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Picked Your Fencepost Yet?
Picked Your Fencepost Yet?

Picked Your Fencepost Yet?

You have goals, a dream, a direction at least, don’t you? We’ve all heard different studies emphasizing how few of us have goals, how many fewer yet have them written down, and how not having written them down means we really don’t have anything effective. Setting goals, picking a direction, is difficult because it requires quiet, time to think, and some effort. These are all things that require conscious effort and are in scant supply.

Years ago as a young man (I’m old enough now to not yet be ‘old’, yet appreciate the notion<g>), I struggled with what to be as I grew up. My father made a comment that’s stuck with me my entire life. Its goes something like this, “It doesn’t matter where you’re going, if you’re in the middle of a field and want to get out, you have to pick a fencepost and keep heading toward it.” You see, it doesn’t matter which fencepost. Simply that if you want to get somewhere, you need to pick a single direction, any direction, and keep on heading toward it. This is true in life, in work, and in that new IT software project you’ve been chartered with developing.

Earlier this week I was treated to a nice coffee and chat by Ian Sacks, over at Profit Makers. During our visit, we discussed how few businesses have business plans…and that fewer yet have plans that adequately address how to handle known risks, let alone the unknown. Ever wondered what the difference between risk and uncertainty is? Risks are known unknowns—you know what you don’t know. Uncertainties (also a big driver behind anxiety, I believe) are unkown unknowns—you don’t know what you don’t know.

Ian’s experiences suggest that perhaps 10 in 1000 business plans really address these things. Think about it. Your plan (if you have one) might address what to do in a power failure. Does it address what to do if the power failure lasts 24 hrs, 48 hrs, 3 weeks? Does it address what you’ll do if your customers (a la Katrina) lose their power…and its impact on you? These are the risks you face…are you addressing what you’ll do if the known unknowns occur? Have you tried contemplating the unthinkable…the unknown unknowns?

So much of what we, of what I, contemplate is directly attributable on both a personal and professional basis. Consider the article on being painfully employed, over at Buzz & Blog. The author opines similar thoughts, “…if you don’t know what port you are sailing to, no wind is favorable,” summing up his views on ‘painful employment.’ Many will complain (I’ve done it, I’m sorry) about their situation yet be lax in actively working to solve their situation. The message is clear. If you wish to see your situation change, personally or professionally, it’s up to you to do it.

Have you picked your fencepost yet?


  1. Mark Bell

    A Civil War general (Sherman, I believe) is quoted as saying, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” Personally, I suspect this saying, or the idea of it anyway, goes back to the very beginnings of military history. But, it is equally applicable to business and personal life. If you have no plan, you cannot adjust. I like the fencpost analogy. It is, however, important to remember that changing the fencepost your are heading for is OK…if you are adjusting an existing plan.


    1. JT

      Hello Mark,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree, it’s perfectly Ok to move the fencepost…for a reason. Life, events, change and so must the individual. However, for others in the audience, its worth reminding that changing the fencepost too often puts you back in the field as if there were no fencepost to begin with.

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