Where Do You Start?

Where Do You Start? Robert Rose, The Content Advisory, rocket, man, begin, start

I just finished two consulting engagements where my clients asked me the exact same question: “Where do you start?”

I’m reminded of the lyric from the wonderful, and heartbreaking song by the same name:

Where do you start?

How do you separate the present from the past?

How do you deal with all the things you thought would last

That didn’t last.

In the first situation, my client’s company had a horrific year. They endured a scandal involving their product, poor sales results, and a complete management overhaul. My client is trying to simultaneously build a new brand and renew trust in a marketplace that’s short on it.  Where does she start?

In the second situation, my client is the new marketing leader of one of the most innovative and coolest startups I’ve heard of in some time. Their CEO is dynamic and has a vision to disrupt one of the most dated industries on the planet. He wants to do everything now. But, of course, they don’t have the resources to do everything now. The pressure is on. They need to prioritize. Where does he start?

Interestingly, despite their diametrically opposed positions, they’re in exactly the same place. They are anxious and overwhelmed about what the future holds.

Where do they start?

We’ve all been there. I’ve found a few things that help.

First, let yourself feel the uncertainty. It usually isn’t the uncertain future that provokes anxiety, it’s the emotions that overwhelm us. So, one of the best places to start is to actually allow yourself to feel. Explore the emotions. List all the things that scare you, that could go wrong, that could go right, or that make you feel joyous. Feel them all. Then, acknowledge that the future’s uncertain. You can’t control how these things make you feel, but you can control how you react to them.

Next, map it all out. Take the time to map everything out. Start with what success – true joyous success – looks like. Then ask yourself, “What would need to be true for all that success to be realized?” Write it all down. It might sound overwhelming, but you’ll be surprised how settling it will be.

Then, prepare for different outcomes. Look at your list of what needs to be true and ask yourself what might get in the way. List everything. Then ask, “Of all these things, which are the big ones? Which are the ones that need to be settled first?” 

You’ve just discovered some of your first priorities.

Most of all, focus on what you can control. My client as dealing with the product scandal worried about whether the company could actually deliver the new product. But this is something beyond her control. “All of your plans must assume that the product team can fulfill on their promise,” I told her. “If they can’t, your amazing content and marketing plan won’t work. But if you assume they can’t, then it makes no sense to begin at all.”

Once you’re prepared and you’ve got your priorities straight, then the best place to start … is at the beginning.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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