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The thrill of going off strategy

A few years ago I was talking with a friend as she lamented about how difficult it was to keep her clients on strategy. She specializes in guiding startups to successfully navigate the shift to scaleup. To facilitate that process, she helps them develop a strategy to achieve scalable growth.

Part of what makes a business scalable is predictability and repeatability. A known pattern of cause and effect. This can be systematized into processes that can be done by anyone that's trained in them.

Every time they go off strategy they're compromising their abilities to succeed.

This conundrum isn't just felt by businesses that are scaling. It's a struggle for solopreneurs and leaders alike.

The excitement of a new opportunity creates a sense of energy and enthusiasm. This tends to fuel an initial burst of effort. But it wanes as we find ourselves in the grind of turning our vision into reality.

We are adrenaline and dopamine junkies in this way. An opportunity is way more thrilling than doing the hum-drum work of implementation.

So, we go off strategy, enticed by the excitement of the new bright shinny object. The promise of possibility is more captivating than the work of being in the messy middle.

This is something I've struggled with in my business. In the early years, I was driven to explore nearly every new idea I had that felt invigorating.

It's why I launched the E+ awards years ago. I could clearly see the positive impact of that program. And I took immediate action to make it so.

Shortly after I embarked to that journey, I realized it was going to take more resources than I expected. It required more time, money and continuous effort than I had considered. And I found myself neglecting other commitments as a result.

At first I thought that I needed to get better at planning. To think before I leapt. And chart out all the tasks associated with a given project, including a timeline for execution.

I fell into this false assumption that I had to figure it ALL out before I acted on an idea.

So I started making elaborate plans. In my mind and on paper, I "had it all figured out." I thought I knew what I was getting into.

Eventually things would not go as planned. When reality didn't fit my expectations I felt dejected.

What I realized, is that I needed to better manage myself. That yes, planning is important. But so staying focused while iterating and evolving.

Ultimately, I needed to cultivate the motivation to persevere when the excitement invariably wore off.

It reminds me of learning to play a new song on the piano. In the beginning there's the thrill of the possibility of performing it. But the piece is challenging. And learning to play it is arduous and slow. That's always when I've wanted to give up.

The same bodes true for following thru on a strategy.

The time to change strategies isn't when the excitement wears off. It's when there's ample evidence the strategy doesn't work. And by their very nature, it takes time to evaluate the effectiveness of a strategy.

I had help motivating myself to push through the arduous part of learning a new song. My mom would encourage me to persevere. She reminded me how I'd feel once I had overcome the messy part, while recalling other pieces I struggled with before mastering.

As an entrepreneur and leader, what helps me stay motivated and focused is quieting the chatter and listening to my heart.

My inner critic is sneaky. It'll convince me to chase squirrels rather than staying focused on the mundane tasks at hand. It'll make promises like mirages in the desert.

My primitive brain gets on board, "oh, you better do that, or else!" And my limbic brain laps it up like an enthusiastic dog, "Yeah, yeah, stop what you're doing and chase that squirrel. Now!"

Both are pursuing an illusive high. A temporary moment of elation that ends with a thud. And we find ourselves stuck in the mud, spinning our wheels.

Chris Prentiss said, "If you attempt to much you will end by succeeding at nothing."

For many, myself included, not staying adequately focused on a strategy is our greatest threat to success. Learning to do so requires cultivating the motivation to persevere when in the messy middle.

And that's where the wisdom of my heart comes in. While the chatter is distracting. My heart is calming and attuned. My heart doesn't yearn for instant gratification. It knows firsthand how steady and consistent effort is a lifeforce. And it provides guidance for me to evolve and iterate in my efforts.

While listening to my heart might not provide the same type of elation as my inner chatter. It offers me a more enduring buzz of motivation. This enables me to stay the course rather than seek the thrill of going off strategy.

What helps you?

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