Part of the reason I want to write a post about this is to hopefully remind myself to include it explicitly when I am problem solving.
It basically works by starting with an outcome and working backwards from there to the current state of the problem.
I see so much use for this in my own business from project planning to client management.
In some ways it’s similar to setting goals and milestones, but with those I typically set them and then try to build out the steps (forward) to get there.
What I like about the process of retrograde analysis is that I set the goal or outcome and then ask, what has to happen just before we reach this outcome… and just before this, and so on all the way back.
I suspect new insights occur similar to the examples Mr. Ashley gives in his presentation.
One example I can think of in my business is planning training material.
Instead of outlining all the skills or steps necessary to cover a topic, how much more valuable is it to identify how the successful student is different from the complete beginner.
What does a successful student/practitioner know? How do they approach problems and what new capabilities do they now have?
This approach makes the planning process less about covering material and more about developing capabilities… getting the right mix of mindset and technical skill (which is where most training falls short).
This is equally valid for client work. What should a successful end game look like?
How about something like this: A predictable content and creative schedule communicated to a known audience producing reliable sales and leads.
Then work backwards!
If you’re like me, then you need paradigm shifts from time to time in order to make progress and overcome the feeling of being stuck in a rut.
This was just the shift I needed, so I thought I’d share it.
“Find your purpose and fling your life out to it. Find a way or make one. Try with all your might. Self-made or never made.” – Orison Swett Marden
I’ll entertain you with two cautionary tales. One serious and one not so much.
I have distant cousin on my mom’s side who was fortunate enough to inherit a rather large fortune. Enough that she never had to work to provide for herself. She was bright, artistic, and generous. She aspired to be an artist. She looked like an artist, talked like an artist, and had many friends who were artists. But she mostly dabbled.
I don’t know if she had the requisite talent to “make it.” What I do know, is that the vast majority of artists who I see “make it” are makers. They make… and they make… and they keep making. In all that making, someone likes something, and then someone else, and so on.
Dabblers make a little, then hold it up for the world to behold… and if no one takes much notice… well… they’re ahead of their time… their vision is too sophisticated. Time to retire!… How nice!
Second story. My son’s elementary school is having it’s annual talent contest. My son is seven. He doesn’t have any particular talents (beyond being the apple in his parents eyes), but loves being on stage and being the center of attention.
So we go down a long list of things he could do. Sing a song… no… play a song on his recorder… no… or harmonica… no… juggle… no… tell jokes… no. At last he says he knows what he wants to do. He takes his index finger, shoves it in his mouth and makes popping sound with cheek.
I shake my head. Now I’m forced to crush his dreams and explain that this is not a show worthy talent… if a talent at all.
Ok… He’s not detered… He’s got it… He sits on the ground, puts himself into some kind of contortion. More difficult than sitting cross-legged, but no way near as complicated as a Yoga pose or contortionists trick (he’s not really that flexible). But this one gives me hope. I suggest he learn some Yoga poses from his mom. Does he like this idea?… no.
The thing is he doesn’t want to practice. So I sit him down and we have a long (mostly one-sided) talk about how you have practice to get good at anything. You have to put in the time and effort to do something exceptionally well.
I’m not sure he completely bought it. But luckily I’ve still got time with him.
I’m not going to lie though, a good 50%+ of the adults in the “entrepreneurial space” still think you can make money and build a successful business with as much effort as my son wanted to expend on his talent show endeavor.
“Find your purpose and fling your life out to it. Find a way or make one. Try with all your might. Self-made or never made.”
I read Think and Grow Rich years ago. In fact it was about the time I started my business in 2009. It made a big impact on me then. The wisdom documented by Napoleon Hill is as true today as when he wrote it all those years ago.
I hadn’t thought much about Think and Grow Rich until my Uncle sent me an article about Napoleon Hill. It rekindled my appreciation for Hill’s teachings. As a result, I decided to use them as inspiration for this post. Here they are:
#1 Desire: You have to want it.
“Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.” – Napoleon Hill
#2 Faith: Believe that you can achieve your goal.
“Riches begin in the form of thought! The amount is limited only by the person in whose mind the thought is put into motion. Faith removes limitations!” – Napoleon Hill
#3 Auto-suggestion: Use affirmations to reach your goal.
“Your ability to use the principle of auto-suggestion will depend, very largely, upon your capacity to concentrate upon a given desire until that desire becomes a burning obsession.” – Napoleon Hill .
I have to admit, I’ve never been very consistent with affirmations. I’ve used them before, but eventually I feel silly. Doing this series has caused me to reconsider these principles. As I read it today, the power of these is to focus the mind on an outcome. I know wildly successful entrepreneurs who swear by affirmations. I think I’ll start again.
#4 Specialized Knowledge: Gain experiences and continue learning.
“Successful men, in all callings, never stop acquiring specialized knowledge related to their major purpose, business, or profession. Those who are not successful usually make the mistake of believing that the knowledge-acquiring period ends when one finishes school.” – Napoleon Hill
Never stop learning!
