The Power of Your Plan
Creating a Plan is a foundational principle to success in any endeavor or venture, yet few people take the time up front to consider the why, how and “nuts and bolts” they will need along the way to accomplish their goal or dream. It was my senior year in high school when I caught this life changing principle.
It was my final semester before graduating and I had enrolled in a class taught by two passionate and nontraditional teachers, teachers I admired. They had joined together with the objective of reaching kids using real life application techniques versus the more traditional academic style of teaching. The class was titled, "On Being Human" and there was only one homework assignment for the entire semester. The assignment was to keep a daily journal.
We were to write in our journals every day and share about what we were learning, experiencing, and feeling and then turn in our journals a couple of weeks before the summer break. On the last day of school, the teachers would give our journals back to us along with their personal written feedback and advice. Over the next several months, I diligently wrote in my journal every day.
Because of the “coolness factor” of one of the teachers, I was exceptionally open and honest as I wrote about my life experiences and emotions. I imagined her reading my journal and writing a very personal message about how enlightened and self-aware I was. I was certain that she would applaud me for not only possessing profound and critical thinking skills, but also for my courage and passion in experiencing my young life to the fullest.
But when the big day arrived, and the teachers handed back our assignments, her words weren’t encouraging. Rather than being impressed she had written the following note across the front page. She had written, “Jane Ann, I see you floating down a river without a rudder or a sail. I am really worried about you.”
She wrote a bit more, but those are the words I remember. Those are the words that rocked the foundation of my young world. It was a simple illustration, and one I understood perfectly. I had grown up sailing and understood the analogy. She was saying that I was broken, that I was merely floating around, carried by the waves, with no direction or sense of purpose. I was living life aimlessly.
This wasn’t the message I had imaged at all. She wasn’t impressed with what I had shared. She wasn’t even encouraging, but I saw the truth in what she had written. It was her comments and how I ultimately responded to them that not only changed my life, but also continues to shape who I am today.
That afternoon I raced home as soon as school was over. I ran upstairs to the privacy of my room and grabbed a pen and pad with the goal of reinventing myself. My days of drifting aimlessly were over. I was determined right then and there to decide what I would become in life and develop a plan so I could see it through. In my own simplistic and naïve way, that afternoon, and into the evening I drafted the bare bones of what would become my very first Business Plan.
On a yellow legal pad, I began to write, making a list with two columns. The first column consisted of everything I thought my future career path would need to have. I saw these as my “non-negotiables” and they included a job where I could be my own boss, a job that would provide security and wealth, a job that required elements of being artistic and a job that would allow me to make a difference.Then in the second column, I listed the kind of jobs that would meet each of these criteria.
As I reviewed my requirements in the first column, there seemed to be only one job that covered all my criteria, a doctor, possibly a surgeon.
That evening I sat together with my parents and together we mapped out a Plan for what I would need to do to become a doctor. There were more obstacles than I can include in this blog, but we addressed each one of them with a strategy and action plan. For example, to get into a university, I would first need to enroll in our local junior college, retaking many of the remedial classes I had barely passed while in high school.
In the end I didn’t become a doctor. It didn’t take long for me to accept the fact that I didn’t enjoy science or medicine. However, it was in following my Plan to get into medical school that I discovered that I enjoyed and was good at politics, business, and a whole different skill set. And although I didn’t become a doctor, I did end up with a career in the Health Care Industry.
Two decades later I flew my brother, a CPA, to my home in Utah to help me write a new business plan-the second business plan of my life. This Plan needed to be more than a couple of columns listed on a legal pad and required more thought and expertise than the one I wrote in high school because it was a Plan to build a national insurance carrier from start up to a successful acquisition. Not only would it need to map out my vision, but I would also use it to raise startup capital.
Until I started a company of my own, I had never been involved in raising capital, didn’t know how to read financial statements and didn’t have many of the skills that common sense says every CEO ought to possess. But my past had taught me an important principle; “As long as I have a Plan, I can follow it.” If there are tasks within the plan that I can’t personally execute, I can hire someone else to do it. Just give me a map that’s easy to follow with enough detail and guideposts along the way, and I know I can get to my destination.” The same principle holds true with any good Plan.
Writing a plan is a powerful and fun process and is a foundational principle for success in business and life. To learn how to write your own business plan and other foundational success principles, I encourage you to pick up a copy, “The Audit Principle, 5 Powerful Steps to Aligning Your Life with the Law of Success” at this web site, Amazon, or where books are sold