The Importance of Strategy

In Essays, Philosophy, Productivity, Self Improvement, Stoicism

I’ve always been quite a reflective person, but I’ve never understood the importance of strategy until quite recently, since my company has grown enough for me to start taking a more strategic approach vs a hands-on approach.

This is not an essay on business, but I’ll use my application of strategic thinking with my business as an example, but you can use this type of thinking in anything in life, from relationships to chess games.

So as I have become quite lazy in writing lately, due mostly to the many commitments, I’ll simply present a few core ideas, in no order in particular. I hope you can excuse this!

Don’t keep digging up the seed.

The worst thing you can do when you start to think strategically is to keep second guessing yourself each and every day. You will drive yourself crazy. A farmer doesn’t dig up the soil every day to see how her seeds are developing, she trusts in the fact that the seeds will germinate and she will eventually see the first big milestone, those beautiful green shoots coming out of the soil.

We must do the same.

Once you have sat down and thought things through, and reached what you think is the best decision, don’t keep changing course like a headless chicken.

Give time for good things to happen. Let’s remember that the overnight success myth has been debunked.

Learn Patience

This brings me nicely to this next point, which is about learning patience. This is somewhat of an usual concept, because most people don’t see patience as a learnable skill, but it is.

There are no school curriculums with “patience” as a subject or end-goal, and yet it is one of those qualities that will not only drastically improve the quality of your life, but also allow you to see the big picture idea in what you are doing, and not get frustrated because where you are today isn’t where you would like to be.

So how do we learn patience? Well, it’s easier said than done, and it’s not something that I’ve yet been able to codify fully, but I’ll give you the salient points that I’ve noticed.

Start with the little things.

To continue my bad habit of quoting myself, I wrote about this before about how I’ve seen people sweat over small things.

I’ve experienced cases where people who I respect deeply are turned into animals because of something as simple as a waiter forgetting to bring their mango juice at a coffee shop.

Don’t be an animal, be a human being and use your rational facilities to cultivate patience, because most things in life are not worth getting worked up about.

As I am writing this from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I’m at a quite nice, if somewhat overpriced eatery called The Refinery, and I’m sitting outside with a nice breeze and lots of other people sitting outside and chatting. It’s a nice feeling.

I ordered a Cappuccino and it’s lukewarm. The fact that it’s lukewarm is there, but how I react to this fact is completely up to me. I could have let myself be upset, I could have sent it back (I didn’t, but sometimes I do – calmly), or I have the choice to take it as it is, and realize that it’s relative unimportant in the grand schemes of things.

The reason why I force myself – actually, force is too strong of a word, perhaps I should say convince – to not react badly or get upset, is because I realize that I have been presented a great opportunity to practice my patience in a low-stress environment, with something that doesn’t really matter. If I can keep my emotions in check, I’ll be able to tackle bigger challenges in the future that require far more patience.

Have a vision for what success looks like

There is a question that I always ask potential clients of Mäd during the initial meeting.

What Does Success Look Like?

While this appears to be a simple enough question, it is actually incredible how few people actually stop to ask themselves. This is because they aren’t thinking strategically, because they are too stuck on the details. The real problem with the detail-focussed approach is that if we lose sight of the bigger picture, we might get the details right, and still not achieve the results that we are looking for.

Now I’m not saying that details are not important, of course they are, but it’s the way that we approach details that are important. They can’t be the only thing that matters, they need to guided by a overarching vision.

Mäd has been experiencing a period of incredible growth, and I have had to adapt to not being able to know all the details of what is going on in my own business. There have been entire projects where I haven’t even met the client, and yet things keep moving forwards. The idea here is that I trust my people to execute, but even more importantly, I’ve been able to set a strong vision for what success looks like to our organizations, and so they can use that vision to ensure that their decision making is in line with what we are trying to achieve.

And I believe this is why strategy is so important, it groups of people to coordinate and execute, while staying faithful to a set of core values.

As has been said before, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.