Strategic Planning For The Soul

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I’ve always enjoyed the adventure of strategic planning. I call it an “adventure” because it requires one to truly explore the meaning and philosophy of a corporate soul.

A corporate soul differs from a human soul in that the former comprises an entity of many individual souls. With so many human souls making up its psyche, it’s often entertaining to watch as these individuals confuse their personal souls with the corporation’s soul.

OK, I admit this is a form of voyeuristic cynicism, but look, people are egocentric. And the higher up the corporate ladder they rise, the more egocentric they tend to be. And the higher up the corporate ladder they rise, the more likely they tend to be involved with strategic planning meetings.

So, it’s only natural, as an innocent bystander, to sit in on these things and watch with delight as executives confuse their moral compass with the needs of consumers and the demands of other corporate constituencies. After they’ve exhausted themselves, that’s when I usually step in.

Let’s explore this concept of “strategic planning” a little bit. As with all else (see “History’s Greatest Quest”) we’ll begin with the Greeks. The word “strategic” derives from the Greek “strategos” and roughly translates to “general.” In ancient Greece, generals would advise their leaders on the arrangements of the battles within the greater war (the strategy) as opposed to the particulars of any specific battle (the tactics).

The modern roots of applying strategic planning to business (as opposed to military) applications dates back to the 1920s when the Harvard Business School developed the Harvard Policy Model. However, the concept really took off with the evolution of operations management during World War II. With this, the philosophy of strategic planning combined with the mathematical rigors of operations management to successfully run large scale initiatives.

Several years after selling my second business and shortly before starting my third business, I decided to plant a personal stake in the strategic planning process. I wanted to go beyond what others had done, but I wanted to employ a process with a strong academic foundation. As a result, I bought a book called Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company by James Collins and William Lazier.

For any company, whether a start-up or an established firm, the strategic planning method outlined in this book, could prove very helpful. It certainly was for me, and it can be for you, too. Using it helps explain the nature and purpose of your firm to your (current and future) partners, your clients, and your employees.

Indeed, the Lifetime Dream Process has many attributes akin to the strategic planning process.

First and foremost, both require an overarching vision. In the case of the company, it’s a standard philosophy, a set of core values and beliefs. In the case of an individual or a couple, it’s their moral ethic or personal Creed and, ultimately, the meaning of their life.

Second, both utilize a long-range view, forcing participants to focus on the ultimate objectives, not the near-term obstacles or short-term goals.

But the difference between the strategic planning process and the Lifetime Dream Process is as wide as the Grand Canyon. In a corporate strategic planning session, executives emphasize the numbers end of things. After all, the purpose of any organization remains the maximization of some number. In the case of a for-profit business, that number is (or should be) “profits.” In the case of a non-profit group, the number may be “clients serviced” or “donations” to name a few.

For the individual, however, you need to dig deeper to obtain the greatest benefit. Like the Boy Scout “Start, Stop, Continue” process outlined in the previous chapter (“Do Self-Assessments Really Work?”), the standard strategic planning process works well when the application requires consensus among a large group of individuals. Users of the Lifetime Dream Process, however, can afford the luxury of catering to the specific needs of only one person or one couple.

And to provide for those needs, we require those individuals to explore their inner desires. Quite a few people I’ve taken through the Lifetime Dream Process stand convinced it represents a spiritual process. Even though I created it as a college undergraduate to help organize my time and energy, I won’t argue with them.

I’ve learned the Process is malleable. It can conform to the needs of the user in ways its creator (me) never expected. Indeed, having guided so many people through the Process, I can now say the Process adheres greatest to those who discover some spiritual component within it. Mind you, this is a non-denominational/non-sectarian sort of spirituality. Here’s the best way I can describe this: Unlike the sterile strategic planning process, the Lifetime Dream Process connects to your very soul.

Ironically, our next chapter reveals how this spiritual component differs from that of a much used religious-based program. In doing so, you’ll also discover why the Lifetime Dream Process is not merely a fancy financial planning exercise.

Do Self-Assessments Really Work?

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What’s the difference between the Lifetime Dream Process and any of the many other forms of self-assessment? While some of the more astute readers might have already deduced the answer by reading the preceding Commentaries, at some point it helps everyone to forgo subtlety and bluntly reveal why the Lifetime Dream Process is not like any other process you might have heard of or even tried. In the next two weeks, I’ll begin to conclude this series by comparing and contrasting the Lifetime Dream Process to several of these systems.

This week I’d like to focus on self-assessments. These often come in the form of a test but might also take on the nature of a conversation. In either case, compared to the Lifetime Dream Process, each fails to get deeply into the heart of the matter.

To understand why getting to the heart of the matter is important, you might want to read Continue Reading “Do Self-Assessments Really Work?”

How To Declare Independence And Start Pursuing Your Happiness

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Many folks think Thomas Jefferson “borrowed” the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” from John Locke. The 17th Century British philosopher and physician famously wrote, in the unsigned Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government, that government exists to protect one’s life, liberty, and property. Sounds awfully similar to the words used by our Founding Father nearly ninety years later.

Significantly, Locke’s focus on personal “property” breaks from the sense of Thomas Hobbes. In his 1651 treatise Leviathan, Hobbes paints a sovereign-centric ideal. In this “social contract,” citizens cede personal freedoms to the ruler in exchange for protection. Without such protection, the contract is invalidated.

