Reviewing my Strategy for 2016 and beyond, it became immediately apparent. I lacked a clear Vision for myself and my family.
Here’s what I did about that.
The fabulous Millie from I Am Lovable has been encouraging me for many years now to create a Vision Board. As an exercise, it never felt relevant to me … until suddenly earlier this month I felt compelled to create it.
This article explains the details of my Vision, and my Vision Board. It may seem a little narcissistic. I prefer to see it as self-full, a chance to open a more transparent conversation on this site. Perhaps this will inspire a few entrepreneurs (and wantrepreneurs) to set their own vision and take the risks needed to achieve it.
My Vision Board
A Vision is an emotional, feelings and intuition-based exercise. It cannot be discovered through logic (though that may be critical for developing your Strategy). Pictures are a great way to cut-through to your feeling space, so as to better connect with your vision.
When I undertook my January Strategy Day this year, my key Context was FREEDOM. As I explain the elements of my Vision, this will become apparent.
If you don’t care for the pictures, and just want to skip to the wordy middle section and what the heck I mean by “$45,000/mth”, click here.
The Vision Board Pictures
The arrangement of the pictures is partly aesthetic, so walking you through these clockwise is not the same as listing them in priority order. Having said that, the first picture most definitely sits atop both lists.
My Beautiful Wife
These two pictures sit atop the board for so many reasons. They were taken the same morning, while honeymoon-breakfasting at our favourite place in the world: Hotel La Darsena, on Lake Como Italy.
I would glady breakfast there, literally over the water, every morning for the rest of my life … especially with my beautiful wife joining me. So this image speaks to happy memories, and hope-filled future memories as we discover more of the world and enrichen our love.
This resonates with me so strongly, it’s weird to explain. When the Shirlaws Group team ran every one of our global business coaches through the inside80 Pace Indicator, I scored the ‘slowest’ of us all.
Slow doesn’t mean dim or unmotivated. It speaks to the Pace I am most comfortable running my life at (see also me being a Maker not a Manager). I am immensely capable with a capacity for endurance and methodically progressing a project. I prefer not to rush, and am planning a future at my chosen pace.
Arizona and the RV
There’s two parts to these, literal and more metaphorical. My dream holiday is to spend a few years slowly (see Sloth) driving my family around the USA. Visas probably mean this will have to be done in batches, but I believe the USA to be an incredible country filled with some of the world’s friendliest people – and the only way to truly discover that is hitting the open road and getting to know the flyover states and small towns as much as the tourist hubs.
On a broader scale, these images speak to space and exploration. I’m a big city guy, and a massive fan of air-conditioning and 24 hour convenience stores. Just don’t fence me in.
Permission Listen Choose
This is the fundamental – and powerfully simple – philosophy that underpins the I Am Lovable happiness coaching program.
I won’t do it justice here (if you feel your life could be happier, especially if you’re a young woman, coaching with Millie is the best investment you’ll ever make), but here’s a precis:
- Give yourself absolute Permission in every area of your life – what to eat, who to date, where to work etc. No judgement or limitations. Then,
- Listen to your body – it will tell you what it needs, and wants. Which
- Allows you to Choose to be, do, and have whatever you want.
Don’t read too much into the specific currencies littered around the board (Czech, USA, Hong Kong, and Fiji) although all are countries I intend to spend more time in. This collection (leftovers from the 30 countries we’ve explored so far) refers to sourcing, investing and spending global currencies.
I am now committed to building a global, location independent business. Why hide my brilliance from others simply because they spend forints or koruna not Aussie dollars?
Washington Post magnets
There are 3 types of these on the board, each representing a time I received a highly commended award (aka ‘was adjudged a Loser’) in the Washington Post Style Invitational (a wonderful weekly competition that marries my love of wordly-word play and biting wit).
Entering this competition weekly is a bellwether of my time and energy management. That I haven’t entered in 18 months represents the stress and overwhelm I have recently experienced. In my vision for the future, I am entering from around the world each week … and finally achieving a win! That will make the Empress happy.
This picture leapt out at me, and I had to explore myself to find the reasons why. Turns out Paddington Bear speaks to my passion for writing, and reading, as well as the childlike wonder I take into the world. If this guy can migrate from Peru to London with a marmalade sandwich under his hat, what’s holding me back? Nothing!
It also helps that this is one of my favourite images of my beautiful wife from our time living in London.
Central and South America
Again, this is partly representative of all new countries we wish to explore.
As a specific medium term vision, however, I suspect our next move away from Australia will be to one of the nations represented here (Panama and Paraguay lead the list, but of course we would need to visit these and others that come recommended – the natural wonder, the challenge of living in a Spanish language nation, and proximity to new travel destinations all energise this Australian who can fly for 5 hours … and still be in Australia.)
In future posts, I will expand on our research into this, factoring in things like visas, work permits, tax residency, company creation and sourcing clients around the world.
