This article was first published in the October 2016 international edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

In his song Any Road, the late George Harrison wrote, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.’ The statement is profound, and possibly inspired by the dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and it has relevance today. With our fixation on immediacy, we frequently confuse being busy – pushing texts and emails around the stratosphere – with forward momentum. Never have we been so active, yet so stationary.

In a recent address on ‘the art of deliberate success’, the author and business coach David Keane asked: ‘What does success mean to you?’ It’s a question we should all ask ourselves. Keane explained how clarity, priority and execution need to work together: for example, where you have clarity and prioritisation without execution, you won’t progress towards success. The sweet spot is where the three elements collide. 

Leadership coach Jim Collins called it finding ‘your hedgehog’ – the place where you are untouchable. In his book Good to Great, Collins summarises the key to business success in a Venn diagram, which can be applied equally to us as individuals. The first circle in the diagram tells us to focus on an area where we can be a world expert. This is not as hard as it sounds, providing you look for a field specific to your experiences, where you have already made progress. Make sure it’s free from competing experts, then get your 10,000 hours into that space as soon as possible.

The second circle involves identifying your passion. Where your passion and your expertise collide is an agreeable place to be – work and play merge. The third circle is economic demand: it is simple common sense to focus on something others will pay for.

Turning point

I once attended a life skills course called ‘turning point’. It was the first time I was exposed to the power of the subconscious and its ability to pursue a target. If we have a vision of what success looks like – a treasure map – we will travel towards it. 

Take a sheet of paper and set out how you envisage success – with your partner, your family, your friends, your health, your hobbies, your career and your retirement savings. State your goals and add pictures from magazines to help you visualise the outcomes you seek. The more pictures the better. My first treasure map had an image of a motorbike, a BMW 100RS, which is quite rare. Two years later I owned an exact replica of that bike, in the same paint combination. Read any self-help book, ask any achiever, and they will tell you that visualisation is the key.  

I discovered Kerry Spackman’s book The Winner’s Bible in an airport bookshop. It describes a concept similar to treasure mapping – a folder that includes aspirational sayings and the goals you have set for yourself. Each day you pick up your winner’s bible and read the pages that resonate that day. 

David Parmenter is a writer and presenter on measuring, monitoring and managing performance