If You Don’t Have Your Own Plan, You’ll Become Part Of Someone Else’s.

My first job after college was as an Analyst at Deutsche Bank in New York City in 1998. The stock market was at its peak, banks were flush with cash, I was paid handsomely, and I was miserable.

I was miserable because I had no idea what I was doing there. I saw few happy managers to serve as role models. I wanted to switch groups, but I didn’t know how to choose because I didn’t really know where I was heading. The average time an Analyst spent at a bank was under 2 years, so climbing the corporate ladder seemed outdated. Also, I’m short and brown, so I thought there was a limit to how far I could go at a tall, European bank.

I was part of someone else’s plan.

I set out to create my own plan. Creating that plan didn’t take long because it was just one sentence. “Go to business school, start a company, sell or leave that company and repeat until my stake in these companies is valuable enough to live off dividends.” The plan has changed somewhat (but not much), and I’ve added specifics, but that first sentence was enough to make clear that staying at the bank didn’t fit the plan.levitra France

Decision-Making Is Easier With A Plan.
Whether and when to go to graduate school is a question that can linger unanswered until the ideal window has closed. It’s often unanswered for people who don’t have a clear plan. If you’re not sure what you’re going to do with your degree, then how will you know when you should attend? How will you know which program is best for you? And once you’re there, how will you know which courses to take? A plan answers all these questions.

The same holds true for companies. When Crowd Interactive took on any and all development work, we had a hard time assessing which projects to pursue. We wanted any and everything. In the process of taking lots of different projects, we spent a lot of time and energy building nothing. As a company, we didn’t apply the learnings from one project to another because they were often very different. Once we created a plan to focus on e-commerce and Ruby on Rails, we knew which projects to work on, how to market ourselves, and where to develop expertise.

Take Your Plan Seriously. Get Locked In.
Taking it seriously means taking tangible action. If your plan involves going to law school, then find out when you need to take LSATs and look into prep courses right away. The more concrete steps you take towards putting the plan in action, the more concrete the plan itself becomes. If you’re hesitating, ask yourself why. What is causing you to hesitate and sabotage yourself?

Take it seriously in terms of your family and friends. Don’t start dating someone who, for example, lives on the west coast and has no plans to join you on the east coast, if everything about your plan requires you to be on the east coast. Let others become part of your plan; don’t become part of theirs (unless their plan is better than yours!).

Take it seriously for your company: make sure everyone is on board or on their way out.

Whoever Plans First Wins.
In families, whoever has the plan first is usually the one to get their way. Couples navigate through life together but often with different maps. To get your whole family on board with your plan, vocalize it, explain its benefits to everyone, and get everyone on board immediately. If your spouse beats you to it with a different plan, you are out of luck. The same is true for managers charting plans for their company; the first plan everyone is on board with is the one that becomes reality.

Revisit The Plan Often, But Don’t Change It Much.
The plan doesn’t need to be too specific, but it does need to be retooled to get you from here to there. For example, my wife and I have planned where we hope to be in 5-year segments from now until we die. That sounds lame, but it was an important exercise for us because she wants to spend time in Hong Kong with her family, and I want to spend time in the US with mine. Instead of feeling anxious and guilty all the time, we decided to plan long stretches of time in one country or another. This is a far cry from my original plan, but it builds on the original plan by relying on company dividends to finance part of this expensive plan.

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