13 September 2019
Lin threw in some spices, tomatoes, onions in the pan, and they splutter and splinter. But instead of getting a titillating curry dish, she is now staring at a black mess in the pan.
After a few attempts at cooking Indian food, Lin is now feeling the pang of anger mixed with disappointment.
Lin is my dear friend, who loves Indian food and wants to learn how to make it at home. She inevitably finds herself in my world full of curries and spices. That topic always seems to come up. Of course!
Because I have curries running in my blood – and maybe that’s where the phrase “you smell like a curry” comes from. Not sure. But it could be true.
Turns out there are some white people who possibly have intravenous curry running in their blood too. Like my friend Lin. Maybe that’s what has kept our friendship going for so many years. We sniff each other. No, that’s a bad visual.
Last time we met, Lin told me she doesn’t know how to cook curries and finds the whole endeavour very overwhelming. She even ventured out to an Indian store and bought some spices but never used them or has burnt them. It’s a new task, perhaps a complicated one for her. And she feels daunted by the scope of undertaking this project.
I understand how that feels like. I used to be the person who had a lot of goals and no plan. No strategy. A wild horse running amok in all directions. But as I have learned over time, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sometimes we are merely focussing on our tactics too much. And we lack a plan for how to get there. My friend Lin is thinking about her purpose. She has tried various tactics (bought the spices, paste, different pans, read some tips in the cooking book) but she’s missing a crucial part – strategy or a plan on how to get there. And this is what is frustrating her.
It’s the same thing in business too.
We jump onto the tactics so quickly without ever considering what our goal is and what our plan is.
So I like to think in terms of these 3 factors:
In this case, my friend wants to learn to cook Indian food.
The goal is to learn how to cook Indian food.
The strategy is that she’d buy ingredients after school pick up, make one curry dish watching a youtube video on a Sunday with her family.
The tactic is she’d watch youtube videos to learn it.
A goal is a broad primary outcome you are looking for.
A strategy is an approach you take to achieve a goal.
A tactic is a tool you use to execute your strategy.
How does this look like in business?
In business, this may look something like:
The goal is to have 3 clients by the end of the month.
Strategy can be we will do this through fun, bright creative that underlies our messaging on social media to attract them.
The tactic will be to use visuals on Instagram 5 times a week that will help us do this.
Of course, I am simplifying it here to make the point.
Why is it important to know this?
Firstly – general knowledge. Only joking.
Secondly – the Internet has so much information, and all kinds of people are spewing on you the tips and tricks to gain followers, write 100 types of Facebook posts. All these tactics may work, but they may not work for you necessarily.
Where we fall into traps is when we pay far too much attention to those tactics and start following them without enough thought to the strategy. We don’t stop to think and reevaluate it against our skills, limitations and aspirations.
The approach we undertake requires knowing yourself a little bit or someone understanding you and your preferences. It’s easy to start running on the tracks with some tactics in your bag and when they don’t work – it makes you think there is something wrong with YOU.
You have picked up random tactics without really thinking about the best ways to get to YOUR destination in YOUR way suited to YOUR situation.
If you are hungry and want to eat soup. And if you pick up a fork to eat the soup – it’s never going to work. You will be sitting on the table for a long time. Get frustrated in the process. (Why do all my examples have to be related to food?! Well, you get to see what I think about a lot of times. )
In my experience, that’s why tactics don’t work as well as we’d like them.
Why following just tactics fail you?
Tactics are fantastic, but if your strategy is wrong, you are going to die fast. Once we have a plan that suits us, we gain motivation, as it’s not some random stuff we are forcing ourself to follow.
You want to do the right things, but also want to be doing the things right.
For example – someone who wants to and is ready to pour money in the advertising will have very different tactics than someone who is starting out and building her customer base and has not much money to invest. That person may not have the resources or confidence to put money in the ads just yet. Also, if your profile and foundations are not ready – you will end up burning your money very quickly.
You must know where you want to go and also how you want to get there.
You might want to go to New Delhi. (Which you should and take my recommendations for all the quaint eateries. Of course – you expected food suggestions. Didn’t you?) There are different ways you can get to New Delhi. By car, by train, by plane, by hitchhiking (not recommended btw). Which one will you pick will depend on how fast you want to get there? What will be the most enjoyable way for you to get there? How many people are you going with? What time do you want to reach there? Do you even care how you get there or what matters is the speed with which you get there.
Everyone’s choice here will be different based on their business.
Why is it essential to have a strategy that suits you?
So you reach the right destination – in a way that you want to.
When I first started my photography business, I thought I wanted to be a newborn and family photographer. It was great for a while until I realised that I didn’t want to do that anymore.
My goal was to create a business that would allow me to do I love. The strategy I took was newborn photography. As a new mum myself, this wasn’t the best plan. When I realised that I wasn’t at home over the weekends and instead of shooting other people’s kids, it felt like I had got it backwards. Even though it was very successful and I was booked out for most parts, I stopped it. I had jumped straight into action.
I had a goal but no real strategy.
That’s what happens when we decide a goal and aim to hit it without a plan.
Here are some benefits of developing a plan before you jump into action:
1. Strengthens your muscle to say No.
You can say no to things because you know how you have designed your own map. It leaves you empowered instead of relying on someone else’s plan that suits their style, their way of doing things and the way they want to get to the end destination.
2. Creates more trust in yourself.
When we don’t pay enough attention to this, it leaves us always seeking answers outside of ourselves. It weakens our muscle to decide for ourselves. And there are a lot of people profiting from this weak muscle. The less trust you feel in yourself, the more answers you will seek outside. The more benefit others have.
By no means, I am saying outside help is not required. But when we are clear on how and what kind of support we need – we seek out the right people. So as a first measure, I always suggest getting a little bit clear on this.
3. Relieves your mind of cognitive load.
There is something called Cognitive load. Which basically means that you will zone out if your mental hard drive doesn’t have any more space. We all keep on plodding through and pushing through the tasks and projects. But if we stopped enough, readjusted our maps and strategy, or even reflected on it – we’d relieve ourselves of the mental load and avoid from hitting the spirals of burnout, doubt, comparisons.
I have experienced this myself over and over again – when I have a map, I tend to feel more free, more energised and operate with the energy of calm. So I hope I have convinced you to have a strategy in place even it is for your mental health.
How can you apply this to your life and business?
Most of us don’t stop to really think about where we are going. We start walking only to realise that we have come to the land of Dijruicook (I don’t know where that is, no one does. It’s a made-up word.)
So firstly you need to stop and pause and do that more often. And then reflect if your goals, strategy and tactics are all aligned with each other. You could allocate one day a week or a few hours to reflect on your goals and strategy and tactics. Pay close attention to how you feel about those actions and where the resistance shows up. Ask yourself some questions like:
Are you on the right path? Are you working towards the goal you had in mind? Like I started photography business only to realise that I didn’t want to spend weekends away holding other people’s babies. Instead could be doing headshots with people over the week days, and at the time that suited me more.
It’s vital in business that we do this step regularly. Because it’s easy to pick a direction than coming back after we have travelled miles in a wrong one.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat.
– Sun Tzu