If plan A fails, remember there are 25 letters left.
If the cold pitch doesn’t work as you hoped, go to a referral network. If the referral network doesn’t work, take it to crowdfunding. If the crowdfunding doesn’t work… you get the idea. Even though, hypothetically, a cold pitch might be your optimal scenario, you shouldn’t be banking on it alone. If it didn’t work out, you need to fall back on plan B, C, D, E to change tactics.
You might be thinking “Screw the backup plan. Backup plans are for wimps.” This isn’t usually the greatest idea. Backup plans don’t make you wimpy. They allow you to take on more risks.
Make your own countdown clock.
Chris got the idea of making his own countdown clock from his dad’s aerospace career. If you’re trapped in a cubicle, one deployment or otherwise imprisoned, make your own countdown clock. You can construct a simple spreadsheet or use an app or just mark the days on your calendar. If you don’t have a hard deadline, make one. Decide for yourself when “D-Day” will be and do everything you can to work toward it. Count on the days and prepare for freedom!
Resign your job every year.
Yes, you read that right. Once a year, on the date of your choosing, decide it’s time to quit. Commit to yourself that you’ll break out of the prison and do something different unless staying the course is truly the best way forward.
You can also do this if you’re going to school. Every year, decide to drop out unless continuing the program is the best way forward. As much as possible, ignore the sunk costs. If you somehow end up sticking with your program or job, that’s great. Maybe you love it. Either way, you’ve made a decision to move with confidence.
Don’t think like a CEO.
Be careful as you try to emulate the exact same path of successful people. A typical business book or advice column starts with a profile of a well-known founder, celebrity or other top performer. The author examines that daily routine, priorities and then extrapolates to suggest what you should do. These narratives only tell part of the story. They suggest if we do X, Y and Z, we would also be as successful as Bill Gates.
The problem with this advice is what works for Warren Buffet will not necessarily work for us. We aren’t Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or any other household celebrity. We aren’t billionaires with fortunes to invest and we don’t have thousands of underlings at our feed, ready to do our bidding.
Think like a janitor.
Maybe you should start thinking like a janitor. You’re the CEO of your life, the idea goes, so you should think like a real CEO. The problem is that you’re not just the CEO, you’re also CFO, COO, in-house counsel, chairman and chief janitor. So when you hear ‘think like a CEO’ maybe what you need to think is more like the janitor or the proverbial mailroom guy. The janitor doesn’t sit atop a mountain and issue decrees. He has to implement whatever tasks he designs.
Expand your baskets. Then limit them.
On one side, there’s the ‘do the one thing’ movement, which advocates going all in on your career, business or project. On the other side, there’s this ‘have it all’ promise, which advocates multiple endeavors in your career, business or project. Whether it’s wise to put all your eggs in one basket is a great question for debate because it’s easy to argue either side. Could there be any other approach that works better? Yes.
The third approach is to start with a lot of different baskets (try a lot of different things). Over time, you discover something that requires more of your attention and that’s when you switch to focusing more on that one thing. In other words, expand your width before you expand your depth.
Side hustles are fantastic for an extra source of income. Here are five ways you can do that:
- Sell something.
- Provide a consulting service.
- Become a dealer/middleman.
- Join the sharing economy as a provider (ride-sharing, service-networking, property-sharing, etc.)
- Become a digital landlord (app, social media, website, etc.)
To find a gold rush, think boring.
A lot of people get stuck in the search for the next big thing. You don’t necessarily need big leaps to be profitable. But you need a helpful idea. Consider the guy who invented the cupholder. Granted it’s not as sexy as making the iPhone but if you’re driving with a beverage, that cupholder sure comes handy.
The following are good signs of a potential gold rush:
- A big, untapped market
- A new tech or progress that many don’t know to use
- Confusion or uncertainty over how to use that thing
- Something people want but can’t get (illegal groceries from borders…)
- Something that’s perceived as scarce or involves FOMO (the fear of missing out)
Do you need an MBA? The three-minute test.
If you’re not sure if business school is for you, this cheat sheet compares what you’ll learn in business school vs what you need to know to work for yourself.
