, may end badly. I will be sad, upset, worried, and yes even angry, if this falls through, but one thing I won’t be is beaten. I won’t be much worse off even if it goes terribly wrong because of the preparation I’ve done, not just for this one thing but throughout my life.
As you live your life, are the things you’re doing now putting you in a stronger position later? It’s worth asking so you’ll be able to succeed no matter what happens.
Posted in General, Success, Taking Action and tagged goal, plan, planning, success, unexpected by AJ with no comments yet.
I’m a big proponent of multiple paths to the same destination; I pick my favorite, Plan A, but then set about working on Plan B, and then Plan C, and even a Plan D and Plan E. Each one gets more desperate, I mean creative, but the point is that each plan is an escape route, a hedge against failure.
Implementing a plan means you believe in it, that you’re confident it will lead to the place you want to be. That can be scary sometimes as you second guess yourself and doubt creeps in. Doubt is OK, however, because it keeps you honest as you must justify each decision again and reevaluate it’s effectiveness. Putting a plan into action is not a exercise in rigidity, it about fluidity and flexibility.
Starting any business takes capital in spite of the headlines like “How to start the next Google with just $100.” As I begin funding a new venture I am testing the various plans I put in place over the years. One thing I’m learning is that it’s hard, mentally, to actually implement a plan.
I began selling stock to build a base of capital but I find myself wondering if now, the moment I’m hitting the sell button, is the right time. If you have a plan and believe in it, you won’t care about that one moment or those few dollars because you’re focused on the big picture, on progress. I hit the button and moved the plan forward.
Posted in General, Success, Taking Action and tagged doubt, failure, flexibility, path, plan by AJ with no comments yet.
If you’ve ever seen a scatter chart that is what success really looks like – some highs, some lows, and some direct hits scattered around a target or goal. As I embark on my latest What Next plan I’m seeing this in practice. Certain assumptions are being challenged or proven completely wrong while others are going as planned.
Sometimes one of the lows feels like you’ve taken two steps back but only one step forward. Get used to it because that is exactly what will happen. Remember, however, that there will be times that you also feel like you’ve taken five steps forward and one step back. It’s the trend line that makes the difference. This same chart with a line running through the center shows that in spite of setbacks progress can and does continue.
It’s when the line begins to dip and there are more lows than there are highs that things need to change. Take setbacks in stride but keep a watch on the trend line.
Posted in General, Success and tagged fail, failure, goal, obstacle, plan, set back by AJ with no comments yet.
Whether true or just perceived on my part, I have lived my entire life having dreams crushed. Sometimes the naysayers come right out and tell you an idea is crazy, that it will never work, that the risk is simply too big. I think the worst way to have a dream crushed is through silence. Successful people aren’t successful in spite of other people, they are successful because of other people, because of the support and encouragement they receive. When that support is lacking dreams wither and die.
Stop being a dream crusher by offering support for the dreamers in your life. Don’t let them slide with easy answers, hold them accountable, but let them know you’re there and that you care.
Seek out people who will support you, who will encourage you, who believe in you and build you up. Avoid those that don’t. My problem has been finding the dream builders in real life. I have found wonderful supportive people on Twitter, people like @gingerconsult @Mark_Delvecchio @Simon_GB @MartinaMcGowan and so many more. I find myself spending more time there because of that support and encouragement, the very things I don’t get from the people closest to me. (I can write that because I know they don’t read this blog).
On balance I am very happy with the way things have turned out. Whether the support was there or not I have done many things that I dreamed of and succeeded. I wrote two books and the positive feedback I’ve received makes up for all the silence (thankfully no negative feedback yet).
No matter what I’ll keep dreaming, keep asking what next and if the support is there – great. If I can’t find the support, I know that next time I’ll be stronger for having carried the weight myself.
Posted in General, Success and tagged dreams, encouragement, plan, success by AJ with 3 comments.
