A lot of books talk about the success mindset. It’s already common sense that the way you think ends up defining if you’re a loser or a winner in the game of life. I’m yet to see however one of this self-help books touching the heart of success: STRATEGY.
If you’re doing the wrong things trying to reach success, it doesn’t matter how motivated, enthusiastic, innovative, creative, smart, communicative or persuasive you are. It also doesn’t matter how well organized you are, how efficiently you manage your time or how detailed your plan is. If you’re doing the wrong things, you’re going to get the wrong results, period.
Most people have no clue whatsoever that strategy is that important or even what it actually is! The word ‘strategy’ has been misused for decades and the corporate world has influenced the self-help area with its clueless strategy definitions.
The average company understands strategy as a plan (that’s why they’re average). Just a few companies like Pepsi, Dell, Microsoft or Google fully comprehend this concept and make use of it to its full extent. The rest keep struggling trying to guess what is it that they’re missing. Yahoo! watched speechless, as Google grew at the speed of light. Google had a strategy while Yahoo! just had a plan (if that).
Individuals rarely use strategies on a personal level. The ones that use it however, conquer the world. Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Henry Ford, just to name a few.
People are not taught in school how to think strategically. They grow up thinking that if they follow formulas they will be successful in life. Success however, for most people, is having a good job. Isn’t that sad? When they reach that point, frustrated with their lives, confused about what the heck is wrong, when they realize they’ve been following a dead end road, they run to the self-help nonsense of positive thinking and motivational speakers. Every time they find something new, they think they’ve finally found the “answer”, the real deal for success. It doesn’t take too long before they realize they’ve been cheated on, or maybe… that they haven’t quite got it yet… so they continue the search for the secret of success. Most people never find it…
They develop a skill here and there, set some goals, make plans, get organized. Sometimes they reach a comfortable point, but still, it’s not the successful life they once imagined. Their time is up though. Life is too short to start over too many times. Starting over again doing the wrong things will only take them to another dead end.
What’s the problem with all these self-help books? Let’s just say they give you the tools, but don’t teach you how to use them properly. Goal setting, planning, time management, these tools are worthless if they’re not connected to a strategy. Some books go ahead and tell you how to create your personal mission, define a purpose for your life. That’s still NOT a strategy.
Strategic thinking is a skill, it’s not something you can create like a statement you write and put in a drawer like you goals or your personal plan. Good life strategies can’t be created if you don’t think strategically and it requires a complete different mindset that the one you’ve been taught since you were born.
Strategic thinking involves more than plain application of tools and concepts. You can’t learn how to think strategically like you learn how to set goals. It’s not an A, B, C formula. To develop this skill you must be willing to turn your brain upside down, questioning your beliefs, destroying patterns, changing habits and paradigms, learning to “think” all over again. It’s hard. Maybe that’s why it’s not in the self-help books!
Strategy is not something that is too difficult to understand. The reason most people don’t know what it is is just due to the great confusion around it (it’s mistaken for a plan most of the time) and low to no exposure to better explanations.
Strategy is a very specific way to do something. Isn’t that a plan? No! A plan is an organized and structured collection of steps or actions that need to be taken in order to reach a set goal. A strategy defines HOW this steps are going to be played out. A singer, for example, can have multiple steps to launch a (hopefully) successful album. All the steps however won’t guarantee success, because they are the same steps all the other singers are taking, they are the steps to get an album recorded and made available to the public. Launching a successful album, however, doesn’t depend on how those steps are particularly taken (everybody is doing the exact same thing), but the strategy the singer has to put a spin on his image or market himself (or herself!) in such a “special” way that will make people want to buy his record. Does that mean strategy is marketing? Not really! But strategy can be a positioning, which is something marketers care about. Think about a game or warfare, strategy is a particular way of taking action that sets you (or your party) apart in order to obtain advantage.