Luck and Opportunity walk into a bar, both look around for a seat–one that has a good vantage point where they can see who is headed their way. Luck and Opportunity are staked out at the bar hoping to find Ambition, Direction or Goals.  Any of these would make for a good conversation.

A waitress named Practice sees them sitting near each other and introduces them. “Luck meet Opportunity. Opportunity meet Luck. I think you two would really hit it off,” says Practice. Luck and Opportunity strike up a conversation. Practice delivers drinks to Luck and Opportunity and says, “I’m getting off work now, can I join you two?” Luck and Opportunity make room for Practice to join them.

Practice sees her friend Intent come into the bar and waves Intent over to join the table. Now Intent, Practice, Opportunity and Luck are sitting together. There is a newly generated buzz in the air that these four are working the “principle of proximity” meaning that when great people and great ideas come together, magic starts happening. Just by putting these elements near each other, something that wasn’t possible before becomes possible. This is how leveling up happens.

How Can Practice and Intent Keep You on Track to Meet Your Goals?

Last month I wrote a piece called “Why Revisit Your Audacious Goals” with the idea that by mid-year some of your New Year’s enthusiasm may have ebbed and by revisiting your goals, you could recalibrate your activities so you can achieve more than you thought by the end of the year.

Sometimes we lose enthusiasm because our goals seem out of reach. In thinking about why that happens, it occurred to me that many of us lose sight of goals because we lack a system to support our activities that would have us attain what we want.

Systems are the most powerful means for a business owner to grow the business and attain a degree of success. Systems are inculcated into your business and your day to day life and the lives of your employees. When we put systems to work, we are able to achieve excellent outcomes because we’ve got an approach to help align strategy, operations and processes so that everyone can march to the same time signature. These systems help keep ourselves and our employees to account, hand off work to people, departments or software and assist us to organize and streamline the elements that will get us to produce desirable and repeatable results.

I believe in two sets of systems: one is for you to run your business and the second is to “run yourself.” Personal management is the most valuable means and method to set the groundwork for business systems. If you’re not managing yourself well, then managing your business oftentimes feels overwhelming and difficult. Habituating personal practices that systemize your approach to business and life will set you up to achieve greatly.  Here are my two most essential practices that I use to systemize my personal and professional life:

  1. The Posse Approach
  2. The Mise-en-Place Approach

The Posse Approach

The Posse Approach is my take on the Mastermind model with an accountability element. Masterminds are all about creating a circle of close business associates to support you in achieving your goals. I deeply enjoy goal setting because as a strategist, I love to imagine the future and see how it could unfold. Without accountability around a plan, strategy can sometimes become an exercise in missed opportunities—thinking about how to move towards the future and taking actions to produce a result are two very different things. Having an accountability partner helps entrepreneurs do the “hard things” that make a difference between seeing opportunities and capturing them.

Keys to Starting a Business Circle—Consistency and Accountability

As an entrepreneur, I have found that starting a business circle with accountability is pretty easy because many entrepreneurs want to come together with other enterprising business owners who are striving to do better and be better.

Ask six entrepreneurs if they have goals and have a hard time managing their schedule so that they can achieve them. And then ask them if they get stuck with problem solving—if they’ve had a hard time figuring out the right solution to a problem. Mostly, you will have a great group of business owners who are willing an able to meet monthly to talk about their goals and help the other business owners achieve theirs (and yes, there are a lot of other groups you can join as well if you don’t want to organize your own). A few tips to make your Business Circle work:

  1. Consistency is the key to creating a great business circle. Pick a date like the third Thursday of the month or the 15th of every month and stick with the date. Circle members will be able to plan around a consistent schedule.
  2. Accountability partners will have the participants produce the requisite results. Accountability for the results that you’re promising will help drive you to take actions (even the hard ones).

This is Where Anthony Bourdain Comes In: -The Mise-en-Place Practice

Anthony Bourdain wrote in his best-selling book, Kitchen Confidential “As a cook, your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system…the universe is in order when your station is set.” This means that before dinner service, Anthony Bourdain and every other chef who follows the tradition of Mise-en-Place has cleaned, chopped and prepped all of the ingredients for that evening’s menu. Once dinner service starts, the chef isn’t running around looking for ingredients for a certain dish—she’s made sure that she’s got everything right at her fingertips so that she can be focused on making a great meal.

Most of us don’t work in kitchens outside of our home so we mostly don’t practice this or the “clean as you go” method that my mother taught me when I was a child. We do however, have our own work universe (even if it’s our desk in our home office), and by undertaking the practice of Mise-en-Place we can get ourselves prepared and outfitted to do our best work.

