Everyone needs a plan. A plan is like a map, but with important differences. It is not something that is static; it changes with time. Unlike maps of the physical world that, barring major upheaval, change only slightly over time, your plan for your life, your company, your community has to adapt to constant change.
There are two really important parts of a plan: where you start and where you end. Knowing where you will end is hard so the best you can do is create a hypothesis of where you want to go and then aim in that direction.
Having said that, it is impossible to create your hypothesis unless you know where you are right now. What's your situation? Where are you on the map? No point setting out to climb Mount Everest if you don't know which country you are in right now.
So how do you find out what your situation is? At this point I could give you some quick tactics. But the real answer is for you to figure out your own tools for understanding your situation. Imagine if you are visiting a city you do not know. I could give you a map, but if you don’t know how to read it then it’s of limited use. I could give you a tour guide, but after your visit none of the places or how you got to them would stick in your mind for next time. What can you do?
Explore; small sections to start, make your own map, with your landmarks and places that you know. Build out further and further. This takes time! Which is free by the way, it just means you have to decide to use it to build your knowledge.
Now, there are some shortcuts. You could ask other people for help in your network. Initially this feels like asking for advice, but over time as your own map grows you will be able to start giving advice and then it is more of a collaboration. You can also share your map with others so they can benefit from your experience. This might lead to you exploring and extending your map.
At this point you might ask, but what about the goal?! What about the end point you were talking about at the start of this piece?
I would answer by saying that the goal is always undefined, and that by creating your own map, you have achieved your goal. Not only have you done that but if you have shared this knowledge with your network you have brought tremendous value to many more people.
This excerpt from the poem “Ithaka” by C.P. Cavafy gets to the heart of this post’s ideas. The journey is to be enjoyed but before you can take it, you need to find out where you are right now, which is a journey in itself.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
- C.P. Cavafy
(for the full poem: Ithaka