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The Best Laid Plans

This day ten years ago you probably had plans in place for the year ahead. Maybe you achieved some of those goals in 2010. But I’m guessing that you could never have planned for some of the unexpected events, opportunities, twists and turns of the decade you’ve just lived.

It turns out that it’s harder to predict the future than we think because we underestimate how much we, and the world will change over time. As psychologist, Dan Gilbert says;

‘Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our life is change.’

Ten years ago, I had just started blogging. I had no plans to write a book. I couldn’t have imagined building an online community, the joy of teaching story skills to thousands of people or speaking at TEDx. None of those things happened because I had a five year or a ten-year plan. They happened one blog post, one idea, one conversation at a time. Long-term goals, dreams and intentions are worthy, but they only eventuate because of our short-term actions.

Here’s to the next decade of showing up to do work we’re proud of and building a world that’s better for our being here.

Image by Tamarcus Brown

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The Advantage Of Not Knowing For Sure

Success is as unpredictable as failure. Nobody knows for sure what will be a hit or a miss. Every runaway success is only obvious with hindsight. And yet we expend so much of our creative energy trying to be successful to our detriment.

When you liberate yourself from the pressure of having to win, you’re free to try things that haven’t been done before. You can permit yourself to develop your unique perspective—share and alternative worldview. Walk an untrodden path.

It isn’t just fear of failure that stifles creativity and innovation—it’s the pursuit of the ‘sure thing’ that closes us off to the possibilities. If we always knew exactly where we’d land we would never discover how high or how far we might have gone.

Image by Eugene Lim

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The Unexpected

Think about an instance of great service you experienced in the past week. I can guarantee what made it special was how it was delivered, not what was delivered.

Contrary to what we often believe, people want more than what was expected.

We consistently underrate, undervalue, and underutilise our humanity.

And we always have the opportunity to do the unexpected.

Image by Kate Townsend

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Care Most

It was the day of her son’s birthday party. Natalie was on red alert. Everything had to be perfect. She’d booked the party venue months ago and ordered the birthday cake weeks in advance. Things began to unravel when she went to pick up the cake. There’d been a mistake. The cake Natalie ordered, featuring her son’s favourite cartoon character hadn’t been made. She exploded.

Max, the bakery assistant, just listened. He allowed Natalie to finish before he spoke, acknowledging her frustration. Then he apologised before offering her an alternative cake free of charge.

Max could have blamed the person who took the order or the baker who forgot to make the cake. He could have assumed that because he couldn’t make everything right, there was no point trying to make something better.

We sometimes believe we are powerless to make a difference in an ‘all is lost’ moment, when in fact the opposite is true. Often all it takes is the smallest signal that we care to change everything.

Image by kazuend

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Perfect Timing

The man raising money for charity stands near the Flinders Street station steps during the lunchtime rush. He waves his clipboard and attempts to catch someone’s eye. He starts his pitch several times, and when busy commuters silence him by raising a hand, he changes the script.

‘Are you a nature lover? Are you worried about climate change? Can I talk to you for just sixty seconds? Hi there!’

His words aren’t working for him. But it isn’t just what he’s saying or how he’s saying it that’s preventing him from engaging people in a sales conversation. His problem is imperfect timing.

A crowded street might seem like the ideal place to meet the maximum number of potential donors, but just because people are there doesn’t mean they are open to being interrupted or persuaded.

An ideal audience isn’t one that’s available—it’s one that’s receptive.

When we say something is just as important as how we say it.

Image by Alex Proimos

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Gap Bridging

Every non-fiction book title in the book store makes a promise to a prospective reader.

The author promises to bridge a gap in the reader’s knowledge, skills or abilities.

The reader believes they will be changed by the time they turn the last page.

Your audience is also asking you to make and fulfil promises.

What gap does your product or service help your audience to bridge?

Who are you promising your audience you can help them to become?

Image by Michal Balog

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Needs And Wants

As creators, marketers and salespeople, we are, quite rightly, used to obsessing about our ideal client’s needs and wants.

After all, if we don’t understand what the people we care about serving care about, we’re unlikely to get the opportunity to serve them.

But if we are to do our best work, we must also be intentional about the kind of business and life we want to build. We often default to prioritising our needs while neglecting our wants.

What do you care about?

What kind of work serves you?

What do you need?

What do you want?

Image by Alice Achterhof

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A Question Of Choices

What makes you the best choice for the people you want to serve?

What makes these people the best choice for you?

What stories do you choose to tell your right people about the value you create?

What stories do your right people choose to believe about the value you deliver?

What choices do you make every day about how to build your right business?

How do those choices help you to earn the trust of the right people?

Our choices not only determine our priorities, plans and results—they are also clues about what matters to us.

Image by Maarten van den Heuvel

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The Daily Opportunity

We tend to think of opportunities as make or break moments. Those once in a lifetime happenings that could have accelerated our dreams if only we’d grabbed them before they passed us by.

But meaningful progress doesn’t happen in a single, magical alignment of the stars.

Opportunity can’t pass us by because it’s available to us in this moment and the next one.

The stars align when we show up every day to make the most of the opportunity that’s right in front of us.

Image by Jeff Sullivan

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By Heart Vs. With Heart

When we were taught poetry in primary school, my classmates and I were encouraged to learn verses by heart. The teacher would call upon us during a lesson to stand and recite a poem or a verse.

This was how we learned the words that were written without understanding the depth of their meaning. We knew the poems by heart, but we didn’t know what to make of them or why they should matter to us because we never learned to say them with heart.

We have the opportunity every day to work by heart or to choose to do it with heart.

The more often we choose the latter the better for all of us.

Image by Josh Applegate

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