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Make It Happen
Career Management and Work-Life Balance

November/December, 2004, number 4

Whether you are actively looking to change your job, have just left, or are merely exploring the possibility, this newsletter can help. It is a supplement to Leaving the Mother Ship, and is designed to share additional suggestions and ideas. Please forward it on to others who you think may benefit!

This is the last issue of 2004. Next year, we will be changing our editorial calendar slightly, and publishing at the beginning of each month. The first issue will look more closely at New Year's resolutions that work, and the impact of attitude on your success.

1) Risky Business
2) Mission-Strategy-Tactics: Answering the question "what next"
3) Press Coverage
4) Product News: Workbook and Coaching Credits
5) Ask Randall (When is too late to start over, The resume problem)
6) Reader Feedback
7) Career Tutorials and Career Management Action Course
8) Keep Make It Happen Alive

1) Risky Business

Do you consider yourself risk-averse? Do you find yourself becoming more and more conservative, as the years go on? It is a natural behavior to shy away from danger, but do we sometimes spend our time imagining the danger to be far worse than the reality? Last issue, we began the discussion on risk. In this issue, we suggest an easy three-step model that you can use when you are face to face with it.

1) Define: When presented with something that you consider "risky", ask yourself (and write down): "What's the worst that can happen?"

2) Pre-empt: Then write down at least two ways to avoid the risk in the first place. (Other than not doing it!)

3) Mitigate: Finally, write down at least two ways to reduce the impact if the "worst" occurs.

Let's say your dream has been to open a bed and breakfast in the country, but you've always hesitated because you've feared it was too risky. How do you use this model?

1) Define: What's the worst that can happen...
- The business will fail, and I will lose all of my savings. I will have to sell my house, and move in with friends or family.

2) Pre-empt: Avoid the risk by...
- taking a part-time job at a small hotel to learn the business.
- interview 5-10 bed and breakfast owners to find out how they got into the business, and what they would do differently if they had to do it all over again.
- subscribe to trade magazines, to understand the issues and trends in the business.
- consider taking on a partner to share the investment.

3) Mitigate: Reduce the impact if the worst occurs...
- prepare a to-the-bone personal budget.
- write out a list of others that you might go to for financial help, either for the business, or for yourself.
- don't invest everything in the business - keep a bit separate to finance a job search.

This process defines concrete steps to shed light into what we might otherwise consider risky business. But if you are "blessed" with an over-active imagination, why not channel it productively? Consider: the imagination that can see so many dangers and risks, is the same imagination that fuels your creative side. On the personal side, can it be used in a hobby, such as art or music? Professionally, you can use this strength to come up with creative solutions to your challenges.

2) Mission-Strategy-Tactics: Answering the question "what next"

The most successful businesses have successfully figured out how to bridge strategy to tactics. They use words like mission, vision, core principles, and company values. In the same way the constitution frames the country's legal system, so do these overarching statements frame how the organization operates. Or at least how the senior management thinks it should operate. (Reality check: Can you even remember your organization's mission statement? Don't worry, most people can't.)

If you were in charge of your organization, could you do better connecting mission to strategy to tactics? The more confident (or maybe arrogant) amongst us would answer "yes" immediately. Those who have been beaten down quite often would answer "no" immediately. And many others would answer "why should I care?"

Let's hold off answering this last question, and consider the possibility of applying the mission-strategy-tactics model at a personal level: can it be done? The answer is emphatically yes. In fact, doing so helps you address the question "what next".


Just as a corporate mission defines the core values of an organization, a personal mission defines how you approach your challenges. It underlies your strategy, and helps guide you in your decision-making. It can be communicated in a paragraph, a motto, or a page. Whatever the form, your mission must be personally meaningful. Unlike a big corporation's mission statement, your personal mission statement need only be understood by you.

How do you "come up" with one? Here are several ideas; it could be...

  • based on a personal moral code or tenets ("To be a good _____")
  • based on how you look at life ("To never give up...")
  • based on personal achievement ("To make a significant difference doing________", " To be the best at ______")
  • based on a motto that holds special personal meaning.

