“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
– Bill Gates
That pretty much describes my first 15 years in business. Constantly overestimating what I could accomplish in a year, and continually frustrated that I didn’t come close to finishing those goals.
I still do this, mind you.
But now I’m a lot more self-aware about this shortcoming.
To overcome this continual challenge, I’ve focused on becoming a better builder.
But there is a secret to it.
Big, awesome, exciting goals are hard to achieve. They take a lot of dedicated focus and ingenuity.
It’s kind of like building a house. Many things need to come together to make something beautiful happen.
The biggest mistake I would make was trying to build the foundation and the walls of this metaphorical house at the same time.
Which doesn’t make sense, of course. To make things worse, I would stress about not having the roof on yet.
I was overestimating what I could do in a short period of time. Relying too heavily on my drive and ambition to get that house up quickly.
My biggest “aha” moments have come when I have stopped building and taken a step back to look over the whole project.
When I do, I can see the problems and solutions so much clearer.
It’s kind of like when a friend or colleague comes to you for advice. It’s easier for you to see the errors they are making and positive steps they can take, because you are removed from the drama, stress, and chaos that blinds them from seeing which path to take.
It’s the same reason why, whenever possible, I try to have my wife look over my writing before I publish something. I can read over it multiple times, but my brain will somehow skip over the errors I’m making. Everything looks good to me, I don’t see the problems.
However, Amanda, can clearly see the errors. They are quite obvious to her (not because she is a word nerd), because she didn’t write it and therefore doesn’t have the same blinders on that I have.
Which is why I suggest you regularly pause from your daily grind and routines to re-analyze what you are building.
You may discover, as I frequently do, that you are trying to build without a clear set of blueprints. It’s our chicken scratch house plans that are really inhibiting our progress.
[Chicken Scratch vs. Blueprints]
When you make time to upgrade your chicken scratch plan into a full set of blueprints and building schedule, you discover ways to build much more effectively.
This doesn’t come natural for me. I have to force myself to create blueprints.
My go-to response is to just pick up the hammer and to start making some tangible progress. Something that I can see, like walls to a house. But without building the foundation first, my house never gets fully built no matter how hard I try.
It has become painfully clear that operating off a good set of blueprints is the key to building better and faster.
But just like Bill Gates says, your blueprints can also hold you back, if you are underestimating what you can build over many years.
We get so focused on what we can build this year that we don’t think or plan big enough over the long term.
We build a roof and try to make what is underneath it better over time. We get locked into this self-imposed limitation, when there is no reason why we can’t consider building a second story.
Maybe building a second story is still thinking too small.
Take a step back. Look around. Seek inspiration by researching what others have built and how they’ve built it.
Because the biggest secret of all…
Once you know how to build a house really well, there is no reason why you can’t build a cathedral.
It may take you a decade or more to do it.
But if you develop the right set of blueprints and the right team, you just might be able to build something far bigger, and far more beautiful than you ever thought possible.
Take a moment…
Check to see if you are operating off a chicken scratch plan.
Check to see if you are building under a self-imposed ceiling.
Pause. Think bigger. Create better blueprints.