Knowing the Right Path
It’s the end of what’s been not the best year. The economy is still uncertain. History tells us that it’s times like these that great leaders and great business are born. Inside and outside of traditional business, people are finding their path to opportunity, showing up with their skills, and claiming their reward.
Survey the landscape and three groups stand out.
- People who are following a path to opportunity set out by someone else.
- People who are forging their own path to opportunity.
- People who can’t seem to find a path to be on.
Which group describes what you’re doing?
What are the first two groups doing that the third group is not?
Choosing and Deciding: The Key to Sorting a Path to Opportunity
Every change, every cycle, every downturn and upturn in the economy offers opportunity. The question is how do you find the best opportunity for you, your business, and your team? No matter the economy, we see old and new companies succeeding — How did SAS in Cary, NC get to be #1 on CNN’s 100 Best Companies list? How does Zappos keep growing their happiness business? … and individuals who are doing the same thing. — How did Susan Gregg turn her closet into a $50 Million business? How did Michael Mothner turn a tough interview question into a $12-13 Million business?
How did those folks find success how did they figure out where they’re going and stay true to that?
Obviously every business and individual who’s enjoying success has sorted and found their unique path to opportunity.
Key to that success — leveraging opportunity — is understanding the difference between choosing and a deciding and know when do each. What kind of choosing and deciding sorts the world of possibilities so that we can get on to that same sort of success?
When the Possibilities Are Endless You Need to Choose
Naturally the first step is defining and describing our unique version of success. If the possibilities seem endless, then you need to start with choosing.
Choosing allows us to try alternatives. The origins of the word choose are in French and German words that literally mean to taste or to test. A choice is what happens when we survey a box of chocolates knowing that whichever we take now, we’ll return later to take another one. The choice is a selection that resembles a bungie cord – make a choice, enjoy it, and bounce back to make another version of that choice again. We can choose more than one, even if we’re choosing one at a time.
If you’re choosing, do this.
- Start broad.
- Look to your past successes. What common threads do you find in all of them?
- Identify 5 -7 categories, skills, problems you’ve been solving, or topics to focus your quest.
- Take time to experiment. Mix and match a few ideas that have worked for you in the past.
- Try out the possibilities to see what fits.
- Talk to people who know you about the results.
- Use each test to narrow your options.
As you keep trying on the options, you’ll begin to see what fits your values and your skills (or that of your team/business). Use the choosing to focus in on a clear vision of where you want to go or what you want to do. Brainstorming, ideation, conceiving new products and new initiatives all start with choosing from the wealth of possibilities available to you.
When It’s Time to Move Forward, Decide
Open options work great when we’re testing and trying, but when it comes time to be building and buying too many options paralyze. Moving forward requires commitment to one option, one direction or it will be too easy to get pulled aside.
Deciding allows us to determine a path. Decide literally means to kill off all other options. Deciding is what happens when we face the junction of many roads, knowing that whichever we take we’re moving on a path that means undoing to go back to that juncture again. We can commit to only one decision, but that commitment determines our direction, sets our destination, and fuels our ability to stay on course.
If you’re deciding, do this. Ask and answer 3 questions.
- Can you see the destination? Every time you succeeded you could see the finish when you started — the college degree, the thriving business, the trip across country. Define and describe where you are going or you will never get there.
- Is your head in it? Have you the skills, the DNA, and the ability to learn what you need to know to do this? The perfect opportunity is at the crossroads of your skills and the challenges that you enjoy most. Boredom comes when things are too easy. Anxiety sets in when things are too hard. Failure is certain when we choose challenges we weren’t built to meet. I’m 6 ft tall, so despite my grace and my 14 years of dance training, I’m never going to be a ballerina. But in my own way, I’ve become an information choreographer.
- Is your heart in it? Will you love the going there enough to keep it fun even when it’s not? Your heart has to be the keeper of the vision, the holder of the commitment that you make to yourself and the decision. We call that integrity. Can you trust your heart to be bigger than the fear that is sure to show up?
Knowing when to choose and when to decide is critical to sorting a clear path to your true north. Choose to sort out your best options then decide on which path will be your own.
Do you use choosing and deciding to your best advantage?
Knowing where you’re going is irresistibly attractive.
Who would follow you if you don’t?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!
Monica Hemingway says
“Define and describe where you are going or you will never get there.” So very true! Once you’re on the path, it’s so easy to step off, head in a different direction, hit a dead end, or otherwise end up taking a detour. If you don’t know what your destination is, how will you know when you’re going in the right (or wrong) direction?
Mitchell Allen says
Yay, Liz! You’ve quantified instinct! I’m kidding.
The distinction between choosing and deciding is apt. I’m straddling paths – the well-worn and the bramble-choked – and getting off the former means that my machete has to be decisive.
There is a pitfall that maybe you can tell me I missed see the solution for in your post: correct action.
It’s all fine and good to taste different things but, without proper action, how can we be decisive?
I tried to reconcile this with your qualifications of “vision” “head” and “heart”. Perhaps “head” solves the dilemma? If so, then I feel that we have a chicken and egg challenge:
Where does one get the knowledge to know that they’ll have the knowledge to make the right choice? 🙂
ME Liz Strauss says
The part that separates out the “true north” is the question that is similar to this …
“So do you want to marry this person, or do you want to spend the rest of your life growing old and solving life’s problems with her?”
“Do you really want to be the president of the startup? Do you really want to do the things that presidents do?”
That’s why you have start with the vision, knowing where you want to get to or you’ll wind up doing something you can do, but don’t want to do.
Really loved the way you laid this out. In this age when we have ready and constant to the stories of wildly successful people and their businesses, it’s easy to either say, I’ll have some of that and think that jumping on that bandwagon or to feel overwhelmed and never start building one’s own dream.
I love Zappos and their happIness focus and hugely admire their success but it’s not what I was put here to do so it’s down to me to extract what I need to from that model and apply it to my own happiness project- not the easiest option but the only option really.
Doug Rice says
Excellent points, Liz. Too many of us want to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. We end up spreading ourselves to thin, not accomplishing anything, and failing to do any good for anyone. Specialization is the key to success. Thanks for sharing!