Bear in mind, Hobbes wrote this while in exile during the English Civil War between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. He rejected Aristotle’s premise that man is driven by Continue Reading “How To Declare Independence And Start Pursuing Your Happiness”

Why America’s Founding Secretly Influences You

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You don’t have to be an American to say you’re an American. That was the whole idea of the American Experiment – it was meant for all nations, not just those uppity Tea Partiers who frolicked in Boston Harbor a few centuries back. But this experiment didn’t start with the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence or even the United States Constitution. It began with a collection of oppressed runaways and an accidental metaphor that endures to this day.

After reading a perhaps too rosy account of the Plymouth Colony by the Pilgrims Edward Winslow and William Bradford, excitement grew in England to establish more companies to Continue Reading “Why America’s Founding Secretly Influences You”

How to Live the Good Life with No Regrets

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“Why is This Important to You?”

Socrates believed “the unexamined life is not worth living.” He may not have coined the phrase “know thyself,” but he’s famous for traipsing the streets of Athens examining lives by nagging prominent people until he proved they did not “know thineselfs.”

So effective was he the good city-state of democracy voted to put him to death. Socrates, despite his friends’ wishes, readily agreed to drink the hemlock and thus first came into usage the phrase “good career move.”

But before he died, Socrates perfected a method that would become his lasting legacy. Used today anywhere from the courtroom, to the classroom, to the psychologist’s couch, we call it the “Socratic Method” (which just shows you how terribly dull and unimaginative philosophers can be at times).

In a nutshell, here’s how it works. Come up with a question or hypothesis and keep asking annoying questions (often the same one or of the same form) until you’ve eliminated all Continue Reading “How to Live the Good Life with No Regrets”

The Secret to Getting Anything You Want

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History’s Greatest Quest

“TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them…”

(BOOK I, The Odyssey, Homer ca 800 BC)

Before embarking on the journey you are about to take, some self-doubt is normal and healthy. But it shouldn’t hold you back. The very nature of self-discovery resides in your blood.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll reveal how and why this is so. I’ll explain to you why your Continue Reading “The Secret to Getting Anything You Want”

How To Be Successful: The Explosive Truth

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(continued from “Why The Harvard MBA Should Be FIREd”)

Remember those paint-by-numbers kits we got as kids for too many birthdays? They had the allure of any typical get-rich-quick scheme. Each package featured the finished painting on its cover. It looked like a masterpiece. You just knew the Louvre had a space just for it, probably right next to the Mona Lisa. And – here’s the kicker – in just a few short hours you will have created an exact copy, suitable for hanging on your mother’s refrigerator!

Oh, joy, rapture! I got artistic talent!

And it was so easy, wasn’t it? Each kit came with clearly numbered paints, each number corresponding to a numbered shape on the heavy cardboard canvas supplied. It was as simple as 1, 2, 3… Picasso!

Picasso?!

You dreamed Monet and you got Picasso. And that was being generous. As you painted, you saw nothing but a series of random splotches of color. You might see an image, but Continue Reading “How To Be Successful: The Explosive Truth”

Why You Should Tell Bad Jokes

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Let me clue you in on this from the very beginning: this is another business metaphor. I’m telling you up front this time so you can begin to think about the connections from the moment you start reading it.

I was strolling through the National Comedy Center in Jamestown the other day, taking in with delight the many funny people who have entertained so many for so many years, when a thought struck me. Why do good comedians tell bad jokes?

When a comic sits down to write gags, it becomes an exercise of no-holds-barred brainstorming. This is by necessity. You don’t know what’s really funny while you’re creating it, so you don’t want to restrict yourself in any way.

James Mendrinos, in his book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Comedy Writing, writes: “You have to force yourself to stain the pages, even if you think the jokes aren’t your best work. I’m not saying that bad jokes are better than no jokes. I am saying that if Continue Reading “Why You Should Tell Bad Jokes”

He Who Controls The Gate Controls The City

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Back then, this mattered. I saw it with my own eyes.

I never knew what the city of my grandfather looked like. We only had a picture of his house. It was a small two-story country villa built beneath a horizon of hills. It stood alone, triumphant, defiant.

My first thought was, given those traits, how would anyone not expect my father’s father to look at those hills – actually a ridge of small mountains – and wonder, “What’s beyond them? What’s on the other side?”

Truth be told, if he ever did venture deep into the valley below his house and up those mid-sized mountain ridges, here’s what he would have discovered upon reaching the top: Continue Reading “He Who Controls The Gate Controls The City”

Why Are Hamburgers The Fast Food King Instead Of Hot Dogs?

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Hamburgers and hot dogsJuly 20th is National Hot Dog Day. It’s a perfect time to consider this intriguing question asked by Paul Freedman in his book The Restaurants That Changed America while describing the impact of the fast-food industry on Howard Johnson’s: “Why did the hamburger triumph as opposed to the hot dog?”

He points out, “Frankfurters are also easy to eat in the car and historically they were the food item most closely identified with the United States in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century… it’s clear from the lack of mammoth national hot-dog chains that even now there is something about the frank that doesn’t lend itself to the industry.”

Why are hamburgers and not hot dogs the more popular/sustainable fast food business model? This is all the more interesting because hot dogs arrived on the scene well before hamburgers.

Search newspaper archives from the mid-nineteenth century and you’ll see plenty of Continue Reading “Why Are Hamburgers The Fast Food King Instead Of Hot Dogs?”