Is it Time to Get Your Hands Dirty?

by | Nov 26, 2013 | Creating, Flourishing, Leading | 0 comments

dirty hand

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



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