How to Make Stuff Happen

Well, the pressure’s on now! Having decided to write an inspirational blog to show that ordinary people can be awesome, I now have to work out what to write…!

A couple of years ago I was working through an exercise which asked you to look at a situation where you had achieved something, and pick apart what it was that you did in order to do that thing. No matter how much you might think that things ‘just happen’, there are always steps that we go through (consciously or unconsciously) in order to get to that place. If you can pinpoint what it is that you do when you are at your most successful, then you can use this formula and apply it to other situations which may seem challenging.

The example I picked was when I first started running a festival, which had been a dream of mine since university. My formula for success turned out something like this:

– First I gathered a team of people round me who also wanted to make it happen, and were committed to helping me to do it.

– I had good reasons why I HAD to make it work. It was something I desperately wanted to do, and in addition to that, it was something that I felt was important for my local community and something that ought to be happening – if I could do it, then I should do it. Those are good enough reasons to try, but I realised I also had something else – something worth losing if it didn’t work out. The three key things for me were my reputation, my pride, and the money I faced losing – failure was simply not an option. It wasn’t a case of trying and seeing whether it worked, I was going to MAKE it work whether it wanted to or not.

– I committed to it emotionally. It was a big risk, and I had to accept that and the fear associated with that as part of the committment. It’s not that I wasn’t afraid, or that I didn’t worry – but that I accepted that fear as part of the process and didn’t let it stop me doing what I wanted to do.

– On the practical side of things, I worked out a broad timescale of what needed doing and when. Which were the big important milestones? When did I need to have these decisions made by? I focused on the big stuff, and left the little bits to sort themselves out along the way.

– I did the bulk of the work in a few large chunks; put in the time, got stuff done, and then it needed a relatively small input on a regular basis to keep it ticking over.

– I shouted about it A LOT. I got in everyone’s face, whenever possible; I never left the house without a leaflet or business card that I could press on to an unsuspecting potential punter, I took posters and programmes to meetings and handed them out to people who thought they were attending to talk about something else entirely, and I actively searched out any opportunity to put myself in front of people where there was a vague chance they might be interested.

– It was on my mind all the time. Everywhere I went, everything I did, I would be thinking about potential for the festival. Four years later I am still doing the same thing – every time I walk in to a building I find myself running a quick mental check of how it could work as a venue!

– And finally, always have an end in mind. I’m not necessarily talking about having a detailed plan of everything that’s going to happen; I often have no idea what my project is going to look like at the end, but I always have some sort of concept or goal in mind. For me personally, this often relates to how something is going to feel when it’s working out right, or the way in which people are going to react to it. For you it might be a picture, or a mental image, or perhaps you’re that person who details out every step of the way! For the festival, I had a firm, unshakeable belief from the start that I wanted to run an event that the local community would feel a part of, and feel ownership of. That intention influenced every decision I made, and was the thing that helped to mould the concept of the festival as it grew in my head. Having an intention or goal simplifies things, because every decision can be boiled down to whether it takes you further away from your goal or moves you towards it.

So that’s a rough guide to how I get stuff done – but your way may be completely different! I would really encourage you to take some time to think about a time when you did something successfully, and analyse the steps you took in that process. What are the values that stand out for you? What were the beliefs underpinning your actions?

I’d be really interested to hear how you get on – drop me a line in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter!

Cat x

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