If you don’t know what you’re up against, you can’t plan. If you can’t plan, you can’t win.This is true on the golf course, and it’s true for every other aspect of life. In golf, your ultimate goal is to lower your score—quite simply, a low score means success. To get there, you need a practice plan or strategy in order to define how you are going to achieve your goal. You need to know what clubs to hit, how far you hit the ball with them, and how proficient you are at working the ball to your advantage. You can use a drill like my “Hit until you’re happy drill” from the 9th hole, for example. Perhaps your swing thought should be “Success, oh yeah!” You can focus two-thirds of your time on your short game (one hundred-yard radius from the pin) and the other third on long game practice. This is relevant, as two-thirds of a round of golf is generally focused on your short game. You can also use your score or green cards to analyze previous rounds played, in order to target what you need to practice. There is so much that you can do, that is, if you have a plan!I’m sure you’re all familiar with the importance of setting goals. However, not everyone writes them down, and I’ve often wondered why that is. Is it because you’re afraid you’re not going to reach them? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you need to find a way to make goals work for you, and while I’m not going into a whole long diatribe about how to effectively set goals, perhaps what I’m about to tell you will enable you to wrap your head around the process.
Dream but don’t be a dreamer
It’s funny. Our Western work culture tends to frown on the idea of dreaming, as though it is a waste of time. I think that’s all wrong. Having a dream is the precursor to making something happen—be it little or great. Dreams and ideas inspire and push us to challenge the status quo. Now, being a dreamer, on the other hand, someone that talks about his or her dreams but never does anything about them, well, there’s the waste of time. This is where those without a real plan have let their dreams slip right through their fingers, leaving them with nothing better to talk about than what they “could have” done.
So, how do you dream without falling into “dreamer” status? Start by defining your career. Then add in your lifestyle and your home-style, and start living the dream. Even though this is a book about work success, it is always important to remember that work life and home life are not completely separate. If you’re happy at work, chances are you’re going to be happier at home—and vice versa.
To dream realistically, here’s something you need to keep in mind: Be flexible and regroup as required. but stick to the overall plan. In other words, you need a plan, first, and you need to have a firm overall goal in mind, but then the rest is all about seeing what works, what doesn’t, and fixing the plan as you go.
One of the most effective ways I have found to do all of that is through benchmarking. To make your dreams a reality, you analyze the process required to get you there and then break it down into manageable and controllable segments. You can be as detailed as you want while remaining flexible if you start out with a high-level approach and then tighten up as you start to see your progress and direction evolve.
To help you benchmark your career, I’m giving you the typical benchmarks I have seen repeatedly as people move through their life cycles:
Sixteen to Twenty-Five Years: The Education Cycle
This is the time to try everything. It’s the only real way to discover what you want to do. Education extends beyond schooling to include travel, learning new languages and cultures, and trying new things outside of your comfort zone.
The hardest thing to do is to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. One of the best options, though, is to keep your options open. For example, if you really don’t have an absolute career in mind, focus on getting a solid business education so that you have the basics. In whatever you do in your life, a good business sense will always be an asset.
Twenty-Six to Thirty-Five Years: The Making-it Cycle
This is the time to work hard, pay your dues, and kick your life into gear. If you’re not really rocking by the time you’re thirty, you’re in for some tough sledding. The movers and shakers are making it all happen by thirty-five, and they are ready to shine.
Thirty-Six to Forty-Five: The Performance Cycle
You are now at your peak and claiming the world as your own. You’ve got it all figured out and you are playing out your dream.
Forty-Six-Plus Years: Success
For some, you’ve reached your success. You are now mentor material. Make time to coach.
As I mentioned, these are benchmarks—a guide. This is not to say that, somewhere along the line, you won’t just lose your mind and go through a full-blown “career crisis” where you find yourself looking for something new, something more challenging. People today more than ever are really seeking out what they want in life. We are healthier than ever, living longer, and feel very capable of starting a new career or even a new career-lifestyle, such as running vacation charters in the Caribbean after spending a career lifetime crunching numbers for a living.
Also today, many people are being displaced. They have lost what they once thought were secure and permanent positions and have found themselves starting out again looking for a new job. Such career rebirths can also lead us in totally new and exciting directions.