Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First Things Second

Whether you fancy yourself a person who carefully plans things out or someone who just like to go with the flow and see where the chips may fall, the order of things matters more than you think.

This makes sense in things like recipes or woodworking. You've got to add the eggs before you mix in the chocolate chips or you need to attach the legs before you work on the veneer.

But what about those hidden first steps that we all too often forget about? Here's what I mean:

I'm training for a marathon this November in San Antonio. I've done two before so this isn't new ground. And what's the first thing I need to do when training for a marathon? Get a good pair of shoes? Start building up mileage?

Nope. The first thing to do when training is to drink a ton of water. So, you'll find me most days filling and refilling my water bottle (and then running to the bathroom hourly). It won’t matter how comfy my shoes are if I'm dehydrated. I've completed step one when I have about a half dozen clear urinations a day.

This same thing applies in lots of lines of work. The first step in a fundraising capital campaign isn't to design catchy marketing pieces or to announce what you're doing. It's to conduct a feasibility study to see if your area (geographic or issue) can handle the 6, 7, or 8 figures you're trying to raise.

When starting a business, you don't write a business plan on Day 1. You conduct your market research to find out if anyone else is already doing what you do.

When you want to buy a house, you don't call a realtor first. You call a mortgage broker to see what you can afford. When you want to redesign your Web site, you don't figure out which flashy bells and whistles you want to add – you have an honest conversation with yourself about what you want someone to know when they arrive at your digital doorstep.

No matter how well you may plan, there's usually always something to do before step one.

Comments (4)

You know, reading your post reminded me that my tendency to jump right in is not the best method. This has taken a lot of patience on my part. And, for the record, I have looked at houses with a realtor before calling a mortgage broker (oops), created a business plan before conducting market research (major waste of time), and oh, I just bought a pair of running shoes for a relay marathon I've been training for and I haven't even think about hydration yet.

The really great thing about all of this is that these are very useful lessons. Learning how to be patient and take the first steps first has been a growing experience for me.

Thanks for the reminder. The fourth or fifth thing is usually the fun one, but doing one, two, and three makes me feel better prepared and I enjoy it more.

I also looked at houses before calling the mortgage guy. It wasn't a huge problem, but things could have been done easier/better if I had.

I think the fun steps are even more fun when we've properly prepared.

Great points, I think our tendency is to jump to the thing that is going to give us the most tangible result. Buying new shoes is something we can see, touch, has an immediate effect, same with writing the business plan, it makes you feel good to have something on paper.

The problem is it's often the less tangible steps that build a base or framework. It seems like in business, the people that don't mind doing the less flashy things end up better in the long run.


Yes, the tangible things seem to take precedent, and perhaps rightfully so in our tactile worlds.

But I've found that the difference between good and great is usually unseen. Those great visionaries are usually the ones who see the thing that few others can and then go after it.