The recent launch of my new book, Free the Genius, was a tutorial for me in how to stretch beyond old limits to my own “big next.”
If you’re building something new and different, let these universal rules-of-the-road help you stay on track and in motion.
What is a “big next”? It’s that idea, dream, or contribution that you must bring to life. It may feel impractical and difficult to achieve . . . yet, it won’t leave you alone until you begin. It’s your big next.
Here are five principles I just learned and re-learned that you can apply to bring your big next to life:
1. Know WHY and NEXT. Then, just get started.
When was the last time your best-laid plans played out as you expected? Probably never.
For most of us, the day you thought you’d have, and the day you’re actually having is different by 10 am. Yes, planning is critical and helpful. But in new territory, long-range plans rarely apply beyond the first few steps.
You may only be able to figure out two things: 1. WHY are you doing this? 2. What’s your NEXT step? (not all the steps)
If you can answer those two questions, get started. Just-in-time learning, improvisation, and “on-the-fly” action supplant a once-perfect plan that’s becoming more obsolete at every step.
Simply put, WHY and NEXT is enough to get rolling. If you wait to know HOW to eat the entire elephant, you may never begin.
Lessons learned: Just get started. I stalled for 15 years to write Free the Genius, mainly out of fear of not knowing HOW and self-doubt that I had anything new to say. Then, I just wrote one idea as a short blog post. Eventually, it started to look like a book. When I wrote the first chapter, my plan was no better than it was in the previous 15 years. But I did know WHY I was doing it. My WHY was about wanting you to benefit from the hard lessons I’ve learned over two decades of working with people on their big next. Plus, I was mentally prepared to turn every failure into a fun lesson. Only because I started did I finish.
Application questions for you: WHY are you pursuing your big next and what is the NEXT step you and others can take to generate progress? (To make sure your WHY is running on clean “FFUEL”, watch my training video called “Your Dreams”.)
2. If it’s a BIG next, you’ll need help. You can help people help you by being specific.
Goodwill is real. People like to help, especially if they see you’re working hard for something important to you.
In the process of launching Free the Genius, I asked many, many people (including you!) to buy a copy. I believed they’d receive value in reading it. BUT, I was concerned they’d see my request as a hassle, because I asked them to buy it at a specific time (March 21) and in a specific format (Kindle.) If they stayed within those parameters, I’d have a shot at making Free the Genius a best seller.
I expected the tight parameters would mean fewer purchases. Instead, I was overwhelmed by your positive response. You purchased four times as many as I anticipated.
Lessons learned: If you’re doing something new and big, you’ll need help. The more meaningful the stretch is for you, the more people want to support you. Perhaps it’s a way to pay forward previous goodwill they’ve benefitted from. But, don’t expect them to figure out how to help. By making a very specific request of others, you help them turn their goodwill into good actions without having to overthink it.
Application questions for you: Who do you need help from? Why would they want to help? What very specific, clear request can you make of them so it’s easy to say yes and take action?
3. The barriers keeping you from your big next are almost always made up in your head.
Just because you’re at the end of what you know doesn’t mean you’re at the end of what is possible.
I had a long list of reasons why I wasn’t writing a book. Most of them turned out to be self-imposed boundaries and blind spots. I had no map showing me how to navigate from being a consultant to a writer, and definitely not a published author.
Thanks to some valuable guidance, 15 years of unnecessary waiting came to an end. The irony is not lost on me! The name of my book is Free the Genius, but I was squelching mine. We teach what we need to learn, my friend.
Lessons learned: If you’re doing something brand new to you, you probably don’t know the territory. But someone else does. Many times it takes outsiders to help you realize your boundaries are imaginary and to help you chart a path forward. Beware of believing everything you think! For me, a good coach, publisher, and editor helped me rewrite what was possible.
Application questions for you: What are the reasons/conditions that make it difficult or impossible for you to build your big next? First, are they real or imagined? If you said they’re real, ask someone else the same question to make sure you’re not fooling yourself. Then, what is the NEXT thing you can do about them? You may want to ask a trusted advisor for help here, also.
4. The thing you think you’re creating is rarely what it turns out to be.
You have a vision for what you’re building. Yet, other people will see possibilities for it that you hadn’t imagined. Innovators are often surprised by how people view and apply their innovation. For example, the inventors of the automated washing machine expected they’d save time for people who’d been hand-washing laundry. Instead, people spent just as much time doing laundry as before. Automating the process allowed them to buy and wash more clothes!
I wrote and recorded Free the Genius, plus I shot training videos for it to provide in-the-field, easily accessible training and inspiration for people who were ready to build their big next. I hadn’t expected other ways it would be used in its short four-week lifetime. People have shared it with their kids and siblings—even their parents. Teams are reading it together. People who’ve known me for years suddenly want me to speak for their organization because I’m a published author. I’m grateful for these. I just hadn’t expected them.
Lessons learned: Your job is to do your best to create your big next for all of the WHY’s that are meaningful for you. You have no idea how others are going to react to it, nor can you fathom what they will see is possible for it once you’ve created it. You can’t control their response. If you’re clear about your WHY and your NEXT, lean-in to building your big next and trust that other people will envision expanded value beyond your original expectation.
Application questions for you: How will you respond when (not if) your big next takes on a life of its own that’s different than what you imagine for it? Are you prepared for that? What will you do?
5. Self-doubt is self-created.
I had some really good reasons why not to start the big next of writing and publishing a book.
First, my team and I had a full slate of clients who were asking for our attention and time. When would I find time to write? Plus, our work draws from ideas that have existed for thousands of years. What could I possibly say that hadn’t already been said?
In his amazing book The War of Art (an easy, must-read if you’re pursuing your big next), Stephen Pressfield introduces the idea of “the resistance.” It’s the inner friction, doubt, and self-generated BS that does everything in its power to stop you from moving forward. Ultimately, it is fear in a very clever disguise.
Bottom line, ALL resistance is self-generated. The bigger and bolder is your next, the louder, stronger, and sneakier the self-generated resistance becomes. It makes no logical sense that you would try to keep yourself from your own dreams . . . but love doesn’t make logical sense either. Emotions are real and powerful.
Lessons learned: Expect “resistance” to show up as soon as you decide to do something extraordinary. The bigger the stretch, the stronger the resistance. Many people confuse their inner voices of fear with wisdom. Resistance is self-generated, and it will show up in exactly the disguise it needs to to make you believe it’s your friend. (To understand what will happen when you stretch big, watch the training video “Your Fuel” below.)
Application questions for you: What does your version of “resistance” look like and sound like? How will it limit you if you give it credence? (Again, it may help if you ask a trusted advisor to answer this question with you since we can be blind to our own resistance, justifying it as legit.)
Regardless of who you are, building your big next evokes predictable responses from you and everyone. It’s a human thing, not a personal thing. If you’re pursuing your big next—or just thinking about it, take time to build your own skills in these five areas.
I’m not exaggerating when I say your investment in yourself will pay off 100-fold.
Please share how these ideas resonate with you in the comments section below, and I’d love specific examples.