This post has been updated on 11/25/12: When I originally wrote this it was the MegaMillions that reached such major proportions now it’s PowerBall.
Update #2 January 10, 2016 – now the PowerBall is up to 1.3 Billion which means even more people took a chance on the future instead of making a future.
Who wouldn’t want $500 million dollars? Who doesn’t dream of being set for life? Who doesn’t wish they had that kind of money?
The idea of some gift, some magical win is a fantasy. The dream of wealth without work is just a dream. And the wish for large sums of money are just wishes. There are a lot of people who play, and play, and play but have nothing to show for it.
Why do you think the amount is so high? Because each week, in spite of over 30 million tickets being sold, nobody won. Week after week after week people spent money on a dream rather than investing it in themselves. “But a few bucks here and there doesn’t hurt,” you might be thinking but you’re wrong. It’s the feeling that a magical event will save you from the way things are – it’s defeatist.
Well I play a lottery with much better odds and I have a lot to show for it. The lottery I play is called life and it takes work. Every day, every decision is a gamble but unlike the “idiot tax” of an actual lottery, I can influence the outcome. They say all you need is a dollar and a dream, but I say all you need is a dollar and a plan!
When I bought my first rental property it was a risk but with much more potential than the same amount spent on MegaMillions tickets. When I spent money to study financial planning there was no guarantee of success but at least the odds weren’t 292,000,000 to 1! When I wrote What Next, I had no idea if I would sell a lot or a few books, but I knew it was up to me and not some random freak chance.
I put faith in myself, not a fantasy. I believe I am the only one responsible for my success, not a random series of numbers.
I know I won’t stop you from buying a ticket or ten or twenty but maybe when you wake up a lottery loser you’ll change your focus from an outward search for success to an inward search for what motivates you, what you’re passionate about, and you will turn that into success and happiness.
Posted in General, Money, Success and tagged dream, fantasy, gamble, lottery, mega millions, plan by AJ with no comments yet.
A recent post of mine (Are You Crazy???) was written in frustration. There is a lot of good financial advice out there but it doesn’t seem like anyone is listening. Maybe they are listening but they aren’t taking action, they’re not asking What Next and doing anything to improve their future. So I decided to write this action plan for success. Will you follow it?
The past is over. The best you can do is learn from it because you can’t change it. You’re in debt? Ok, just don’t continue doing the same thing that got you there. You haven’t progressed in your career as quickly as you would have liked? Ok, but change what you’re doing. You haven’t saved enough for retirement? Ok, start now.
This is your moment. The present is here to bring about the future so get to work.
If finances are a problem you first have to understand the cause of those problems and that means having a clear idea of where your money is going. This means you have to track every penny you spend. It’s not as hard or time consuming as it sounds. I talked about one way to do that in this post. Another thing you have to do is stop spending, for a short period of time. Change your habits. I wrote about that topic in this post, and encourage you to take the three week challenge. Make the commitment now and stick with it.
This isn’t a pleasant word but success requires sacrifice. At the very least success requires restraint. My car is nearly ten years old and I would love a new one, a rather expensive Audi R8 to be exact and I could probably figure out a way to afford it but I’d have to sacrifice a lot to do it. I’d rather sacrifice the Audi for a secure future. That’s the kind of sacrifice, restraint, I’m talking about. So if you already have the fancy car with an expensive monthly payment, sacrifice may mean giving it up for a far less expensive car. You’ll be trading status for security. Make this decision now and follow through with it.
Maybe you feel you deserve a raise, then ask for it. Don’t just ask for it, pitch it, explain exactly why you deserve a raise. If you can’t come up with a strong enough case then make yourself indispensable, become the best employee ever and create the strong case. If that doesn’t work look for another job, if nothing else you will learn that maybe your salary is pretty good after all.
Even if you are satisfied with your job, you should have a resume ready to go at a moment’s notice, that’s being prepared for the unexpected, or go on interviews just to stay fresh. This is What Next thinking and those who master that will be more flexible, more successful.
