Monthly Archives May 2011


Going Nowhere to Get Somewhere

It’s getting so close I can almost smell the ocean air.

Every year in late June my family and I head down to Cape Cod for a couple weeks of R&R. I love this time because my typical approach is to leave the computer at home and just soak in the beauty, warmth, and onshore breezes.

At least twice a day I take long walks. These walks are very special to me, as they are concurrently aimless and productive. I don’t plan what to think about, but let my mind go where it will. Invariably some of my thoughts are about work, but the absence of both urgency and the ability to act produces a truer sense of calm and perspective, and frequently generates some pretty cool insight.

Years ago I decided that my time on the Cape affords me 14 days to process the data I’ve amassed during the previous 50 weeks.

Of course, none of us can limit our analyses to two weeks per year. We are collecting and processing data every day. But it is critically important that we make the time to step back and think more broadly about the work we do. Where are we going? What’s important to us?

It was in this spirit that I recently asked one client to consider the following:

Picture you and your business one year from now. Imagine feeling happy about how things are going. Answer these six questions:

  • What’s your role?
  • What work have you been liberated from?
  • What is your company selling and doing?
  • What’s the industry buzz about your company?
  • How’s your company’s cash position and pre-tax profit percent?
  • What are your company’s three greatest strengths?

There was silence on the other end of the phone, until he finally said, “That’s really good. I do need to answer those. Send me the questions in an email. I’ll give these some thought and we’ll then get folks together to discuss.”

We all get so caught up in what’s happening now, email, putting out fires, and administrivia. But our actions must address our larger-scale goals. We must know where we want to go to make sure we’re not simply traveling aimlessly.

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