#5 Imagination: Come up with ideas and visualize your success.
“Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes. Ideas are products of the imagination … Man’s only limitation, within reason, lies in his development and use of his imagination.” – Napoleon Hill
“Whoever you are, wherever you may live, whatever occupation you may be engaged in, just remember in the future, every time you see the words ‘Coca-Cola,’ that its vast empire of wealth and influence grew out of a single idea,” – Napoleon Hill .
#6 Organized Planning: Take action.
“Opportunity has spread its wares before you. Step up to the front, select what you want, create your plan, put the plan into action, and follow through with persistence … Most of us are good “starters” but poor “finishers” of everything we begin. Moreover, people are prone to give up at the first signs of defeat. There is no substitute for persistence.” – Napoleon Hill
It amazes me how simple these principles are and at the same time, how powerful too. Take action on an organized plan… Boom! The more things change the more they stay the same.
#7 Decision: Defeat procrastination with decisiveness.
“People who fail to accumulate money, without exception, have the habit of reaching decisions, if at all, very slowly, and of changing these decisions quickly and often.” – Napoleon Hill
This is a really an important life lesson and I struggle with this. It was worse when I was younger. I wonder if part of it has to do maturity and responsibility.
#8 Persistence: Don’t stop until you get what you want.
“Riches do not respond to wishes. They respond only to definite plans, backed by definite desires, through constant persistence.” – Napoleon Hill
My dad used to say, “businesses don’t fail, it’s just business owners who give up.” Don’t give up!
#9 Power of the Master Mind: Surround yourself with the best.
“No individual may have great power without availing himself of the “Master Mind” … A group of brains coordinated (or connected) in a spirit of harmony will provide more thought-energy than a single brain, just as a group of electric batteries will provide more energy than a single battery.” – Napoleon Hill
I think the concept of a master mind is fascinating. If our brains are neural nets, then a mastermind is a net of neural nets – very powerful.
#10 The Mystery of Sex Transmutation: Choose a compatible partner.
“Sex desire is the most powerful of human desires. When driven by this desire, men develop keenness of imagination, courage, willpower, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times. Love, romance, and sex are all emotions capable of driving men to heights of super achievement. When combined, these three emotions may lift one to an altitude of genius.” – Napoleon Hill
Sex… It’s what makes the world go round. Hill’s quote needs an update to account for sexual equality, but despite the outdated world views, he’s right. The right partner makes all the difference. Here’s to finding the partner or least enjoying the process.
#11 The Subconscious Mind: Master positivity and dismiss negative emotions.
“The subconscious mind will not remain idle! If you fail to plant desires in your subconscious mind, it will feed upon the thoughts which reach it as the result of your neglect. Positive and negative emotions cannot occupy the mind at the same time. One or the other must dominate. It is your responsibility to make sure that positive emotions constitute the dominating influence of your mind.” – Napoleon Hill
It’s easy for me to believe negative thoughts are protective. All the “what if’s” allow me look at the possibilities and choose the right path. The criticism and judgement allow me to take my game to the next level. This just makes sense to me, it seems like smart thing to do.
But… I’m wrong.
Most of the time I’m indulging in negativity. I think I’m being “practical.” Instead, I’m feeding my mind negative thoughts. This is a hard habit to break. If I stay there too long, I can go into a funk. I was there yesterday.
What helped me was faith in the apparently irrational belief that there is nothing to fear… that everything will work out as it should… that I am adequate for the coming challenges.
In other words focusing on, and believing in the positive.
#12 The Brain: Associate with other smart people and learn from them.
“Every human brain is capable of picking up vibrations of thought which are being released by other brains … The Creative Imagination is the “receiving set” of the brain, which receives thoughts released by the brains of others.” – Napoleon Hill
I wouldn’t get hung up on the scientific validity of the above statement. However, from a practical point of view this is how it feels. How do you feel interacting with intelligent, dynamic people? It’s electric, right?
New connections are being made leading to new ideas. The heart of innovation. Btw, I think it’s funny how Hill says, “and learn from them.” Just to clarify that hanging out and partying with them is not sufficient.
#13 The Sixth Sense: Trust your gut.
“Through the aid of the sixth sense, you will be warned of impending dangers in time to avoid them, and notified of opportunities in time to embrace them.” … “No matter who you are, or what may have been your purpose in reading this book, you can profit by it without understanding the principle described in this chapter.
This is especially true if your major purpose is that of accumulation of money or other material things. The chapter on the sixth sense was included, because the book is designed for the purpose of presenting a complete philosophy by which individuals may unerringly guide themselves in attaining whatever they ask of life.” – Napoleon Hill
I won’t summarize that podcast, instead I will encourage you to go over and listen to it first hand. However, one concept that Sean Desousa mentions is “choosing a subset.“
This makes sense, right?
It reminds me of what my dad told me an expert was, “a person who learns more and more about less and less.”