Can’t get the raise? Can’t find a new job at a higher salary? Then sell things on ebay, turn a hobby into extra money, pick up side jobs in something you’re good at. Have a goal you want to reach, like paying off a particular credit card and figure out how to make the extra money to achieve it. Without a goal, a clear objective, you’ll delay taking action.
On a tv show I watch called Till Debt Do Us Part, the host, Gail Vaz-Oxlade shows the financially struggling couple that if they continue on their current path they will be in serious debt. In one typical episode the couple would have $500,000 of debt in five years if they didn’t change their habits. By the end of the program, if they follow Gail’s new plan, they would have $1,000,000 saved by the time they retire. Gail’s advice emphasizes the word action in “action plan.”
Such a transformation is the power of making the right decisions in the present for a better future. It is the benefit of being proactive.
My angry post borne out of frustration was about the many people who aren’t willing to plan for the future but you’re not one of them, are you?
Posted in General, Success, Taking Action and tagged action, finance, plan, planning, success by AJ with 2 comments.
I read the news today, oh boy!
“Housing Crisis to End in 2012” the headline said. But my question to you is what housing crisis?
I’m not being stupid, I didn’t just crawl out from under a rock, and I didn’t have my head in the sand.
A crisis is only a crisis for those affected, for everyone else it’s not. My home lost value as did my rental properties, significant value compared to the overinflated heights of 2006, but is that a crisis? If I had to sell, maybe, but only if I owed more than the mortgage.
There is no doubt that a lot of people were very badly impacted by the housing market, were taken advantage of, made really bad decisions, had bad luck, or a combination of all of those. I’m not going to try to assign blame on a macro level, each situation is different.
Whether the housing crisis was or wasn’t a crisis for you, there are lessons to be learned, lessons in what next.
In yesterday’s post I wrote that there are consequences to every decision and that a What Next approach takes a long term view. That’s why financial planners suggest an emergency fund, liquid savings that can be accessed to pay your expenses in case of, well, an emergency.
The lesson from the housing crisis whether you emerged unscathed or not, is to be a little (or a lot) more conservative in your estimates. If buying a home is out of reach without serious stretching then delay the purchase.
The reality inherent in any major purchase is that you will have to give up one thing to achieve something else. Sometimes in order to afford the house you want, you’ll have to save more aggressively and that might mean foregoing that new car, or the boat you really want but can’t really afford, or the lifestyle that looks good but comes with a steep price.
HAVE A GOOD REASON
The second lesson from the housing crisis is to make decisions for the right reason. A house is a place to live, not a piggy bank and not a lottery ticket. Buy a home to live in. Having a good reason goes for other “assets” like a business, too. I’m on another journey, another scheme my wife calls it, to open a franchised business. She is asking the exact right questions; “for what purpose? How will we benefit and is the trade-off for that benefit worth it?”
STICK WITH YOUR PLAN
I have to admit that I don’t have compelling answers to those questions. We have a plan in place and we’re sticking with it. Sure, it can evolve, but it doesn’t have to. A lot of people got distracted by the ever increasing home prices and altered their plans. Not a smart move without a compelling reason. And prices keep going up isn’t a compelling reason.
LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS
This really encompasses all of the previous lessons because if you are a little more conservative, wait until there is a good reason before making a move, and stick with your plan, you won’t be impulsive. A lack of discipline in spending is what leads a lot of people to live beyond their means. Living below your means is not a bad thing, it’s not a sacrifice, it’s really what everyone should be doing because it means you’re saving. If you live at your means that indicates to me that you aren’t saving any money.
It’s a shame that it took a crisis for people to learn these lessons, I just hope they stick this time.
Posted in Money, Taking Action and tagged crisis, housing, investment, mortgage, plan by AJ with no comments yet.
