There are moments in life when we need to follow the path, no matter how narrow, difficult, or dimly lit. We hit on that yesterday when we talked about "Staying The Course".
How do we handle the times when we have to chart a new course in life where there doesn't seem to be any path whatsoever?
That's another level of leadership altogether.
It requires a vision that no one else may see but you. But acting on vision alone is like trying to fill a bucket full of water with a hole in the bottom. It'll work initially, but we'll be out of resources eventually. And usually faster than we'd think.
Creating a new path requires the one-two punch of preparation and work.
Preparation is seeing the forest for the trees. Seeing the big picture before we ever paint a single brush stroke. This is where we begin with the end in mind. When we can see the final scene before taking our first step, we'll be better prepared to make sure our journey is carved out in a way that will help us get there.
We are well-served when we create a process for our progress.
It gives us something to measure our movement towards our desired destination.
Are we moving towards our ultimate goal, or just randomly moving in general? The former is progress. The latter is ineffective busyness.
We'll be less likely to become distracted by naysayers, doubters, and arm-chair quarterback opinions when we stick to our vision and the due diligence of our preparation. We'll know how to stay open to feedback from trusted sources, and ignore the preferences from the doubters. That's the difference between a critique and a critic.
Doing our homework ahead of time will help us avoid confusion along the way.
Find a rhythm you can walk to, and accountability that will keep you on track. Your drumbeat doesn't need to excite everyone, just the ones who believe in your vision. And having a crew of back-up singers who are there for you will help you stay on key.
Great leaders don't forge new paths by singing in whatever key they want whenever they want. They hear a song in their head, and they sing it over and over and over to anyone within ear shot. It's consistent. It's clear. It's in the same key every time. That attracts others who join in and support that vision...that song. They sing the harmonies, and lay down powerful choruses of support behind the lead singer...aka...their leader.
If you get part way into your journey and learn something new that informs you that your original plan was off a bit, adjust. Don't bury your head in the sand and act like you had to be perfect out of the gate all the way to the end. Stop the song and get back on key. Your followers will thank you. They'll admire the transparency and humility within you.
Great leaders that experience success will all tell you about the bumps and bruises they picked up a long the way. The key is they didn't quit. They got back up. They learned from their failures. They kept pressing on in the direction they knew to be their calling.
So when it's time to move in the direction of your calling, soak up this small reminder:
Do the hard work of preparation to create a path that will help you reach your destination. Map it out ahead of time. Check your coordinates as you go. Make sure the team of people closest to you knows what those coordinates are as well. Receive constructive feedback from those who understand your heart, vision, passion, and calling.
Were you waiting for a step by step guide on how to blaze your trail?
By now, I hope you realize that wasn't my attempt.
That would be a bit disingenuous.
I don't know your calling.
I don't know your heart.
I do know that the handful of reminders here will help you put the right people around you, start with a clear expectation of where you are headed to, and the encouragement to create the path that you are called to.
One last note...
Enjoy the journey my friend.
The destination is nice, but the lessons that last a lifetime are learned along the way.