Here is the gist: life is not long enough for you to do everything you desire. You have about 15-17 hours a day to make the best of your time. What you choose to do daily shapes your future. To reach desirable outcomes, you must focus on specific paths that lead to winning results. You can’t do that without strategies.
The concept of strategy was born in the battlefields of the ancient world. Great leaders such as Sun Tzu, Alexander, the Great, and Julius Caesar knew how powerful strategic planning could be to win the battles before they even started. While their enemies would just arrive in the battlefields “ready to fight”, these fine generals would rehearse the battle in their heads, trying to predict their enemies moves and then proceed to communicate strategies to handle every possible situation that could eventually arise during the event. War strategy goes far beyond the battlefields, of course.
The business world has long discovered the power of strategic thinking to win the battles of the markets. We naturally think about strategy as something we need when we’re competing against others, such as in a war or business competition. We rarely think about strategy applied to our personal life or career.
Strategy, however, is not just a competitive tool. Strategy is basically a specific way to reach an outcome. This concept can be applied to just about anything. If the grocery store you regularly shop is always packed at the times you stop by, and you waste too much time because of that, you could strategically decide to shop very early in the morning or late at night when the store is empty. As simple as it is, this is a strategy!
In one way or another, we’re always competing against something, whether it’s ourselves, time, limited resources, or even other people in indirect ways. Strategic thinking helps us find the best possible way to get a result. We should use strategies to optimize our chances to reach the outcomes we envision with the least possible effort, within the shortest possible time.
This sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But we don’t use it at all, even when it really matters. Think about the way most people manage their careers. Their idea is that they are going to finish school, get an internship, work hard, prove themselves, get hired, then work harder, get noticed and promoted, then work even harder, and so on. The expectation is always that someone will notice their hard work, their intelligence, and how much they add to the company and promote them. It’s not how it works, though. This erratic path may work sometimes, some people get lucky. But that’s no way to grow professionally. It’s like playing craps, sometimes you win, most times you don’t. We only have one life, though. It’s not like we can afford to go back in time and play it again if we happen to be unlucky. We all know that, obviously. So why do people still behave as if they’re gambling with their fate?
For most part, it’s just habit. We weren’t raised and educated by people that valued strategic thinking. Our parents and teachers, most likely, struggled to build a stable life, and then did their best to just stay there until retirement. Previous generations could reach a comfortable lifestyle just by working hard. They taught us to do the same. Except that Generation X and Millennials are having a hard time reaching the same results as our parents and teachers doing the same thing. Competition is fierce and the arena we play is unforgiving.
Creating life strategies forces us to stop and think about all the variables that influence our lives. When we do that we realize that to reach our goals we can’t simply work hard aimlessly, hoping that someone will notice and reward us. We must do something else, we must go after what we want directly. That’s when we start having ideas, envisioning possible paths and solutions to get us to where we want to be. Those ideas are strategies! Yes, it’s simple! There’s nothing to be scared about! Strategy is not some convoluted concept that only a few people understand. Strategy is just a specific way to do something that improves the use of our resources, or increases the odds of success.
Above all, strategy leads to focus. When we define the specific ways we are going to act to reach a certain goal, we avoid being all over the place, trying to randomly do things, or waste too much time and resources with our daily activities.