It’s been a trying week for me and my family.
I’m in Europe – you know, just doing my usual Content Marketing thing – when I get the text message from my wife: “We’re being evacuated – big fire in our neighborhood. Will text you soon. Love, Elizabeth.”
I’ve been back with my family for four days in our temporary place – and we’ve just been notified that we’re allowed to go back to our home. It’s a relief.
Despite all the difficult things we dealt with, it’s been a liberating experience. And it spurred a question for me:
Are we choosing our adventures, or are they choosing us? Allow me to digress.
Time, of course, is an illusion. Einstein showed that the dividing line between past, present, and future isn’t really there. It’s relative to where you are. Other physicists have argued that time isn’t real, that it’s simply a place – an arrangement of everything in the universe at this moment. Every “now” is a waypoint – a beginning or ending line of an adventure – as we float through the universe.
In business, as in life, we invent self-imposed waypoints – deadlines – that help us define the moments when we should be showing progress. They provide the checkpoints for measuring the things we do. When we meet our objectives, they help us feel accomplished. And they help us agree on improvement when we don’t.
Your daily adventure is to work from something like 9 am and until 6 pm, Monday through Friday. Goals are due at the end of the month. Financial results are due at the end of the quarter. The fiscal year ends December 31. How are we doing on our five-year plan?
“But wait,” you say. “I didn’t choose these adventures and waypoints. They were chosen for me.” And you’re right.
As marketers, we’re forced to run campaigns to meet established monthly sales goals. As content creators, we’re compelled to create content based on an editorial timetable, rather than as the story emerges. The world changes, but we stick to the same waypoints.
The trouble comes when we assume waypoints can’t be changed.
This week I was forced to move some of those waypoints. I moved deadlines, changed my travel plans for a speaking engagement, and altered some operations of my business.
It was fascinating how many of those waypoints simply fell away, elegantly and easily. I had placed more weight on them than they actually carried.
A powerful exercise we can do with ourselves, our teams, and our companies is to, at least temporarily, remove the waypoints that limit our ideas. What could we create if we didn’t have to meet the waypoint of the monthly report, the quarterly call, the customer event, the end of the fiscal budget cycle?
This question is best exemplified in Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans. In it, he quotes investor billionaire Peter Thiel’s question: “If you have a 10-year plan of how to get [somewhere], you should ask: Why can’t you do this in six months?” Could you choose a different adventure that would get you to that place faster? How would that choice change the waypoints?
Just exploring that idea can help us create new waypoints. When they’re all illusions, we can choose to keep them – or remove them – as they suit our journey. That’s when we truly choose our own adventures.
It’s your story. Tell it well.