Now that the book is out a lot of people ask me, “So, what next for you?”
My response is usually something about promoting the book, getting my name out there, anything to increase sales.
“No, I mean what next, what do you have planned next?” They insist.
There are two answers to that question but first I want to make clear what the concept of What Next is not. What Next is not jumping from one thing to another haphazardly, it is not flighty or undisciplined, it is not unplanned. On the contrary, What Next takes a lot of planning and can last a long time.
This book was not a sudden idea that overtook me and lasted only until the next idea suddenly appeared. The idea for the book took time for me to formulate. One event was the trigger, a conversation with Julie about a business, but the decision to write a book required a lot of thought and planning over the next several months. Writing the book then took focus and commitment over two years and many drafts.
Back to the original question that started this post, what is next for me? The first part of that answer is what I always respond to whoever asks, promoting my book, getting my name out there. The second part is what they expect me to say.
I do have a lot of ideas bouncing around but like anyone with the What Next outlook on life, many of them will never come to be, others will become part of a larger idea, while some will consume me.
People who look at life as one opportunity after another can, and do, focus on the task at hand, they can push distractions aside. A person looking for what next finds inspiration everywhere but they don’t waste their time, they don’t sit in front of the television lost in a fantasy, they don’t play games on their cell phones or computers because that won’t improve their life. What Next is about moving forward, getting to a goal and then finding the next milestone, the next What Next.
I’ll work on other ideas but the bulk of my time and energy is focused on What Next – the book.
In the coming weeks some of my ideas will make their way onto these pages. I hope you’ll check back often to see what plans and schemes I have and (hint) what plans and schemes others have had. Since I mentioned it what is your plan for the New Year, what is your What Next? Please share by leaving a comment below. Thanks!
Posted in General and tagged determination, focus, opportunity, plan by AJ with no comments yet.
I feel myself becoming scattered. It’s a common problem for people like me, people with lots of ideas, lots of thoughts running through our heads. It’s difficult to maintain focus but the ones who can, who can limit their attention to two or three priorities, are more likely to be successful.
My focus should be on the book and the message in the book, so while I reserve the right to drift a bit, I’m going to write a series of posts highlighting the various concepts from the book. I’ve written about curiosity, an important part of What Next, often mentioning hiking, or the benefits of meeting new and interesting people. I’ve written about a concept called coasting and the need to become unstuck, all of which can be referred to as procrastinating.
Today the concept I want to pick apart is the broad notion of being proactive, it’s part of the book’s title after all.
The first part of being proactive is deciding that you need to take action. This action could be a new idea such as a business you’d like to start or a hobby you want to begin. The action can also be a situation you want to correct, which is really a reaction, such as deciding that being in debt is holding you back, or that your job has become unbearable and it’s time for change. I believe the first type of action, born from your ideas, is a much stronger position to be in than the second type of action, a reaction to something that has already occurred.
“I would rather be prepared and have a plan than have to react to the unexpected,” I write. I’d rather do that but it’s not always possible. The vital part of being proactive is doing something once the decision to act is made. That’s the part I’ve been having trouble with lately. I can’t seem to decide on a plan and without a plan I’m just winging it, a position of weakness.
The problem I’m having is a lot like the idea of inspiration, I’m inspired to act but can’t seem to get moving. Inspiration without action is just a good intention, and good intentions don’t accomplish goals.
This post is my first step toward implementing my plan, such as it is. What is your first step toward what next? What action are you going to take now? I have a page on this blog called “Share Your What Next With the World” because I feel it’s important to make your dreams real by sharing them with others, forcing yourself to get moving. Not everyone shares that view but I’m convinced you’ll be held accountable, by yourself or by others, if you share your what next.
Tomorrow’s post will provide two examples of being proactive. One was a reaction to another event, the other was created from nothing.
Posted in General, Success, Taking Action and tagged action, ideas, plan, planning, proactive, success by AJ with no comments yet.