It was two years ago today when I walked into the office of my boss at DBC Canada and gave him my notice. After 18 years running ProjectWorld it was time to move on. It was also time to put ‘Plan A’ into action.
15 years ago my friend Derek Sweeney pointed at the keynote speaker at our event in Toronto and said “That should be you someday’. My reaction was a typical shrug but upon reflection I decided that this is exactly what I wanted. The seed was been planted: me as a professional speaker by the time I turned 60.
It took 15 years and we came a couple of years short of the age target but on December 16, 2013 I launched my professional speaking career and I’ve never looked back: 70 engagements and just under 10,000 people in the audiences.
This move had been my ‘Plan A’, my goal, for these 15 years. Today, two years later, I look back and I can say that if you want something enough, your dreams can come true.
Sounds good doesn’t it? The truth is that if you just dream, it will not come true. You need to make it happen. Without a vision, a plan and a sound execution strategy the dreams will always be dreams.
I’ve transitioned over the last few months from pure project leadership presentations to a mix that now includes strategy execution. I have lots of examples of corporate execution, good and bad, but the one story that comes closest to home is my own professional strategic plan.
I had a vision early on, I put together a plan and I executed that plan.
Now for a second truth about me. ‘Plan A’ worked. But I can also list a few other dreams that never really got off the ground: PMpeople.com, my website for project management volunteering and SharingTravelIdeas.com to name just a couple. Both of these were ideas that I had over a number of years with a fairly clear vision but ultimately, a poor plan and really lousy execution. They are not dead quite yet, but for the moment they remain good examples of how not to make dreams come true.
So what is the secret to making ‘Plan A’ a reality?
1. Develop a clear vision of the goal. Understand that things change over time but the clearer that picture is, the easier the plan will come together. What exactly is it, where, how does it work, why will you build it, for whom and so on. As much detail as possible as early as possible
2. Be flexible and agile because as things change over time your dream will change. This is reality. My vision 15 years ago allowed me to start a plan. However, when it all started to take shape it looked a lot different than many years earlier. We cannot be stuck on one vision and one plan. As any good project manager knows, managing change is the key to success.
3. Develop a strong plan with room to maneuver around your current day job and around other commitments in your life. Give the dream lots of time to become a reality. And very importantly give yourself key milestones over time so that you can see short wins and not have to wait the full 15 years.
4. Listen. Listen to advisors, friends, family and especially others already in a place where you want to be. Part of my journey certainly involved strategic discussions with professional speakers who could offer me guidance, wisdom and ideas as my plan started to take shape.
So yes, dreams do come true but not without a clear vision, a strong plan and a lot of hard work in the execution phase. But take it from me… it is well worth the journey
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