What’s Your Plan?
When you’re a kid, you’re expected to follow directions, do your homework, behave, clean behind your ears and speak politely to all adults.
There’s also a good chance that your parents had plans for your future. These may have included going to college or following in your father’s or mother’s footsteps, possibly even joining the family business.
Now, what happens to kids who don’t agree with the expectations for them, don’t see any value in going to college right out of high school, or choose a major that makes no obvious sense and have no interest in meeting those parental plans?
Well, sometimes, they become entrepreneurs.
One of the fundamental differences between entrepreneurs and other people is a willingness to defy expectations and head in a different direction. Here’s the key to success: if you’re going to jump, know where you’re headed first. You don’t have to follow someone else’s path – in fact, you’re probably better off not doing that. But you’d better have a path lined up or you can waste a lot of time wandering around. Here are some areas where you will accomplish more and be happier by developing some written goals and strategies.
Surprised, aren’t you? You thought I’d start with career or money? Wrong. The place to start is with what you want out of your personal life, particularly in terms of relationships. Do you want to marry? Have children? How about maintaining connections with friends and family members?
These goals can affect where you live, how much money you need to earn to be comfortable financially, what kind of wife or husband you want and how much free time you hope to have. They’re also the most important life goals. Really. A life plan when it comes to relationships is also about taking responsibility for your behavior with other people. For example, part of your life plan may be simply to treat everyone you encounter with consideration and respect.
When creating a life plan for your career, start by thinking about what you like doing. Are you happier starting and completing projects, or do you prefer steady long-term efforts? Do you want to interact with people, technology, numbers, ideas or some combination? What do you hate to do? One thing to understand is that if you want to become an entrepreneur because you hate having people tell you what to do, gear up, because customers do that all the time.
Now, take the time to draw out where you see yourself over the next five to ten years. Understand that life is likely to change that plan over and over, but that’s OK. You need to see a direction to keep moving up.
This may not seem that important, but as you get older you will pay for the neglect of the younger you. Take a look at your parents and grandparents. Are they still alive? Are they in good health? That’s the content of your gene pool. If knee replacements are common among them, you may be smart to choose an exercise other than running. If they’re overweight, think about taking off that extra ten pounds around your middle before it becomes twenty. Eat your leafy greens. Be realistic about what you can and are willing to do – we’re not talking Olympic quality here – but build something into your plans.
How much do you need and how much do you want? Are you willing to sacrifice some dollars to do work that you love? What kind of car do you want to drive? What kind of home are you hoping to have by the time you’re 30 or 40 or 50? When would you like to retire and with how much of a cushion? What will you need to support your kids – all one to six of them?
Take the time to consider your values on things such as spirituality, ethics and integrity, giving back, and overall happiness and contentment. These may be complex and demanding to think about, but there is a real value to taking the time to set your personal priorities. For example, if someone offers you an opportunity that goes against your values, it helps to know what those values are so that you can say no immediately and understand why.
Do some of your plans directly conflict with others? For example, will the kind of career you dream of meet your financial goals? Take the time to look at all the pieces of your personal plan and make sure they’re well integrated and complement each other. If not, make adjustments.
I know this is a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the long run. Study after study has shown that people who write down their goals are much more likely to meet them. And here’s the best part of this effort: when people (such as parents or grandparents) say, “I just don’t know where you’re headed,” you can show them.
Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Matthew. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.