Lately I’ve had a boom of ideas for different projects that have interested me. Over the weekend, I must have been projecting or physically manifesting the mass of ideas that have been passing through my head, because in at least 3 different conversations, I have been asked “so, what’s your plan.” As in, what is the cohesive plan that unites these different projects into a single vision.
It’s not an unsurprising question. When we think of the great innovators of our time – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Kim Kardashian – it’s easy to imagine that they had a single unwavering vision of what they wanted to create and how they wanted to create it. Steve Jobs for example, had the idea for the iPad back in 1983. With his i’s on the prize, he transformed the nature of computers by seemingly moving towards that singular goal. Certainly that’s a possibility, as some people have a great prescience about the direction they want and need to go. However, I think it’s more probable that this was just one of many ideas in the swirling mass of ideas that he envisioned. It’s not always about staying on a track to the bitter end. It’s often more about trying as many ideas as possible, and letting the good ones come to fruition. Put simply, it’s The Plan versus the plans.
When we have a single, fierce vision of the direction we’ll be taking, it’s so easy to lose the flexibility necessary to succeed. For example, let’s say I’ve decided that I’m going to develop my songwriting skills and accordion playing and continue to get better until I reach my (fictional) goal of playing solo at the Electric Factory. So I start playing exclusively at venues that play the kinds of music that are played at the Electric Factory. However, in doing so I might avoid playing shows that could give me a larger grassroots fan base; the kind of fan base that would make it easier for me to book a show at the Electric Factory. And if I’m so focused on playing there, I might not realize that Electric Factory is not the best venue for what I do. In this way, my laser focus becomes a liability rather than an asset.
So what I’ve been answering as I’ve had these conversations over the weekend is that I don’t have a Plan with a capital “P,” and I’m not currently looking for one. I do have a series of ideas and projects that I have been developing and testing. I devote time and energy into these projects to see what direction they take, what type of responses I get, and whether they are financially viable. This process keeps me constantly engaged, as I’m not working on just one thing; I get to use my different skills in different ways.
Currently, my projects include a podcast called Sound Decisions about the process of songwriting, a polka band with a modern twist, a class on how to write and record music, and the development of a private teaching studio. Some of these ideas are in the earliest stages where they’re just a twinkle in my eye. Others are further along with templates and materials already being developed. And the podcast already has several episodes and more are on the way. As these projects continue to develop, I look forward to adjusting them as necessary. At some point, some may turn into dead ends and I’ll abandon ship. Or maybe they can be retooled into another idea that works better.
At some point, all these disparate elements might also come together into a more cohesive structure. You know, like Songwriting Bootcamp Lessons, (Now with Polka!). That would be great if they do, but if the ideas themselves are sound on their own, then an all-encompassing plan isn’t really necessary. After all, there is a default structure anyway, which is my life. And if I’m doing things right, these parts will always fit nicely within the bounds of the plan “Make my life as diverse and enjoyable as possible.” This idea can be scary, since if that’s what I’m trying to do for a living, I have the added pressure of making sure things are financially viable so I can continue to do little things like, you know, have a place to live. Interestingly, this came up in two of the conversations I had this weekend, and the answer was the same in each of them: stop worrying and just do it. Just as water flows downhill, cats land on their feet, and toast lands on the buttered side, it will work itself out.
So the next time you’re questioned by a family member, company, school, or overachieving friend about what your next big plan is, take a deep breath, and let them know the individual pieces that make up your life. Let the diverse array of activities that fill your time be a point of pride, let them know that you’re not always sure what the shape of the big picture is, and let them know that you’re excited and fascinated by the wholly flexible set of options you have set up for yourself. Until then, keep building, and stay aware of the wonderful shapes your life can produce.