Why Every Successful Person Has a Roadmap

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Companies and other established organizations have a roadmap. It forces deep thinking, explains where they are going, and helps keep everyone stay on track. Successful people have one as well whether they know it or not. That's because they have a clear purpose that helps align the daily grind with their long-term aspirations.

Too many of us get caught up in the madness of today and forget to look out into our future. I know because I talk with lots of smart candidates about joining our company and most really have not thought about where they are going.

Personal roadmapping is the exercise of building a plan for greatness. Your greatness. Only you know what truly motivates you. And only purpose with accomplishment can drive lasting satisfaction.

The best personal roadmaps set clear goals with specific dates and describe some of the actions that will help us get there. Your plans should be actionable and only by writing down the details will they be real. The alternative is foolish. Betting your future on luck is for gamblers.

One of the best managers I ever worked for told me, "She with a plan wins." That's why you should take a few minutes today to create your own roadmap. You need a thoughtful plan.

Developing a personal roadmap has four major benefits:
  • It drives self-awareness;
  • It provides a framework for success and a true north to keep working towards;
  • It provides insight into what types of skills you need to reach your goals;
  • It makes it easier to clearly ask for assistance from others on your journey.

You need to lead your own roadmapping effort but should get feedback from trusted friends and colleagues. And there is nothing wrong with starting with a one-year plan first if it is too daunting to define what you want to achieve by the time you are retired. Your plan should include the following:

Why
If you are running fast you need to know why. Without a clear vision you might be moving ahead but going nowhere. You must establish a "goal first" approach and a true north for where you are headed. Reaffirm your strategy every year and tweak it as a necessary, but stay grounded in what you are trying to achieve.

When
Now that you know why you are headed in a certain direction, you need to set a target for when you want to be there. Dates matter in life and business because our lives are finite. If we lived forever, time really would not be much of a concern. We do not have that luxury (or curse) of permanence so every day is special.

What
The "what's" are the accomplishments that we are striving for. Being promoted to a Director or getting into graduate school are great examples of tangible achievements that we should record as goals. Once again, these can be substantial targets or they can be more readily reachable objectives like volunteering at a food bank. The key is to record the actions that you need to take.

How
The last step is about defining the nitty-gritty of how you are going to accomplish the what. These are the tactics that you are going to take. There is no doubt that if you set a roadmap for the next decade you will not be able to fill all of the details in, but you might start with a few. For example, if getting into graduate school is the goal, you will need to research and apply to different programs.

Once you complete your roadmap, set it aside for a day and then read back through it and share it with those you trust. Explaining your goals helps you crystallize them and can even unlock helpful resources that you did not know you had.

If you don't have a roadmap you are likely to suffer. The challenges of life make it easy to lose your way or whip-saw yourself in different directions. And when you do your progress towards your next step and your long-term target will be stunted.

Do you have a roadmap?