A Two-Minute Must-Read Before Building Your Personal Plan

Knowledge is everywhere.  You can find out anything about everything in seconds by hopping on Google.  You can learn virtually any skill including learning how to do brain surgery (it’s there, check it out).

Wisdom is another matter.  Wisdom is learning how to live a good, productive, and meaningful life.  Wisdom is in shorter supply today than it’s every been.

You may be very good at climbing the ladder, but at some point you have to ask, “is the ladder against the right building?”

Following are 7 rules to consider when building your personal plan:

1. Score yourself based on these four questions

The answers to these four questions will help you assess where you’re at in your career right now and if you’re in the right place or not.

Question 1:  Would your boss enthusiastically re-hire you if she could do it all over again?

If you’re the owner, would you enthusiastically rehire yourself in your position, or would it be better to have someone else in your seat?

This question helps you assess how you’re doing right now.  Would your boss (or board) run out to the parking lot to entice you back if you handed in your resignation?  Or would they be happy to see you go?  You want to be in a place where you are valued and are making a great contribution.

Question 2:  Do you take away your boss’s stress? Or, if you’re the owner, do you cause stress to the team members around you?

All of us are in a role that is designed to take away someone’s stress.  If you’re working at a fast food restaurant, you’re helping someone not have to stress about preparing a quick and easy lunch.  If you’re a lawyer, you’re helping relieve someone’s stress about an upcoming divorce or business merger.

But how about your boss?  How about your team?  Are you taking away their stress.  If the answer is no, you may need to reconsider the role you’re in.  Should you stay in this role for the next 3 years?

Question 3:  If you were to resign, how would your boss feel? How hard would she try to keep you? How would your team members feel if they heard you were leaving and they were going to get a new boss?  The answer to this question is a good indicator of whether you’re in the right place of not.

Question 4:  What if everyone in the business was just like you? Would it be a better or worse place?  Do you bring the average up or down?  If you’re bringing the average up, you’re in a good place for you.  If not, you may want to consider changing yourself of changing your work place.

2. Assess your productivity and your attitude

Simply score yourself out of 10 in two categories:  productivity and attitude.  What scores would you give yourself?  Ask your boss/significant co-workers to do the same. Have an honest conversation about where you’re perceived to be and how you can get better. Remember: When perception differs from reality, reality loses.

If you’re the boss and you’re not scoring 8’s and above, that’s a problem! It’s time you upgraded your skills or adjusted your role, so you get to do the things you love and stop doing the things you loathe.

3. Work for challenge, not for money

Taking a job only because it pays well is usually a mistake. The best reason to take a job is because it will develop skills around your natural area of talent. The same goes for leaving a role. The time to leave is when the challenge is gone, not when you can find someone else to pay you more money.

Ironically, when you work in areas of your natural genius, money will follow your passion; and the more you love what you do, the better you’ll be paid for it.

4. Focus on being great at your job, not on advancing your career

Consider this quote by Bill Gates, Microsoft founder: “Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: opportunity.”

If you’re asking yourself how to make more money or how to get a promotion, you’re asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is, “How can I be amazing at what I’m doing right now? How can I focus more on the parts of it that I love?”

Once you are clear on what your unique genius is, work hard to find where that genius can best be used. Then find a role that will shape and develop that natural talent and turn it into a skill so that it can be put it to its best use. You’ll get better and better at the things that you’re already talented at—and what’s more, you’ll love doing it. Focus on blooming where you’re planted, and opportunities will present themselves naturally to you. People always notice (and want to hire) the best.

5. Learn to manage your own emotions

One of the top reasons that businesses stop growing is because the leader doesn’t want to deal with any more draining people problems. If you become known as a person whose presence consistently lifts the energy in the room rather than lowers it, you’ll be noticed. If you’re one of those people who needs to “vent” to those around them, plan on staying in your current job for a while, or maybe being demoted or moved laterally, far enough away that your current colleagues don’t have to listen anymore.

Your emotions can be your own worst enemy if you let them manage you. Don’t allow this to happen. Remember, your emotions are a servant of your will, not a victim of your circumstances.

6. Specialize in creating solutions, not in analyzing problems

Problem analysis is a highly over-rated skill. Most people can already see what the problem is. What they need to know is how to solve it. Even more than that, they need to know who is going to solve it.

Make it a practise to come prepared with two or three possible solutions to any problem that you or the team is facing. And when you see a miserable, unpleasant problem that no one else wants to touch, speak up and volunteer to be the one to fix it. There is always, always, a need for the person who says, “Leave it with me, I’ll get it done.”

7. Develop perseverance

Many younger workers grew up getting everything quickly and easily. When they wanted something to eat, the microwave got it ready in a couple of minutes. Praise came easily in a school system that frowned on competition and that didn’t allow them to fail any class in which they did badly. Helicopter parents told them that they were amazing and could have and be anything they wanted. Social media taught them that friendships were superficial and about “likes,” not about relationships. Maybe they also got lots of Christmas presents and a huge haul on Halloween.

These people unconsciously developed the expectation that they would be instantly noticed as a wunderkind and that advancement would come quickly and effortlessly. When it didn’t, they became baffled and disillusioned.

On a recent tour of Israel, our guide (an ex–Israeli military officer) told us that Israeli leaders are made, not in the bustle of the cities, but in the desert. We spent a morning walking in the Negev Desert, and there’s just nothing there. It’s like the surface of Mars (in fact, the movie The Martian was filmed in the Negev).

Water and food is scarce, and predators are everywhere. But the desert is where the important lessons of life and leadership are learned. It’s where leaders learn resilience, self-reliance, fortitude, relational depth, and resourcefulness. Cities teach lessons of superficiality, speed, and artifice. Some of the greatest Israeli leaders (including first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion), maintained homes in the desert to center them so they could be effective when back in the city.

I once worked with a CEO who told me that the most important job he had in his life was leading an installation department of a furniture company. For seven long years he climbed stairs, carried heavy stuff, and worked long hours doing a really tough job with a team of guys who had few, if any, other options in life. It taught him perseverance, work ethic, tenacity, resourcefulness, and leadership skills. It was the kiln that fired him into a mature leader with deep wells.

In contrast, a couple of months ago I spoke with an unhappy young man who had received two promotions in a single year and was considering leaving the company because he was too bored with his progress.

The one quality that all successful business leaders have in common is tenacity. I hope that you develop yours early, doing something that isn’t always fun. Leadership is the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever do, and things that are worth doing always require perseverance.

Read Entrepreneur magazine’s advice for personal planning for entrepreneurs here:


In summary

Before building your personal plan, consider these 7 things:

  1. Score yourself based on four simple questions:
    • Would my boss (or board) enthusiastically rehire me if they could do it all over again?
    • Do I take away the stress of my boss and/or my team?
    • If you were to resign, how would your boss feel? Terrible?  Relieved?
    • What if everyone in the business was just like you? Would the average go up or down?
  2. Assess your productivity and your attitude out of 10. Make sure you score at least 8 in both
  3. Work for challenge, not money. Those who work only for money rarely achieve it.  Those who work for challenge get better and better.
  4. Focus on being great at your job, not on advancing your career. If you get great at your job, your career will advance on its own.
  5. Learn to manage your own emotions. Bosses hate dealing with the emotions of their subordinates.  Learn to manage yours and you will rise.
  6. Specialize in creating solutions, not in analyzing problems. Problem analysis is a highly overrated skill.  Anyone can point out what’s wrong.  Few can find positive solutions.
  7. Develop perseverance. Winners aren’t necessarily smarter or more talented.  They just hang in longer.
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