Personal business plan: zooming all the way out

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on my personal business plan, I realized something awful. One of the main pillars of the plan – finding a part-time consulting gig “just to pay the bills” – was wrong.

I could tell it was wrong because the plan contains few details about it – I’m not excited about it, so I didn’t care to fill in the gaps properly. (Also, I woke up at 4:13 am, thinking about it with a sense of dread.) I didn’t want it in there. I didn’t want it to be part of my plan. Ugh. Now what?

This is the second time this has happened. The first time was last year, when I was doing research about “how to be a successful (i.e. money-making) travel blogger.” I read blogs, listened to podcasts, talked to people, started planning…and realized that I don’t want to be a travel blogger – at least not one who earns money primarily from blogging.

“Well, Koukkos, how do you want to make money, given that your lottery tickets never seem to win?” That’s the question that led to my personal business plan.

In other words, I had to zoom out. And now I have to zoom out again.

Think of it this way. Imagine that I’m trying to take a photo. I’m in the forest. I’ve got my 300mm camera zoomed all the way in, slowly panning across the thick green of the trees. I’m doomed – I’ll never get the right shot, because I don’t even know what I’m looking for, never mind where to aim.

That’s where I was with my vague “how to make a good travel blogging site” research. I had my equipment and a vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish, but no real goal.

So I let my camera hang around my neck and just listen. I hear something calling from above. I look up, and through the thick greenness I notice a spot of red. “I want to take a photo of that bird!” I say to myself. I reposition myself so that the light is behind me. I stand on a fallen tree to get a better angle. I contort myself to compose the shot, zoom in, focus. I’m about to take the photo when I realize…that red thing is just some mundane cardinal in a mundane setting. I definitely want a photo of a bird. I just don’t really want this photo of this bird. That’s where I found myself at the end of my personal business planning.

What I needed to do is to zoom all the way out – all the way into myself. I had to ask myself some fundamental questions. Continuing my hypothetical bird-pic, I asked myself things like:

  • Why do you like taking photographs?
  • Do you particularly like taking photos of birds in forests? Or animals in their natural environment? Or just birds? Or just things with contrasting colors?
  • Is it that you like forests – not necessarily taking photos in the forest?
  • Is taking photos (or walking in forests, or birds) something you want to do for a living?
  • If yes, how can you make a living from it?

…and on and on.

This exercise, guided by online “career coaching” resources and some material from The Five O’Clock Club – materials I got thanks to the disaster of my last full-time job – has been extremely useful. It’s helped me see my options more clearly, and given me a grounded, thoughtful strategy on which to zoom in to everything else – my personal business plan and eventually the specifics of executing that plan.

I don’t think I could have gotten here without all the struggles, diversions and failures of my life so far. And I definitely wouldn’t be here without my successes and achievements. So once again: Here’s to The “f” word!

Just to finish off the photo-taking metaphor…it will take all that work (and more) to find myself in the Central American rainforest, new Nikon D800 in hand (drool drool), tracking a Quetzalcoatl for National Geographic Traveler.

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