Newsletter #4: I never knew I always wanted to…

Before you skip past this newsletter and get on with more important things, complete this sentence:

“I’ve always wanted to…”

Last week’s newsletter received an even more overwhelming response than the previous week, so before I elaborate on the question I asked you to ponder, let me start with another heartfelt thank you to everyone who rated and responded. Your comments are much appreciated.

So, on with this week’s thoughts…

I never knew I always wanted to…
About 10 years ago, while I was sitting in the classrooms of my final lectures of the MBA, I remember being given a task by the late Ketan Lekhani during a leadership module. The entire 2 day elective was like being on a retreat, and the facilitator was like a guru with his polished toffee coloured head, and his white goatee. And the rounded belly. Well, he was like a Guru to me, anyway. Chairs were arranged in a circle, not in boring rows, and he never actually taught anything either. He just threw the floor open to questions, and as these were asked, he would choose something appropriate to talk about, and each discussion was a complete repositioning of everyone’s understanding of themselves. The two days were quite profound. The task Ketan gave the class at the end of the two days was to draw our own vision board.

To me, this was new. This isn’t particular to The Secret, but if you’ve read the book, the Vision Board is one of the things with which the book by Rhonda Byrne has become synonymous. I had to draw a picture representing what I wanted to achieve in the next 5 years, and for me, that task alone was challenging. My life up to that point was all about believing but not really. About knowing what I wanted, but not quite. I had an idea of what I Wanted, but it was vague. So I drew my picture.

There were several little iconic images on my flipchart page, each representing something I wanted to achieve in the next 5 years. I won’t list all of them here – that’s another story.  (Those who have heard the whole story in the classroom have told me afterwards that they found it very inspirational and motivating.) One of the icons was a drawing of three books, each of them a novel I wanted to write. The unwritten novels even had names. The other images on the page were very ambitious considering where I was at the time, and every single one of them was a stretch. I stuck the page up inside my cupboard door and I’d be reminded of what I was dreaming about every day.

Still, a few years later, I hadn’t yet gotten further than the first few chapters of the first book. I had moved house and lost the original flipchart page on which I’d drawn my map for the next 5 years, although I remember it vividly. At the 5-year MBA reunion, I was reminded of that vision board, and I felt very uncomfortable because, although I had achieved some of the goals I had set for myself in that classroom, I hadn’t finished.  And it was that sense of leaving things unfinished that nagged and nagged and nagged.

It is now ten years since I drew that vision board.  During this past week, I penned the last words of the third novel. I have this week finished the last of every one of those things I drew on that page. Incidentally, none of the novels I’ve completed were the titles I had written on that first drawing, but I had three novels on the vision board, and this week saw the completion of the third one.

There’s a lesson in there, and it’s all about the power of Vision. This is what I want to share with you about the power of vision in both your personal and work lives:

  • Vision is a very clearly defined, but indefinite idea of where you want to be. I say indefinite because you need to know what you want to achieve in a very clearly defined manner, for example, I wanted to write three novels in the next 5 years, but indefinite in that I didn’t know at the time what the novels would be about, nor exactly when or how I would go about finishing them. Or even where I would come up with the creative ideas. Articulate where you want to go very clearly. Once you’ve done that, and commit to achieving that vision, something very profound happens…
  • Your actions begin to steer you in the direction you have chosen. Once you’ve chosen a clear direction, you begin to make choices that move you in the direction you have chosen for yourself, and you begin to avoid making choices lead you elsewhere. You become more selective about what you take on, and you develop a thorn in your shoe, a niggle, that makes you feel that there’s something unfinished until you begin to work on the goals you set for yourself.
  • Every step becomes a decision. You become acutely aware that life doesn’t just happen. Like expenses in a business (and in your personal budget) every action is a decision. Being happy or unhappy about something is a decision. Choosing to learn to play piano or to watch a movie is a choice you make. You start making decisions more selectively, and you begin to focus your efforts on doing what you want to accomplish rather than allow time to pass by doing less important things. Steering your ship one degree off course at the start of your journey will put you hundreds of miles from your destination the further away from home you travel.
  • Small visions guarantee small results. Dream big and dream ambitious. Collins and Porras call it a BHAG – a Big, Hairy, Ambitious Goal. Putting something in your vision board that you know you’re going to achieve in the next year or two (like completing a degree, or getting a promotion when you know you’re up for it) does little more than make you feel good, but it isn’t going to change the playing field. Your vision should frighten you. If it doesn’t, you’re not dreaming big enough.
  • Without a vision you can be sure of one thing. You will end up somewhere. It just won’t be where you planned to be. If you’re anywhere near someone who has a stronger vision than yours, you’re more likely to get caught up in their tailwind than in blazing your own trail. Other people (and that includes your employer) will command your spare time if you don’t have a firm grip on what you want to do with it yourself. (There’s a little allusion to this in my next novel.)

So, if you completed the phrase, I’ve always wanted to… when you started reading this, I have one question for you: What’s stopping you? For many people, it’s just that they have dreamed about doing something but never really converted the dream to action. A dream is a vision without commitment. A vision is a dream with a game plan. We all have dreams. We must dream – it is dreams that keep us alive and moving forward. But it is only those who persist that realize their dreams.

About the new novel:
I’ll release the “trailer” when Garage Band is approaching its release which will probably be around April 2016, just in time for the April holiday season. April is a lot like December, only you have to work in between all the holidays.

Porter’s Rule: Slave to the City comes out in print this week.  While you’re waiting for Garage Band (which has nothing to do with music, and everything to do with getting even) you can pre-order your copy of Porter’s Rule: Slave to the City here (SA only until mid-November) for 15% off the retail price.  And if your Kindle or Kobo is running dry, put Porter’s Rule: Slave to the City on your reading list too, and remember to post a review on Amazon.com when you’re done being thrilled.

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