Another way to define your personal mission statement is to consider the concepts in the Personal Balance Sheet (Chapter 8). Is there an underlying principle that ties together your goals in each of the seven areas? Although this is a morose thought, imagine someone delivering your eulogy. What would they say? "All so-and-so's life, she was defined by her ________________, in everything she did."


The most important aspect of setting your strategy, whether it be corporate or personal, is that it be directional, not goal-oriented. The reason for this is simple: if your strategy is goal-oriented, once a goal is achieved, you no longer have a strategy. If the goal is directional, by definition you can always go further.

The easiest way to set a strategy for yourself is to start with the Personal Balance Sheet. For each of the seven dimensions (Community, Family, Intellectual, Spiritual, Physical, Financial, and Career), write down one or two directional statements. Here is an example, for Community:

Wrong: I will use my skills in marketing to raise $500,000 for the _________ charity.
Right: I will use my skills in marketing to help the _________ charity with fundraising.

If it is tough writing these directional statements without setting a specific goal, then use a long-term goal - one that can only be achieved in five-plus years.


Converting Strategy to Tactics is exceptionally difficult for larger organizations. Many people are involved in formulating, gaining consensus, and then approving the strategy. A second group of people is charged with developing the tactics. And sometimes a third group - the front line - has to live with it. Think about your own organization: have you ever been at the receiving end of what you think is a "bone-headed" idea? If so, these gaps might be why "bad" ideas arise. (Of course, it might just be a bone-headed idea from a bone-headed individual!)

Converting Strategy to Tactics at the individual level is very, very simple, as there is only one person to worry about: you. Once again, the Personal Balance Sheet provides a precise roadmap. There are two steps required to developing your tactics: Committing to an achievable goal, and devising an action plan.

Let's continue with the "Community" example from above. Remember, first write down the goal, and then the provisional action plan. (Of course, the third, and most important step, is to DO the Action plan.)

Goal: Within three years, I will chair the fundraising committee at the Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Action Plan:

1) Volunteer at a fundraising event.
2) Determine the make-up of the committee, including who the current chair is, how to get on the committee.
3) Determine the types of fundraising that is done (eg corporate, personal, events, etc)
4) Ask to be on the committee, either directly, or through a 3rd party.
5) Volunteer to a leadership position within the committee.
6) etc.
7) etc.
8) Get appointed to chair the fundraising committee

There is a very important benefit in defining Strategy and Tactics this way. Since your goals are set within the framework of your overall strategy, once your goals are met, your strategy remains valid. In the case of the Community example above, once this person has become the fundraising chair, then their next step is to set a new goal - perhaps to raise the charity's community profile.

Your task: for each of the Personal Balance Sheet dimensions, consider your Goals, and your Action Plan.

Potential Pitfalls

  • Sometimes we are so keen to get on with it, we busy ourselves with activities that are peripheral or non-focused. Remember: First the Strategy, then the Tactics.
  • Don't get hung up on developing your personal mission statement. Start with something temporary, then work on your strategy. Once your strategy is set, then circle back to the mission; maybe there is an underlying theme that can be abstracted? If nothing is apparent, then work on your Goals and Action Plans, and circle back again. If nothing is apparent at this point, stick with your temporary mission statemenet, then revisit it in several months - but don't stop pressing ahead on your action plans.
  • What if a tremendous opportunity drops on your lap, but it is "off-strategy"? Should your strategy change? Should you disregard the opportunity? Since you actually have a strategy, you can properly evaluate the opportunity against it.

Timing issues

How often should all of this be re-evaluated? While each person's situation is unique, here are several guidelines:

1) Review your strategy and mission statement every two years, or upon significant life change.

2) As each goal is achieved, set a new one.

3) As each item on the Action Plan is completed, fine-tune the remaining action items.


A fundamental concept in Leaving the Mother Ship is that career planning always takes place in the context of your personal objectives, and not the other way around. In other words, first we do the Personal Balance Sheet, and then we look at the Job Quality Checklist. The Mission-Strategy-Tactics model works so well because it also puts your decision-making in context: first your Mission, then your Strategy, and then your Tactics. It also works so well because it helps answer the question: "what next".