With most of the travel images here depicting nature, I felt it necessary to remind my subconscious that visiting the world’s cities – their history, art treasures, and gelati stores – was also important. And Paris speaks to that in a high contextual sense (I enjoyed Paris, and need to visit again for so many reasons, but Harmony is right that it is a city best enjoyed with your girlfriends not your husband).
This also anchors me back to one of my first vision statements. I decided some 15 years ago that commercial achievement for me meant “being able to buy two return business class tickets from Brisbane to Paris whenever I wanted”, because the letterbox money coming in each week would cover such a trifling amount.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s a vision that (roughly) automatically adjusts for inflation (unlike, say, a round number such as $10,000,000 which becomes easier to achieve each year by about 2%).
Whether we ever actually fly business class Brisbane to Paris is irrelevant. It’s about the feeling of being able to. We may prefer first class London to New York.
Water Water Everywhere
My family – and let’s be honest, who else has bothered to read this far? – will be shocked at the amount of water on this Vision Board. Indeed, the whole left side (including the A1 spot from my journalism days) is wet, despite the fact that I don’t particularly like going swimming.
I like the beach with two exceptions … getting sandy, and getting wet!
Water as an energy space: wonderful. To be relaxed and looking over water is heaven.
Think back to the first picture on this board – I’m fully dressed and sipping a cappuccino… but on top of Lake Como.
The first published book I worked on was largely compiled in a wonderful weekend at Currumbin, staring out at the ocean rolling in. In fact, I’m writing this now under the shade of a tree beside the Brisbane River.
So water is magical to me. My life will long linger beside a body of water, whether it’s ocean, lake, river, or the Panama Canal.
It breathes energy into me, and takes stresses away. Just don’t ever ask me to jump into it.
This is the hardest one for me to write about. The setting by the water will, by now, make sense. Committing to the prototypical nuclear family with pigeon pair of kids doesn’t seem out of place, even if you knew we were a DINK couple.
I haven’t written yet about our personal struggles with having children, though I intend to share my experience in a little more detail in time as an exercise for me … and for other couples (especially men) going through IVF.
So this final haunting image lingers here: full of hope, desire, potential and dread, the happy family scene my beautiful wife and I want, and may never experience.
The Vision Board Words
Enough FEELINGS I hear you scream – tell me about the dollar signs!
This simple framework maps two axes – Business and Personal / Commercial and Cultural – creating four areas to express my vision. Of necessity, these will overlap – it’s impossible to separate the commercial from the cultural vision. They are like two ends of a stick – you cannot pick up one without moving the other.
I won’t explain EVERY word, just those I feel are key.
LIFI – Location Independent, Financial Independence
These are the two key anchors for the thinking side of my vision, and will probably be achieved in that order. If these spark for you, I’d encourage you to get googling or drop me a note for some links – I spent a lot of time last year immersed in these communities.
Being Location Independent means being able to work from wherever in the world you choose (though reliable internet access is generally required, hence the somewhat synonymous term ‘Digital Nomad‘). Tim Ferris was a pioneer through his 4 Hour Work Week – though like Marco Polo he wasn’t the first to visit, he just made it famous at the time when technology was making it accessible.
I had lined up some Location Independent work as part of our transition from Brisbane to London in 2010, which the global financial crisis put an end to. My focus in 2016 and 2017 is to do this again, properly and more sustainably (in 2010 I had just two clients, who were related, so it was a house of sand I nevertheless am grateful for).
Having Financial Independence is broadly synonymous with never needing to work again. The wider FI community (also known as FIRE – Financial Independence, Retire Early) is primarily comprised of employees saving and investing large portions of their income (50%+ is not uncommon) rather than succumbing to lifestyle creep, in order to ‘retire’ in their 30s and 40s using a Safe Withdrawal Rate of 3-4%.
Essentially, having $1.5 million invested means being able to live on ($1.5M x 4% =) $60,000 per annum, adjusted for inflation, for 30+ years of retirement.
As an entrepreneur who hasn’t drawn anything resembling a paycheck for many years, I love this philosophy AND I am pursuing a very different path. (I see the basic FIRE model as “lazy and low risk”, and hope more people pursue it; I’m just a higher risk taker by nature.)
My FI vision in simple form is to only work by choice. I know from my last big trip (80 days through Europe) that too many holidays do nothing but give me space to create new business ventures I want to pursue. Like many in the FIRE community, I don’t aspire to retirement like my grandparents had it – but rather, Financial Independence allows me to pursue business and community passions without money concerns.
Panama and Paraguay thus make a little more sense – both are, I believe, wonderful nations for welcoming foreigners and providing a regulatory and cultural structure for helping them achieve their global ambitions.
There are a few numbers here, expanding from $20,000 per month to $45,000 per month.