Mise-en-place is a practice that is taught through the French Culinary Institute’s rigorous program to those who go on to make impacts in the culinary arts. Mise-en-Place loosely translates into “everything in its place.”

I’ve adapted the Mise-en-Place approach for my business and life and have used it for years.  I believe it is the best way to create an environment where goal attainment and success are melded together.

Since the practice of Mise-en-Place is about preparation, think about how you can be prepared to actualize on your goals in a proactive way. The way I interpret Mise-en-Place is using these principles:

  1. Clarity of mind, desk and calendar;
  2. Habituate your practices with an economy of action.

The principle of clarity allows you to see the critical path to your goals by making certain that your day to day activities are aligned with them. When you set up that coffee date during the middle of the work week with the trapeze artist from the traveling circus, you can ask yourself, “will having coffee with this person help me reach my goal for the quarter?” If it does, then keep it booked. If it doesn’t, maybe you could move this meeting to a weekend or to another time you’ve got cordoned off for recreation or amusements.

When you have a clarity around your calendar, you can habituate the behaviors that will help you achieve while eliminating the time wasters and the activities that chew up time but don’t get you to where you want to go. You will find that you have time to do other work because you are using an economy of action by being hyper-focused.

I recommend the book “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg as a reference for habit creation. Is getting what you want as simple as making it a habit? What if achievement is just habituating your audacious goals? Take a look at how I organize my Mise-en-Place for business and see for yourself.

How to make Mise-en-Place work for you

  1. Using your goals as a guide, make a plan that you then put into your calendar. For example, say that you want to sell 20% more product in Q3 of this year. That’s your goal. Then write a plan with timelines that include the activities to get to your goal—like writing new marketing materials or making 100 cold calls in the month of July. Putting these activities into your calendar as milestones allows you to break actions down into smaller steps. What might have seemed overwhelming now becomes assessible by breaking down the goals into smaller activities. By doing so, the plan becomes your pathway through your day-to-day activities.
  2. Habituate your practices with an economy of action. This means that by carving out time everyday to look at your calendar and review the activities you’ve scheduled, you are able to start making a habit of being focused on and present to outcomes that you’ve committed to producing through the events of the day. If these activities are the kinds that will help you achieve what you said you wanted, well then, bravo. If they’re not, look to either cancel them or reschedule them for a time when they make more sense. Once you see what’s left on your calendar, then ask yourself, “what do I want and need to get out of this activity?” It will give you clarity and focus because you are reminded of why that activity is important. For example, if you’re looking at a prospecting call you have scheduled, you can focus on what are your qualifying questions or what problem does this person need to have solved for them.

An economy of action is all about being proactive and only taking the kinds of actions that are in alignment with the goals you’ve set out for yourself. We can recover lost time or non-productive time by using the Mise-en-Place technique as it helps us eliminate wasted efforts and focus on work that produces results.

When we don’t use a system like Mise-en-Place and we’re reactive, not proactive, with our time, it can be like waiting for the “muses” to inspire us to get moving in the right direction. It’s akin to sitting on your surfboard waiting for the perfect wave to come. It’s really not how the tide takes you back towards the shore that’s hard or noteworthy. It’s how you paddle out to get to the place where you see the wave of opportunity. Taking the inspired action takes courage and faith–like paddling out away from the shore when you don’t know how you’re going to come back in.

When we take on new goals, it occurs to me that each new aspirational goal takes us on a journey to places that we didn’t know that we’d go. These journeys are filled with wonderment, new people, new ideas and a sense of personal expansion—expansion in our capabilities and in our reach. What used to be challenges dotted with peaks and valleys become happenstance—they become normal, like that’s just what we can do now different than the past. We have found some kind of balance in this new set of circumstances.

What if better or faster achievement of your goals came from becoming masterful with this kind of journey? When we have systems in place, we can manage ourselves through the process of change. Managing change is exactly what we are doing when we’re leveling up. Harnessing the kinds of change that’s required to weather the new journeys becomes more manageable when using a method like The Posse Approach and the Mise-en-Place.

Let’s go back to the bar to check in on Intent, Practice, Luck and Opportunity. They’re having a great time together now that they’ve found each other. In your business, do you think there might be a more scientific approach to a chance meeting? What if there’s an element that can improve the odds to help Luck and Opportunity find each other? What if Intent and Practice spent more time together? Organizing these elements from singular concepts into a systematic approach will supercharge your business to next level results. If you’re walking into a bar and see these four characters together, it would behoove you to buy them a round of drinks.

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