“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu
Strategy. Boring, right? Only used by organizations, right? Absolutely not. I just finished delivering a presentation on strategy to the regional managers and executive team of Hackbarth Delivery Service, Inc. (HDS). Half of my presentation was about strategy in our personal lives. And the last description I would use for strategy is, boring. Read further and I will share some reasons why we should make strategy a priority.
One reason why we do not study strategy is that we falsely believe it is too hard to understand. Only meant for smart people with advanced degrees in business, you may think. Jack Welch types. Master and doctoral degrees only apply. That is not the case. In fact, it is simple to understand. And sadly, it is often ignored by many of us until late in life.
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a simple to understand question that cuts to the heart of strategy.
Here is my definition of personal strategy:
Personal Strategy is the purpose and direction of my life for the next four years.
Strategy answers the question of what. What is the main goal I want to accomplish in the next four years? What will drive my actions and effort on most days? What is my main purpose and mission in life? How we accomplish our strategy is what I call, tactics.
Both strategy and tactics are important. But without strategy, employing tactics would be like running a race with no end in sight. Spinning our wheels in the sand, is the familiar jargon in coastal beach towns. A lot of wasteful energy. “The noise before defeat.”
The wrong strategy in our personal lives would suggest that we are doing what we were never meant to do. Our current career might have been initially attractive because of pay, benefits or even what others told us. We may have chosen a career, following in the footsteps of our parents. Perhaps, we went to college and earned a degree to do what we do, and believe it would be a waste to do anything else. Perhaps, we are in debt and believe there is no path out of our situation. There are literally hundreds of reasons why we may be doing what we are doing. Is your reason the right reason? What you do today – does it feel right? What does your gut say?
Strategy is about differentiation. What is different, you may question, about yourself when compared to others. It is about what makes you and me special. What is my strength? What is my passion? What makes me alive? Is there something I can do that I am great at doing and in which I have great passion? Find the intersection in my life of strength and love. When we discover what this is, we have arrived at a strategic moment. Strategy might not be the most attractive word we can choose. A better description might be to call it our purpose or mission. It answers the question of the main thing I should be doing now for the next four years. Do you know the answer to this question? It is important because your life is in the balance. And sadly, many do not answer this question until late in life.
The following quotes were probably made with organizations in mind, but they apply to individuals, too:
“There is nothing more wasteful than becoming highly efficient at doing the wrong thing.” Peter Drucker
“You use strategic thinking in deciding what to do. You use tactical thinking in deciding how to do it.” Bill Birnbaum
And one of my favorite strategy quotes is by George Morrisey: “Strategic planning is the single most important function of the CEO.” And you are the CEO of your life. How are you doing as CEO at this moment?
- Have you made your plan?
- Do you know the direction in which you are headed?
- Do you have a sharp picture of your purpose?
- Are you spinning your wheels in the sand?
- Do you know what is special and different about you?
- What is your mission?
- Do you ever get the feeling that you are working hard, yet not making any progress? Perhaps, the problem is related to what you are actually doing – the direction in which you are headed.
- Have you found your intersection of love and strength?
Today, I have a strategy for my personal life.
The direction I am headed in is . . .