Particularly if you are frustrated by some of the corporate disconnects between the Mission-Strategy-Tactics, take on the challenge of going through the process for yourself.


During the last month, Leaving the Mother Ship has had a tremendous amount of publicity. Here's a small sampling:

50 ways to leave your job (Town Crier, November 1, 2004)
Journalist Paul Hutchings weighs in with a great article on the book.

On-air interview (City-tv, Breakfast Television, November 10, 2004)
Liza Fromer asked Randall a number of questions about managing your career, then answered viewers' questions on-air.

Jumping ship... (National Post , FP Entrepreneur cover story , November 15, 2004)
Randall was interviewed about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and how to deal with some of the challenges.

Amazon.ca sales ranking #159 : We are very proud of the fact that Leaving the Mother Ship was ranked 159 during mid-November 2004. A high ranking indicates tremendous interest in the book, especially considering there are over 1 million other books in their system. Thank you to all who either purchased the book or recommended it to others.


Workbook: A number of people have commented that Leaving the Mother Ship is exceptionally useful, but it would be easier if all of the forms, templates, and other resources were readily available. As well, there have been a number of practical ideas that didn't make it into the Book, but did make it into the Workbook. The workbook might make the difference between your success and failure -- the extra material and forms will certainly save you time.


  • 14 Worksheets, organizers, guides, and resources
  • Resume Organizer includes how to build your mini-bio and elevator pitch.
  • Filling in the Gaps worksheet provides a prioritized checklist of all action plan activities, in one place.
  • Business Plan Organizer provides details as to what you should do after the plan is complete.

The Workbook is not sold through stores: it is only available at our seminars or online at the following URL: http://www.leavingthemothership.com/store/index_wb.html

Coaching Credits: Access to an unbiased, independent source of career and business counseling. Coaching provides you an experienced mentor who has only one interest in mind: yours. Randall provides personalized coaching for a limited number of clients each month. Each coaching session is 30 minutes long, and can cover any number of relevant topics, including:

  • Mentorship on situational issues (examples: severance, reduced work schedule, conflicts of interest.)
  • Leaving the Mother Ship: Prioritization and Planning.
  • Playing Devil's advocate to your plans.
  • How to identify and mitigate risks during change.
  • Negotiating strategy: severance, job offers, suppliers.
  • Job search strategy.
  • Interview role-playing.
  • Resume review.
  • Entrepreneurial issues: managing growth, finding partners.
  • Business Plan review.
  • New business start-up coaching.
  • Creative Brainstorming.
  • Completely open agenda: You ask, Randall answers.

Go to http://www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com/coaching for more details.


I'm in my late forties, and have three years to go before I can retire with a pension. I hate my job, but think I should stay until I get the pension. Is it too late to start over? What kind of company would want to hire someone like me? I am a laborer, and don't have any post-secondary education.

It might not seem so, but you are really in an enviable position. On one hand, you may be able to retire in your early 50's, something that many people only dream of. On the other hand, you have another 15+ years of productive working years left.

Think about it: how different is your situation from an 18 year old who is worried about the next 15-20 years?  They certainly don't have post-secondary education, and they certainly don't have your life experience.  There are plenty of examples of people who decided to "retool" themselves later in life. An uncle of mine, for example, went back to school at the age of 62.

Let's assume that you are not interested in completely retiring. With 15 years of work life ahead of you, you should be able to get a good return on any educational investment that you make. And with an early pension, what you do can be governed more by what you WANT to do, not what you HAVE to do. The real question is what "stuff" should you be doing between now and then. The answer is that yes, education is one of those things, but there are quite a few others as well. One thing is for certain: if you do nothing, then don't expect to feel any different several years from now - or 10 years from now.

Here are a few things that you should do to start:

  • Re-read Part III of the book: Success beyond the Mother Ship.
  • Go back, and do the Reality Check Interviews. This will give you concrete ideas about where and how to focus your educational investment.
  • Fill out the Gap analysis chart. With such a big change coming up, you need to position yourself to succeed. This chart can help.
  • Did we mention about filling out the Gap analysis chart?

I'm dying to move onwards with my career, but my family thinks I should stay where I am. What can I do or say to convince them?

