Table of contents for The Most Important Project of Your Life
Stage 2 – A dream is just a dream until it’s written down, then it’s a plan! If you’ve done the exercises faithfully so far, by now you should have a pretty clear idea of your family’s fabulous future. Now it’s time to create a plan that will more than double your chances of achieving your goals. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this process. It’s how the most successful companies in the world have amassed their enormous fortunes.
Step 1. Who’s Going to Do it?
Now that you have fully explored the territory of your future, you’ve got to think about who’s going to bring your dreams into reality. The first step is to identify the people who will make it happen. Who’s on your “team”? Certainly your family, but also perhaps other supportive people. Make a list of the people who will be part of the team making your families dreams come true. Discuss roles and responsibilities for each person. What will each person do to support achieving the overall success of the family? Who will track progress against the scorecard? Who will call the family meetings? Who will keep track of promises made and kept in pursuit of a life together worth celebrating?
Step 2. Plans and Schedules
The moment we write down a series of steps to achieve our dreams they cease to be dreams, they become plans. Just like a family mapping out a plan to drive across country on vacation, a family journeying to their future needs a map and a plan. Here’s a very visual way to bring your plan to life in a highly collaborative way.
EXERCISE: Clear off a big space on a wall in your home, cover it with poster paper, and get a bunch of sticky post notes for this task. On the far right of the wall post your family collage, your stakeholders, and your Family Success Scorecard. That’s your fabulous future, and you’re about to create a map of how to get there from where you are today. On the far left side of the wall write a single post note with the word “TODAY”. Can you see the gap between “today” and your family’s future? That’s the gap that your plan has to close! Imagine a timeline running from today to the future. Your ideas for how to close that gap will create your plan for making it happen.
Get your family together and give everyone a stack of postnotes. Ask each person to think about what would need to happen to move your family from today’s situation to your ideal future, represented by your collage and success scorecard. Then have everyone write their ideas on postnotes – one idea on each post note – and stick the notes up on the wall roughly in the order they must be accomplished. As more notes are added you should start to see that they fall into certain categories. These “swimlanes” are areas of focus that your family needs to pay attention to as you implement your plan. For example, you might notice that there are a number of financial items. Line these up in the “financial row”. Finally you’ll notice that some of the tasks and events depend on others, for instance saving for college has to happen before going to college. Draw in the connections between the various tasks so you can see which ones depend on the others. When you finish you should have a map of how to travel from today to your fabulous future.
Step 3. Risk and Upside
Every planned journey can benefit from two kinds of review: 1. an evaluation of the risks faced along the way, and 2. a consideration of how the journey might be made more pleasant. Your family’s journey to your future is no different.
EXERCISE: Considering your plan, brainstorm what could go wrong, and what could make it go better than expected. Make a list of the top risks, and brainstorm how you’ll either prevent these from happening, or deal with them if they do. And don’t forget to consider how things might go better than expected! What serendipitous occurrences might vastly accelerate achieving your goals? What unforeseen good fortune might dramatically increase your success? Thinking about how a journey might unfold prepares the travelers to be ready to avoid problems, respond to setbacks, and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves along the way. Think of your brain as a pattern-matcher. You’re looking for patterns that are familiar – that’s how your brain works! If you put patterns in your brain anticipating risks and good fortune you’ll readily recognize those events when they cross your path.
Step 4. Assumptions and Beliefs
The most insidious obstacle to your success in the enemy within – your own self-limiting assumptions and beliefs about what’s possible for yourself and your family. Looking at our own beliefs and assumptions is a bit like biting your own teeth. It’s a blind spot. Often an outsider can perceive our blind spots easier than we can.
EXERCISE: Find trusted friends, or professional advisors, who can talk through your plan with you and help you identify blind spots, holes and omissions in your goals and plans. Human beings are notoriously bad judges of what’s possible, and tend to talk their friends out of making magnificent plans for their future in order to spare them the disappointment of failure. Make sure the people you choose understand that you are committed to your goals and dreams, and you just want them to help you think through any self-limiting assumptions and beliefs that might prevent or reduce your success. Specifically tell them NOT to advise you about whether your goals are possible or “realistic”. Many things seem impossible until they happen, and they appear merely difficult, or even easy, sometimes inevitable. Getting several different perspectives is better than a single knowledgeable opinion as each person brings their own worldview to every situation. Strengthen your plan by getting the insights of a couple different people before putting your plan into action.
EXERCISE, NOT READING, BUILDS MUSCLE! Agree on roles and responsibilities, create your plans, examine the risks and your assumptions. Whatever time you spend, it’s far less than the time you’ll waste without a plan!