On My Own: Part 6 – The Deep End
Turning vision into reality
(If you haven’t read the beginning of this story, The Build-Up, start here.)
The level of clarity that came from finding my purpose produced a strange feeling. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like a combination of comfort and fear.
Comfort in that I had a guiding light. A mission that I was on. Something that, if I work hard toward it, I could be happy with myself.
Fear of failure. Failure is not falling short of a target. Failure is not doing what we know we should. Backing down. Not trying.
I’m obviously not going to transform work for everyone on Earth, so that’s not the fear.
I’m afraid of myself. Afraid of the weight of the purpose being too much. Afraid of giving up and taking an easier route toward some other half-assed version of success.
Now I don’t have any excuses. I can’t say I’m searching for what I want to do. I can’t say I’m looking for purpose. I know what I should be working toward. And now it’s up to me to do it.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t start calling people quite yet…
“Hi, my name is Matt and I would like to help you enjoy your work.”
“Umm…okay? How does that work?”
“I don’t know.”
That’s where the rest of my personal planning process came in. I’ve built this up over the last 5 years, learning from Ray Dalio, David Allen, integrated planning for oil & gas, and many others. This process is a big part of what I teach in Lead Your Way, and it’s how I run projects, my business, my life.
Here’s what it looks like and what came of it.
Principles – How will you behave? Laws, lessons, and rules to live by. (You can see mine here.)
Purpose – why does the thing exist? (in this case, thing = me) What’s the point?
Vision – What does working toward or achieving the purpose look like? How does it feel?
Goals – What needs to happen in the next 1-3 years to make the vision happen?
Major Projects – What do you need to do to reach the goals you’ve set? (Tangible, 0-2 years)
Tasks – For each project, what’s the next thing to do? (The smaller the better, e.g. book a meeting, google how to write a business plan, call a person, etc…)
Habits – What habits will support responsibilities and/or projects? (e.g. want to write a book? write every day. want to be fit? exercise every day.)
Responsibilities – What must be done to keep everything else on track? (fitness, relationships, income, etc…)
I step through each of these items from the top down, tying them all together. I’ll share lots more detail on this another time. (This process is one of the things I help people do for themselves in Lead Your Way.)
You can see my principles here. I’ve talked about the Purpose. Here are the vision and goals that I came up with.
The combination of my purpose, my vision for the life I want to lead, and my goals led me straight to the projects I ought to be working on.
I love consulting because I love helping people. Not just doing things for them, but making them more capable. More effective. Happier.
I hope that I keep doing consulting work until I die. The problem with consulting is that it is very time intensive. So I started thinking about how I could achieve the outcomes from my consulting work for more people, faster, better.
Luckily, there’s this thing called the internet. At the beginning of 2020, I decided that I was going to start using it, especially social media, in a productive way. Aiming to produce more than I consume. Leverage the power of it as opposed to just using it for memes and fantasy football research. One tool is Twitter. There, I came across a few people that seemed to have a very interesting business model. From writing to productivity to graphic design, they were helping thousands of people in meaningful ways. Mostly by themselves. One is just a guy and his wife, one has a couple partners, one has a small support team.
I’ve talked to a couple of them and they are truly good people that are trying to make the world a better place in their own way. Taking their expertise, experience, capabilities, and leveraging technology to maximize their impact. Ultimately the how is pretty simple, but not easy. They’re productizing themselves. I watched them for a few months and noticed that they all:
- Produce highly valuable content that will stand the test of time
- Build and deliver products that help people make positive change (courses, digital products, workshops, etc…)
- Create communities around their work
Ultimately, they’re investing their time into building assets. They’re not trading their time for money.
Having a big impact and enjoying life as a good family man seemed at odds. But once I saw this model, it seemed like it checked all the boxes. That led me pretty quickly to what projects I should be working on.
Here’s where it started getting really exciting for me. Converting the high-level purpose all the way down the line to reality. The projects I initially came up with (the same day I figured out my purpose) were pretty vague and not very useful, but it wouldn’t take long for me to figure them out. Like I said, I love consulting and will do it in some form, hopefully forever.
But the lifestyle of a full-time consultant isn’t good for people that:
- don’t like chasing people to sell projects
- like spending time with their family
- want to do something that scales without hiring an army.
This model that I found would seem to work well, but with consulting work added in. So at the time, there were two primary projects.
Build a People-Centric Consulting Business
A fancy way of saying that I’ll be a decent human being and not one of the soulless, evil, management consultants that we all know and hate. Doing the best thing for both the human side and the financial side of the business. (This is where the “People + Profit” tagline that I used for a while came from.)
Create Online Education Programs
I just looked back at emails and I actually kicked off the beta cohort of Lead Your Way exactly 1 year after quitting Aucerna. Weird.
It was initially intended to be leadership training for new managers, but by the end of the beta, I realized that I had really packaged up everything that I had learned in the first 10 years of my career about how to be effective, kind, and happy at work. I’m so proud of how it turned out. From the quality of the content to the innovation in the design to the profound impact it had on people.
Along with writing and videos, I’ve added on the newsletter since then and have a couple other projects that I’m starting to kick the tires on. I know the conventional advice is to pick one thing and hyper-focus on it, but I’m comfortable having a few plates spinning as long as 3 things are true.
1. Each project is aligned with my purpose
Killing all the things that make work suck is a pretty broad scope, but this immediately eliminates any options that would purely be for personal gain. That’s a good feeling.
2. Each project supports the others
Check out this amazing image of Disney’s business model as designed in 1958, how every piece of their business supports and is supported by other pieces.
The quality of this image is astounding to me. Such high detail but it makes complete sense as you navigate it. This is how I want Pod2 to look. A collection of projects that are aligned by an overarching purpose and are made more successful through the existence of the others. Notice how it’s clear what the #1 priority is…
3. There is a clear priority.
“Know the difference between your steak and your side dishes.”
Consulting is my steak; the online courses are currently my potatoes. They’re number 1 and 2, for now. Working on the side-dishes comes after I’ve done my work on the first two. That’s why the newsletter is weekly-ish…
The End of the Beginning
That brings us to the end of my first year out on my own. To the end of this series. People seem to have enjoyed this so I’ll keep sharing stories as I go. But to wrap this up…
I’ll summarize those 12 months with one word.
The sabbatical was the pleasurable vacation/family/golf type of fun, but since then it’s been the brand of fun that only comes at the intersection of fear and excitement. That place where you are simultaneously certain you’re going to change the world for the better, and also scared shitless that you’re completely wrong about everything.
The lows are low and the highs are high. I believe that the opposite of happiness is boredom, and there is absolutely no boredom anymore.
Reality will probably fall somewhere in between revolutionizing how organizations work and utter, embarrassing, failure. But if nothing else, I’m going to be learning.
If nothing else, it’s going to be fun.
And that’s how work is supposed to be.