Clearing a path to success

If you’ve been grinding away at your business, the idea of a clear path to success seems like a fantasy. All of us seem to run into some kind of obstacle to overcome or problem to solve, and we accept that as part of the deal. Like it’s the price you pay for the life you have chosen.

Running your own business can be challenging but it does not have to be up hill all the way. We can’t by default accept a constant struggle. Nor can we be ok with our all problems abruptly reveal themselves and we will deal with them when that happens.

I was motivated to write this piece because I have witnessed entrepreneurs getting sidelined or taken out of the game completely because they didn’t plan their path to success. They had every intention of succeeding, and by not planning they signed the waiver that chaos could ensue at any moment. It’s brave but not brilliant.

Side story…

When I was a teenager my parents decided to purchase 3 acres of land. They were going to build a 5-bedroom log home with a triple garage, a massive front porch and a beautiful pond. I was the lucky child that got to spend my weekends devoted to that goal.

The first day we arrived at the property to I was shocked at what I saw. Terrain covered in trees and rocks and oh yeah, there was a swamp with heavily grown in vegetation. There was no, electricity, no driveway. It was just my dad and I on the side of the road.

All we had with us was orange spray paint, 2 chain saws and 10 gallons of fuel. I could not picture any way their goal would be reached. The terrain was too rough and most of the land seemed like a write off.

My dad is an engineer, and a firm believer that you measure twice and cut once. But also, you don’t start cutting anything until you have measured out ALL the cuts twice. We walked the property several times over, 3 acres seemed like 300. By the time we had finished, we were able to plot out exactly where the driveway, house and the pond were going to be. We knew which trees were going to need to be cut down, even where the firewood from those trees would be stored. We knew not only where the home was going, even the exact direction it would be facing. Oh, and that swamp wasn’t going anywhere. We were going to dig deeper into it to access the water source and it would become the pond.

By the end of the first day I was sure this was going to succeed and even looked forward to some of the things we were going to need to do to make it happen. Things didn’t look like obstacles anymore. They looked like the fun challenges of the journey.

For the next 2 years we made progress step by step, seeing the plan come together as it was envisioned. Always knowing what needed to be done next. There were very few surprises, and when there was one, we could deal with it easy enough because the plan lowered the chances of it being a big one. Also we had the energy and motivation to solve problems because there were so few and we just wanted to get on with the rest of the plan. We didn’t have an “oh no, what are we going to do” moment, consider big changes or giving up.

The whole thing came to life, almost a complete match to the vision we had from day one, maybe even better. We had many large family gatherings there, outside, right next to what was once a swamp. It literally looked like a private country club.

Back to my point…

We knew what we wanted, and we planned how to get it. We surveyed the situation looking for all the potential obstacles along the way, and any problems we will need to address or avoid.

I’m shocked at how many entrepreneurs don’t plan a clear a path to success. Sure, there will be challenges, problems and surprises. But you don’t need to expose yourself to all of them willingly. You are allowed and should plan ahead to understand what could happen. You should know what needs to be done next and you shouldn’t squander time and money on things you could have avoided.

And don’t think of it as being too careful or getting in your own way. The people that tell you “doing something now is better than later” just want you to play the game (hurry up, take your turn), and the more you play they more they get paid (that’s how you become part of the churn).

Go ahead and plan until you can see a clear path to what you want. And if it’s within your ability to pull it off, then do it. Chances are you’ll get there.