Family pressures come in all shapes and sizes. For example, the child who is "expected" to work in the family business. The husband who doesn't want his wife to have a higher paying job than him. The wife who doesn't want her husband to take a job that involves travel. The parent who thinks that you should be doing better than you are. And so on.

Let's assume that your family has your best interests at heart. (If this isn't the case, then you need counselling, not career coaching.) Think about it: you are asking them to wear your shoes, and support a decision that you'd like to make. Instead, why not wear their shoes, and try to understand their perspective? What reasons might they have for wanting you to stay? Here are a few possibilities:

  • They are concerned for you in case you fail.
  • They are risk-averse, and think you should be too.
  • They don't understand why you want to make the change.
  • They don't think you're qualified for the new role.
  • They are afraid of the impact it will have on themselves or the family.
  • They don't want you to make an impulsive decision.

Once you have thought through it from their perspective, then you can form a plan to address each of their concerns properly. It isn't a question of convincing your family of the rightness of your perspective and the wrongness of theirs: the issues that are raised might make the difference between your success and failure later on.

While every situation is completely different, and very personal, here are some underlying principles that might help you:

1) Keep the communication lines open: without communications, there can be no understanding. Remember that you can only learn when you are listening to the concerns and ideas of others. (So don't be the one who is always talking!)

2) Process: Make sure that you are following a process. Our process is outlined in the Leaving the Mother Ship Book/Workbook, and developed further in our Career Management Action Course. Don't scrimp or take shortcuts on process, because it undermines your credibility with your family, and increases your risk of failure.

3) Process education: Use the process materials to walk your family through all of the work that you have done to come to your current thinking. Help them understand the feedback you received from the Reality Check Interviews and other diagnostic tools. Whether they agree with your conclusions or not is less important than showing them that your thinking is well-considered and logical.

4) What can you do to address their specific concerns. Is it family time issues? Financial concerns? If you are asking them to make some compromises, might there be some that you would be willing to make as well? Are there ground rules that all can agree to, if/when the change happens?

5) Enlist their support: Involve them in your career planning. Can they help you work on your job acceptance criteria? Maybe play a role in some research for a new industry that interests you? Help you start a new business? They know you best, and they will be the ones that you rely on to keep steady.


We need your feedback! How have you used the ideas from Make It Happen and Leaving the Mother Ship? Do you have any tips that others would find useful? Let us know your favorite article, and why. And what topics would you like covered in future editions? Let us know at feedback@LeavingTheMotherShip.com.


Career Tutorials: These are two hour, no-cost sessions designed to kickstart the career planning process for those serious about making a change for the better in their life. The evening is highly interactive: people learn more from "doing" things than just passively listening. The focus of the evening is career planning in the context of Work-life balance. Participants leave the tutorial with notes, along with a copy of the Personal Balance Sheet Action Planner. Note: this tutorial is a pre-requisite for the Career Action Management Course.

The dates (and registration information) for the tutorials are always available on the www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com home page. The Tutorials are scheduled on either Tuesday or Thursday evenings starting at 6:30pm sharp, although there is a modified schedule during the holiday season. If you liked the book, take the next step and sign-up for the tutorial!

Career Management Action Course: This seven-module course uses an innovative combination of self-paced exercises, private review sessions with the instructor, and an interactive workshop to help drive real change. Course objectives include:

  • To focus your personal career objectives.
  • To define both mid-term career planning and short-term job direction.
  • To identify barriers that prevent you from achieving your goals, and design a plan to address them.
  • To provide practical answers for specific-to-you career challenges. (eg addressing manager feedback, deciding when to change tracks, understanding the role of education, etc.)
  • To start developing a pro-active support network: friends, family, workmates, coursemates, and your manager.
  • To provide a framework for career decision-making in the context of an appropriate work-life balance.
  • To develop more focus, direction and the drive to get things done.

Course details are available at www.leavingthemothership.com/keynotes/index.html#3, or by emailing workshop@LeavingTheMotherShip.com. The workshop by itself can also be delivered to employees as part of a company-sponsored career-planning or outplacement initiative.


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Copyright 2004 Knowledge to Action Press and Randall Craig. All rights reserved.

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