This formula is as simple as it is effective.
However, what if our business is a commodity type business. Can we really be the best in the world?
For example, let’s consider a car mechanic or repair shop. This is an industry I know relatively well since most of my full-service clients are these kinds of businesses.
Truth be told though, most traditional service businesses would fall into this same category of activity – including mine and probably yours.
Are you really going to be the best mechanic in the world?
Is that possible?
Is it possible to measure?
How do you become the best mechanic in the world?
It’s not just a problem for individual business owners.
As a marketer and advertiser, I create media for my clients. And there is no more important thing I would like communicate about them than what makes them the best in the world.
It’s a big problem. Sometimes it leaves the resulting media a bit dull.
As I was listening to the podcast, it dawned on me that maybe the simplest subset you can start with, the smallest little place to make your claim to be the best in the world, is to be yourself.
I’m not saying this simply as a trite, self-help affirmation – something along the lines of, “you’re a really special person.”
Instead, I’m making the claim that this has real business advantages and can be a starting place to grow a strong business reputation and brand.
Let’s consider a fictional business owner, Ted Smith.
Ted worked for 10 years at the local Toyota dealer where he rose to the level of senior master technician.
Then one day, Ted decides to start his own business.
Can Ted make the claim that he is the best Toyota mechanic in the world in the world?
I would claim it’s unlikely.
It’s likely that technicians that work on race crews, or engineers that work for Toyota, or savant technicians of one type or another may be the best in the world.
But there are a few advantages that Ted has starting his own local business.
The first advantage is that there is literally no one exactly like Ted!
If Ted delivers his services competently, while demonstrating his own true personality, he is capable of making the claim that he is the best Ted Smith providing a competent Toyota service… and being Ted matters – more one this later.
How Big is the World?
What if Ted is the best independent Toyota technician in his local area?
For his potential customers, the local area is the effective “world” – since no one is going to travel more than 10-20 miles to repair their car.
Serving a geographically isolated population is certainly one way to own the moniker, “the best in the world.”
However, it’s not as important as the quality of a service being delivered by a unique individual with an authentic personality. Here’s why…
What Makes a Thing Valuable?
I think the importance of an owner’s personality comes down to understanding the value delivered by the business to its customers.
In classical economics, the value is measured by an objective measurement of the utility added to the car by the repair adjusted for the supply and demand of technical labor.
This is how a completely rational consumer is supposed to operate in a classical economic system.
Fortunately, consumers do not operate 100% rationally as classical economics describes.
Instead, behavioral economics says that consumers operate less than rationally. Human psychology plays a big role in how people operate in a market.
In the case of our auto repair business, the value delivered by a service provider is more complex than a simple service or product offering.
The emotional and psychological experience of the consumer is part of the value of a product or service.
The feeling that you were told the truth by a service provider plays a big factor in satisfaction.
At the same time, the psychological factors that allow someone to feel that they’ve been told the truth is complex.
One critical component of feeling trust is by having rapport – the feeling that you and another person are alike.
Whether you trust a service provider makes a big difference in how you feel about a transaction.
Maybe classical economics doesn’t care about how customers feel after a transaction, but smart business people do.
Being your true self will create rapport in at least some part of the market.
If you do that and deliver a competent service it will literally be more valuable for that group.
Fortunately, the vast majority of people have personalities that are likable by at least some segment of the population.
Friendly and likable people will have an advantage since they will be able to create rapport with more people.
However, most people can find their tribe – that group of like-minded folk who feel a rapport with each other.
So what’s the point?
Even small, commodity service providers benefit from communicating the owner’s core personality.
At the very least, they should be openly communicating their values. And this needs to be present in all their media and branding.
This is the same activity we describe as personal branding.
So, what I’m really saying is, personal branding plays some role in most small business marketing.
It may even play a vital role in the overall branding of a local commodity service provider.
Personal Branding RULES!
Being a highly competent service provider who expresses their own unique individuality is a great place to start the journey of becoming the best in the world at something.
The confidence gained by receiving feedback from happy customers who come to know, like, and trust you should fuel you with the passion and drive you need to become an even more competent provider.
And now you’re on the path to being the BEST in a BIGGER world.
As markets become even more competitive, ignoring some level of personal branding is a mistake.
Now, there is a small percentage of people who are genuinely unlikable. Let’s call them, “horrible people.”
Maybe those owners who are “horrible people” have no choice but to hide behind a large corporate brand with no personality, but everybody else has a better choice.
What’s worse is, by sticking to a nameless faceless corporate brand, you look like those companies owned and operated by “the horrible people.”
Sophisticated consumers have already been burned by big corporations.
As such, you don’t want to be accidentally grouped with them by donning a brand that is 100% free of an authentic personality.
If you are a business owner, who is also a “good person”, you owe it to your company to let your true personality show through.
In the old days, this would have been called demonstrating integrity and standing behind your products and services.
It’s the same today… and it literally makes your offerings the best in the world.