Crossing Niagara Falls - Set a Goal and Make a Plan

Recently, here in Canada, we had an interesting visitor.  A little over a week ago, a Mr. Nik Wallenda came to Canada by walking on a wire strung from Niagara Falls, NY (USA) and Niagara Falls, ON (Canada) (and, for those that missed it, he did have to present his passport to the Canadian Border agents upon his arrival). 

So what is the big deal?

Well, here is some perspective.  Nik completed this feat by walking on a two-inch (5 cm) cable strung 1,800 feet (550 meters) through the mist over the Niagara Falls Gorge, a feat never before attempted. The walk was 150 feet (46 meters) above the falls.  If you have never visited the falls, imagine more than 168,000 cubic m (6 million cubic ft) of water go over the crestline of the falls every minute.

And, he made it look easy.

A lot of has been written in the days since this historic feat.  Nik spoke a lot about how he wanted to inspire the world by setting such an audacious goal and meeting it.  "We need stuff like this," Wallenda said "We need things to encourage people that the impossible is actually possible."

There is no doubt that his accomplishment was nothing short of extraordinary and inspiring. 

But there is another angle to the story that I think deserves commentary.  Part of the reason that he made it look easy was TWO years of preparations. 

That is right – TWO years to prepare for a thirty minute walk.

In our work with transitioning employees, it always amazes me how little prepared many of them are before they start calling on potential new employers looking for a job.  They just want to jump right into job search mode without taking time to reflect, set a goal and make a plan.  But, in their quest to expedite their transition, they often end up taking a lot longer to get to that next role. 

Our advice always has been, and always will be (like the Boy Scouts) “always be prepared.” We’d even argue that this advice is not limited to those in transition.  When you are going into a meeting with a potential customer, be it a sales call or an interview for a job – heck, even a performance review with your boss BE PREPARED! Don’t try to wing it.  Don’t rely on what you think you know.  Don’t assume you know it.  

Here is a quick test (no cheating) that everyone, no matter what your current circumstance are, should be able to answer. 

Name your five biggest strengths. 

And don’t just rhyme off five skills words.  Seriously ask yourself what your five biggest strengths are.  I bet you can get a couple of these and with more time, you’ll get to five.  But when you are in the spot light and in the hot seat, you won’t have time to come up with them.  It would be like Wallenda trying to walk across that wire two years ago – which most people would advise against.

So, regardless of where you are in your career journey, here are three simple things to keep in mind:

  1.  Set a goal
  2. Make a plan
  3. Execute
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