Breaking the Groundhog Day Cycle
As Groundhog Day approached this year, I had the feeling I've been here before....Stuck in the loop of getting ready to get ready.
For three years, I’ve had it in my head that if I would just share some of my professional and personal experiences through storytelling, I could provide helpful insight to younger professionals. Give them tools to break down those hurdles in business (and life) that we all run into. Share all that “wish I knew then what I know now” stuff.
Simple enough, and honestly? Not a new idea. Other leaders have done this effectively thousands of times. As a matter of fact, I benefit from similar efforts on a regular basis. So why haven’t I done it already?
Well my friends, to quote…myself…I’ve been getting ready to get ready! I’d say procrastinating, but that term doesn’t really describe what I’m doing. Procrastination is defined as delaying or postponing something. I haven’t been delaying—I’ve been preparing!...Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I’ve had to do some homework on professional writing. I’ve had to learn what media is best to get the message out there. I only have one chance to make a first impression, so I’d better be good the first time...and on and on and on.
You see, for me, passing on these stories represents the next step in my professional development. I’ve been in leadership roles for a long time, but I’m always looking to learn new skills and be a greater asset to the people I serve—teammates, employees, customers, candidates, partners, and all their families. All good leaders do their daily work in the pursuit of meaning and impact. But executive decision-making and strategic planning are on a different side of the leadership coin than imparting wisdom. And even though I’ve got the experiences, when it comes to sharing them in a meaningful, impactful way…I’m a novice.
And so with all my preparation I sit here today, three years from idea inception, with no great tangible evidence that I’ve given a single day's effort to the endeavor.
It’s happened to me before, and I imagine it’s happened to each of you. It may be taking place without you even realizing it. So how do we break this Groundhog Day cycle?
Let's go back in time.
In 1997, I started a business with a childhood friend. I had a solid business background as a result of 10 happy, challenging years at UPS. I believed the training they provided prepared me for whatever might come my way in this new venture. But I had never sold anything. Never made a call to ask for business. If you’re going to grow a legitimate business, someone has to pick up the phone and ask the person on the other end to buy what you’re offering. And that was my job.
Of course, I needed to write the business plan, strategic plan, mission statement, vision statement, and design the collateral before I could make a call. I needed business cards and a credible-looking website—then I could reach out. And then a shocking thing happened: I ran out of money. I had taken a 70% pay cut and given up benefits to start my own business, and now…the house payment was due.
I picked up the phone immediately. I committed to myself that I would call every business card I came across and ask them if they were buying what I was selling. And I DID IT! I called EVERYONE! It wasn’t the smoothest most effective way, but it worked: I closed my first deal 10 days later. I made the house payment.
The state of my startup hadn’t changed, so what had? I had reached critical mass, a tipping point, a moment when the negative consequences of no action far exceeded the negative consequences of being less than perfect. The idea of failing my family was the catalyst to do what was previously too uncomfortable to get to.
Well, it’s happened again. I’ve reached critical mass. The idea of being seen as someone who doesn’t or can’t is more than I can handle. It’s time to get out of the endless loop of activity instead of action. Action is the only way to create meaning and impact.
So this Groundhog Day, I’m done getting ready. I’m getting started!
There. Posted! Your turn: let me know what you've been getting ready to do, and one step you'll take today!