A family earning $20,000/mth ($240,000/yr) is well within the Top 1% globally but is not ridiculous, though many readers may see it as particularly aspirational. Thankfully, with my skill set achieving this by having a job or consultancy business in Australia is not a stretch – I have turned down job offers in this range and consistently billed above this (NB: Revenue ≠ Income) through my current business consulting firm.
To do this while being Location Independent is the next challenge for me. To then achieve this through my passive (eg, properties) and portfolio (eg, business dividends) investments would achieve Financial Independence.
My beautiful wife and I actually don’t need this much to be FI – our actual number depends a little on how we treat our two investment properties – but it’s a round number representation of my vision. In the Personal – Commercial Quadrant this is covered again – there’s a nice breakdown of how I would use $5 million if it magically arrived in my bank account, just don’t think I’ll consider myself a failure if I don’t get that far.
Similarly, $45,000/mth is a ridiculous number. It’s roughly a current conversion of my Eiffel Tower goal – to be able to buy two return business class flight Brisbane to Paris every week. Nobody needs that much money. What we will do with it when it arrives (charity, family, investing in others, better holidays etc) will be a fun discussion.
Fame, Specialisation, and Transparency
This ‘Fame’ concept comes from the fabulous Linzi Boyd, and my application of it probably needs further refinement. Of her Fame categories (and today, any business leader needs the appropriate level of Google Fame) there’s a distinction between being an Influencer (known well to a small community) and a Celebrity (known reasonably well to a larger community). I see my desires on the cusp of these – I don’t want to be David Beckham, but I truly believe I add value to the lives of others simply by being present in their lives. So who am I to deny my presence in the lives of others?
I believe Transparency will help me achieve this. By sharing (rarely at this length, you’ll be pleased to know) my vision, journey and experience I intend to help others and position myself and my businesses in a way that helps them and my clients as well.
There’s enough about me shared so far that my personal intent will now make some sense. I believe my purpose in life is To be the Catalyst for change in Others.
In the coaching and consulting world, being ‘a catalyst’ has almost become a cliche. Drawing on my high school chemistry, however, I genuinely feel most people use the word incorrectly and – despite testing alternatives that were less naff – it connects with me and my purpose.
Most consultants are actually ‘Reactants‘ for change. They add themselves into the business mix, and while their presence inspires or effects change in the business they themselves are changed as a result. Perhaps only subtly, but it’s there – they react to the process and are different when the process ends. Sometimes a reactant is fully consumed – think consultants who end up employed by their clients! Sometimes they are only partially impacted, and this analogy stretches to how most consultants become emotionally ‘attached’ to their client in a way that can be unhelpful moving forward. (I know one business coach who was paid well to help a company’s growth; and when that growth exceeded all expectations he asked for an equity share as a reward. It killed the relationship.)
In chemistry, a Catalyst is necessary for change, but is itself unchanged at the end of the process. It may change during – just as I am focused, passionate, and committed while working with a client – but at the end is ready to be used when called upon for the next time.
In my career to date I have worked with more than 300 organisations around the world. It would not serve my next client or business partner if I had left a small piece of me behind every time. So yes, I effect change in others. Unlike many who claim the word, I do so as a Catalyst.
The Cultural Wing
Here’s a nice list of ideas and plans that could otherwise be summarised as “Doesn’t Reek of Effort“.
I’m not chasing these commercial goals so that I can sit by myself (overlooking water) on a throne made of gold. I’m here to help others, as well as my family and myself.
These are some of the key elements that will energise me. Travelling the world, hanging out with people I know and like along the way, sounds like a lot of fun to me! And ‘Iceland Board Meetings’ is an anchor I have with one of my business partners – why build a global company funding us both to travel the world with our separate families, only to undertake compliance necessities in a boring board room somewhere.
The Personal – Cultural attributes articulate a few more of my values and desires. Clearly I seek to travel the world (30 of 192 countries so far) AND I intend to do that at my pace, a slo-mad more than no-mad if you will.
The need to have friends along for the ride is becoming increasingly apparent to me, particularly after this recent piece by Anna Wickham, one of my favourite location independent writers. I’m not someone who needs to catch up with mates every month – my beautiful wife is, and indeed the events and experiences she creates for us almost entirely meet my social needs.
That’s going to be a whole lot harder when we’re travelling. Moving to London was tough – though many of our best relationships were forged or even created at the time, but at least we were living there. Not so when we’re spending 3-6 months in a place, and moving on. And don’t give me that crap about Facetime and Facebook – I want to buy you a beer, watch a movie with you, or hit a round of golf.
Having friends as business partners / having business partners as friends may help with this. Consider it a concern and a work in progress – none of my current friends earn $20,000/mth in passive and portfolio income either, and I don’t want to get there on my own.
What’s important to you? What are you building for your life and your family? How do you want that to feel?
Do you have a giant visual representation to challenge your focus every single day?
I now have mine. It’s detailed, nuanced, specific and ambitious. Already I’m loving turning it from Vision into Reality.
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