Have you created a business based on a plan alone? You know – spent hours closeted with spreadsheets and marketing plans, expecting the world was going to match your vision?
I did, but only in B-school. Once I was out and creating my business in the “real” world, I learned that new business doesn’t work like that — it requires planning and lots of improvisation. So as I am re-visioning my business, I know that my job is to create my plans and get ready to say YES AND to what I discover along the way.
I learned about flexible planning in the garden. When I started my current garden seven years ago, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. After paying for some initial help with planning, I created a learning program for myself called “Dirty Hands 101.” I plunged my hands in the soil and prepared to make a ton of mistakes (and did!).
I wanted to learn by doing.
It would have been more efficient to wait until I had lived on my property several years and was sure what I wanted. Some of my gardening friends tried to warn me. “Start small,” they counseled, “take time to plan.” But they didn’t understand that I had a great hunger to garden and wanted the land (aka experience) to be my teacher.
I jumped in and quickly over-extended myself. In hindsight (isn’t it always great to be so wise?) I should have known better. I created a maintenance monster! This fall, I’ve had to start winnowing the garden down and pulling out some of my precious beds.
Yes, it was inefficient and a bit costly – but I don’t regret jumping in.
Because I committed – and let my passion for gardening lead me forward.
Commitment is a principal of improvisational theatre.
When you play – whether it’s a scene or an exercise – you want to be ready to jump in wholeheartedly and commit to an action, even as you risk falling on your face. Commitment makes everything in the scene more interesting – even the failures – and it’s your only chance for greatness.
I’m not arguing against planning. I still need my action plans, cash flow models, profit and loss statements – you know the works. But I also need a big dream, the passion to realize it, and a willingness to keep improvising and adjusting as I move ahead.
In my B-school days, I spent hours fretting over my future. I’d analyze different career options every night because I wanted to make sure I made the RIGHT choice. I needed to know how my career would work out before I even started. I was in deep analysis-paralysis. Finally, I broke the death grip of planning and started to act. I pursued one idea and I pursued it fully. I jumped into the scene!
I told myself that it didn’t matter if my idea worked out – as long as I had researched it full out – because if it didn’t work out – I’d go one to the next.
Because I loved horses (still do!), I decided to research careers in the horse industry. I passionately pursued every angle I could think of. I interviewed trainers. I met with the NY State Racing Commissioner. I learned there were lots of horse trainers and professional equestrians working 16 hour days with little reward. Then there were investors who never lifted a hoof and made millions through horse syndications.
Neither sounded like my cup of tea. I decided to pick another career and buy a horse for fun when I could afford it. On to the next idea.
That’s how it went. I listened. I said yes. I improvised. Sure, I had some fear about not being sure what I was doing and some bumps along the way. I tried out many ideas until I found my niche.
I never would have gotten there if I stuck to my stay-at-home plans.
I got my hands dirty.
Category: Improvisation, Entrepreneurship, careers