“Can you have more than one major MISSION pervading your life? NO. That would be like comingto a fork in the road and tryingto go both ways by straddling it.”
~ Charles A. Garfield (1831 - 1881), 20th President of the United States.
The army coined this term to capture a powerful concept that marks when equipment is completely ready to be deployed. It has been tested and maintained. It is battle ready. You must know what your mission is in life. You must know how you plan to achieve the success you want. In the military, it is mandatory for leaders to prepare a plan for every action that takes place. That is true for something as “simple” as moving troops from one location to another to something as complex as a battle plan in a hot conflict. The plan is the thing! It is central to the task and must precede any activity.
Once you make your plan, stick to your guns (if you will allow yet another military reference). Don’t expect that people will jump up and down, cheering you on every step of the way. One of my heroes in business explains:
“Nobody thought it was a good idea for me to launch an eCommerce wine business. Everybody laughed at me when I started doing Twitter and YouTube as a grown man. My financial advisors were upset that I put all my money into Facebook and Twitter. All of these things that have happened to me...yeah, sticking to your guns has a lot of value.”
~ Gary Veynerchuk, serial entrepreneur, wine seller and connoisseur, angel investor, author, radio show and web series host, and motivational speaker.
So, what do we do when there is evidence—or at least an opinion—that suggests we have taken the wrong path? Many would balk at the idea of leaving a longstanding position in the military to take a less secure position in the corporate world.
For some, working for Amazon was a huge mistake. The company was massive, and people worried I might get lost in the sea of faces. There was also some negative press about working conditions to consider.
But none of that changed my resolve. I had made a plan. I reviewed the plan. It was solid; therefore, I was committed to seeing it through to the end.
The act of planning a mission is something that is ingrained in every military person from the day of enlistment or commissioning. It is expected that military leaders at every level will think through the process carefully, plan for every eventuality, and clearly see the finish line from the starting line—in some cases, lives depend on it. Discipline is not just about waking up before the rooster and running miles and miles with a rucksack full of gear strapped to your back. Discipline is also about mental acuity, which is developed by thinking through complex problems quickly and making sound decisions along the way.
The same is true for everyone; you must develop your ability to plan, whether you’re in the military or not. Your battle plan for anything you want to accomplish is a critical first step. You must clearly know your mission and how you will execute it. You may worry that you don’t know every possible eventuality. But, as the leader of your own destiny, you cannot afford not to know. Investigate, research, interview, and study. Do whatever is necessary to prepare for each leg of the journey.
Will you encounter situations you did not expect? I hope not. I hope you will expect the unexpected and have a strategy in mind to accommodate that obstacle. A military commander planning a mission to attack an enemy position will consider what to do if it rains, what to do if it snows, what to do if there are more enemy fighters than anticipated, what to do if there are weapons that have not been expected, and what to do if the enemy has gotten wind of the plan and has prepared an ambush. Every possible contingency must be considered.
You can apply that mindset to your life to reap untold rewards. Suppose you want to buy a house but have neither the money nor the credit to do so today. Buying a house has become your mission. Now you must strategize by simply asking the right questions. How will you reduce your debt? How will you increase your credit? How will you reduce your expenses? How will you save money? What size house do you need, and what size house can you afford? Where do you want to live?
Where will your children go to school? How will the move affect the other elements of your life: distance from work, family, friends, shopping, and activities? How much will you need in savings to provide your family with a cushion?
These questions should not overwhelm you. Instead, they should provide you with a sense of comfort because you have laid out all of the parameters surrounding your decision. All you need to do at this point is find the answers to the questions. If there are too many questions, put each on an index card and work them one at a time until you have answered them. You will be amazed at how efficiently you can solve the problems and accomplish the mission.
You might ask what you will do if something occurs that you did not know about and could not plan for. First, always imagine the worst- case scenario. We would all love to make a plan and assume that everything will go perfectly. But when does that ever happen in life? There are always setbacks, roadblocks, and adversities to contend with. So anticipate as many of them as you can. Ask your friends for their horror stories, search the internet, or talk to a real estate agent about everything that can go wrong. And the fact that you have mitigated many of the potential issues will have given you the space and time to contend with those unforeseen roadblocks that occasionally pop up.
Ask questions that are outside of your control to be sure to have a plan for major events that could affect your strategy:
• What if there is a downturn in the economy?
• What if your company suddenly goes belly up?
• What if your spouse changes his or her mind about the move?
If you have done your due diligence, you will be prepared for almost anything. You will have thought it all through so that you are ready for life to throw its best curveball your way. But there is still the possibility that some unique situation could occur that your due diligence did not uncover.
This is a good time to discuss the four stages of competence.
Unconsciously competent: this stage of competence means that you don’t have to think about what you know. In our house example, people who have bought several homes in the past—real estate agents, mortgage brokers, builders, etc.—would all be consciously competent. They know their stuff and have nearly seen it all. They have built such a large storehouse of knowledge and are so deep into a topic that competence comes naturally to them.
Consciously incompetent – This stage refers to people who know that they don’t know something. That is the stage you will likely be in when you start anything new. You know that you don’t know. If you are buying your first home, for example. You know that you have a lot to learn and will learn even more from going through the experience. People who are consciously incompetent search for knowledge to gain the knowledge they know they don’t have.
Consciously competent: As you study, investigate, and learn, you become consciously competent. You have all the knowledge at your fingertips, ready to access it. You have your contacts locked on your smartphone and have advised them to be ready at a moment’s notice for your call for help. You may have even printed out articles, checklists, and other resources. You think carefully through each decision, weighing it against what you have learned. You know what you know, but it is not quite second nature. In fact, it is very labored and intentional.
Unconsciously incompetent: Two types of people fall into this stage. Those who don’t prepare at all. They rush headlong into situations, decisions, and missions without even considering all they need to know. The second type of person is the one who has done a great job of preparing but didn’t know what they didn’t know. There were elements they could not have even anticipated. Perhaps there’s a hundred-year- old mine tunnel running under your homesite, and it’s on the verge of collapse. Since you weren’t aware of it, you didn’t know what you didn’t know.
Being unconsciously incompetent will cost you. But you can prepare for that as well. Build into your plan the extra time and money you might need to handle those things that creep up unexpectedly.