Will Anywhere Do?

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”

The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

I help people and companies get where they want to go. For both groups, it’s pretty much the same process. It starts with the most basic question. Where do you want to go?

Sometimes, a person won’t have given this any thought beyond where they want to go to dinner…this evening. Sometimes a company will have only vague and mushy answers that point them just about anywhere. Entrepreneurs who’ve just launched their first company might proudly announce that their goal is to go public or sell to a huge company. Older, more experienced job seekers often reply that they just want to find a place where all their experience will be helpful. And many business owners say they have too much to do today to worry about where they’ll be in the future.

As a result of this wishy-washiness, people and companies flounder around and never realize their potential.

People rarely take the time to step back and really think about where they’d like themselves and/or their company to be in ten years. Thought about it with enough specificity to paint a vivid picture of where they’re going and how they’ll know if they get there.

These wanderers are so like Alice. Tromping hither and yon hoping to wind up some place they’ll know is where they want to be when they find it.

And if they don’t find it…they keep on wandering.

There is a much better way to plan your future: straighten out your path. Plan your way forward in the most direct, efficient, and effective manner.

The best way to reach a place is to start at the end. Know where you want to go. Paint a vivid picture of what that looks like. Once this is done work backwards from the picture. What’s the step right before you achieve your goal? And the step before that, and before that, and before that? Build these steps in reverse all the way back to where you stand today. Don’t forget to fill in the milestones of each step and the date you will achieve them.

Then take that first step and begin your journey with the end in mind.

If you work hard and follow the path you’ve laid out, before you know it, you’ll be standing with a big smile right in the middle of that picture you painted all those years ago.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a party celebrating a friend’s move to become the Chairman of his company and introducing the new CEO he appointed.  My friend shared a few remarks about the journey to this moment and acknowledged the people who helped him and his company along the way.

He pulled out a piece of paper and read what he had written years ago about where he wanted to be at this point in his life.  He had painted a picture of himself as the owner of a successful and well-respected global company in the philanthropic area known for exceptional work, and high moral and ethical leadership. The picture portrayed a great place to work and a business that was improving the lives of those most in need. It was a picture of exactly where he was now standing.

He ended by sharing the results of the company’s work so far. Over a billion and a half dollars managed into extremely effective philanthropic projects that continue to improve the lives of more than a million people directly and millions more indirectly.

I leave you to consider the picture the new CEO is painting of where he wants the company to be in ten years and beyond. I have no doubt he’ll think big. And that he and the company will get there.


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