Management: What you’ll learn in business school
- Case studies of how executives manage thousands of employees
Management: What you need to know
- Working with all kinds of people and negotiate to get what you want
Operations: What you’ll learn in business school
- Managing factories, hospitals, aircrafts, oil and gas production facilities, and large-scale enterprises
Operations: What you need to know
- Managing the thing that makes you money
Finance: What you’ll learn in business school
- Stock, bond valuation models, forecasting, project evaluation, generating short-term profits to raise share prices…
Finance: What you need to know
- Making enough money – whatever enough means to you – on a recurring basis
Accounting: What you’ll learn in business school
- Preparing corporate financial statements, amortization, depreciation…
Accounting: What you need to know
- Paying the bills and keeping up with the money you’ve made
Marketing: What you’ll learn in business school
- Spending millions on ad campaigns
Marketing: What you need to know
- Reaching people who want to buy from you
Statistics: What you’ll learn in business school
- Differential calculus, linear programming, derivatives,….
Statistics: What you need to know
- Not much
What should you do? It probably doesn’t matter.
Just pick something. Remaining in paralysis is often worse than making any actionable choice. Like it or not, by refusing to make a choice, you’ve already made a choice to do nothing. And doing something (even if they turn out to be wrong) is almost always better than doing nothing at all. Even when you feel paralyzed and indecisive, you must find a way to act and move forward.
The three-tiered project board: Kanban.
In 1954, Toyota began using a simplified tracking system to measure progress in the company’s manufacturing line and other projects. Most project management systems are overly complex, so Toyota introduced the ‘kanban’ method and made it shockingly simple. It has only three components.
- Current – what you’re doing now
- Backlog – what’s coming up
- Completed – what you’ve already done
One tip is not to keep too many things under the ‘‘Current’ column. The ‘Backlog’ can contain a number of items but since you can work only a few at once, resist the temptation to put on more projects in front of you at once.
Never give up is bad advice.
Real winners never hesitate to walk away from an unsuccessful venture. Master the art of moving on by learning when to quit and when to stick.
Have you heard about the athlete who faces obstacle after obstacle, refuses to give up and finally overcomes the odds in the end? It makes for a great movie but in reality most people who aspire to become pro athletes fail. It’s simple math. For someone to win, many others have to lose.
When it comes to finding the job you love, you don’t usually have to compete against thousands of other people. If something isn’t working, you don’t need to keep going. You should consider giving up. Real winners do so all the time.
Ever heard of Michael Jordan, the famous baseball player? That’s not a typo. For several years, Jordan was one of the most recognized people in the world. He’d achieved his fame by leading the Chicago Bulls to six basketball championships and had broken league records in every relevant statistic. Then in 1992, he decided to retire.
But as famous as he was, what most didn’t know was Jordan also loved baseball. Having played as a kid, he continued to follow the sport even as he made his name in a different set of stadiums. Two years after retiring from basketball, Jordan signed a contract with Chicago White Sox. Not surprisingly, since athletic skills are not usually transferable on a pro level, Jordan, the best basketball player to have ever lived, struggled to adapt to a different sport. So instead of continuing to struggle, he quit and returned to basketball. He went on to win three back-to-back championships.
When to stick and when to quit.
No coach would have encouraged Jordan to keep playing baseball, a spor he was barely good at. The big decisions you make in your career have just as much impact on your life as Jordan’s decision to return to basketball. Here are some clear strategies you can use for your advantage.
- When the stakes are low, make changes or give up quickly.
- Fight your fear of missing out.
- Ignore sunk costs as much as possible.
- Ask yourself 1) is it working? 2) Do you still enjoy it?
The five-year mission
After selling his business for a lot of money, Daniel Ek, the co-founder and CEO of Spotify, learnt that fast cars and expensive champagne provided only short-lived happiness. So, he gave up on retirement and started one of the world’s largest music streaming services.
But to avoid burn-out as he had before, Ek came up with a clear strategy. He gave himself a five-year expiration date. “Five years is long enough for me to achieve something meaningful but short enough so I can change my mind every few years.”, Ek said.
Ek’s cycle of five-year mission is a classic example of serially resetting, albeit with a specific end date that’s decided on in advance. If you know you only have a certain period to complete a mission, how would you change your approach?
If you miss 100 percent of the shots, get off the ice.
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” is a motivational quote attributed to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. It’s true in a literal sense but if you keep missing the shot over and over, it’s time to stop taking the same kind of shot. Just like in a hockey game, in real life you don’t get enough chances to try indefinitely. The coach will pull you from the starting lineup. Your teammates will stop passing you thinking “We miss 100 percent of the shots we pass to that guy”. Over time, the opportunities to score will stop coming to you altogether.
“Winners never quit and quitters never win is a lie. To win, sometimes you need to regroup and think totally different, even if it means finding a new game to play.”