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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Big ideas and small actions

Big ideas and small actions

January 30th, 2009

Complete larger projects one small step at a time

Career Opportunities podcast logoBig ideas and small actions
By Douglas E. Welch

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It is often our big ideas, our big plans, our big goals that sustain the energy of our career. This is especially true if we are not currently enjoying our job. Having plans, and working towards our goals, gives us a focus beyond the day-to-day grind that can sometimes be our reality. The problem is, of course, that big projects take a long time to come to fruition. What must you do in the meantime to maintain your income and lifestyle while striving for these bigger goals? The best advice I can offer is to break down your bigger projects into much, much smaller parts — parts that can be monetized quickly — but also parts that work towards the larger project.

I had a great discussion the other night at the LA Geek Dinner, a regular event which brings together 40-50 tech and tech-related folks for food, drinks and open discussion. Among this group I am beginning to see more and more people who are at the end of consulting contracts, looking for a new job or who have recently been laid off. Many of these people are the smartest and most motivated people in town, yet they are now faced with financial troubles as the economy slows. One major issue is that they have some amazing ideas and projects, but are wondering how they will pay the rent at the end of the month. They don’t want to stop pursuing their projects, but they need to find some immediate source of income. You can guess how frustrating this can be.

In talking with these people I tried to come up with some concrete ideas and methods that they could put in place today that would meet both goals. First, they need to look at all their big projects and find the 1 or 2 pieces that are most likely to create immediate income. While they truly want to produce large-scale technology expos, immediate income might be found in producing small, hands-on, high value training seminars. Large conferences and expos are fraught with problems regarding venues, sponsors, speakers and more. Sure, there is the possibility for much bigger profits from a large conference, but many people don’t have the time for such a major project to come to fruition.

Now, I am not saying you should stop pursuing these larger goals. In fact, in the example above, I think the smaller projects not only yield immediate income, they are also building blocks that allow you to build relationships and an audience for the bigger show, whenever that might occur. You are simultaneously working towards both your short and long term goals. This is extremely important, as I believe that you need to be in a good position personally before you can extend yourself and help others. You need to have your financial house in order, at the most basic level, before you can assist others in doing the same

Done correctly — by using small projects to build larger ones — you may be able to achieve goals that might otherwise be set aside. If you have to choose between being homeless and working towards a larger project, the project will fail. If, on the other hand, you can work steadily towards that larger project, while still maintaining your daily stability, you increase the chances of larger success dramatically. Working on smaller projects might initially seem like a failure, but it is the engine that drives the larger machine — as long as you do you best to develop smaller projects that truly lead towards the larger.

Today I want you sit down and look at those awesome goals you have set for yourself. These goals should be big, difficult, even scary in their scope. That is one way of knowing they are worth achieving. Then, for each project, tease out the most basic goals within this larger one.

For example, the larger goal might be to bring the power of New Media to everyone (my over-arching goal for New Media Interchange). I want to get to a point where I am reaching out to hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of people with this project. That said, I also know that the support for this project, and the way to have the most effect, is to focus on individuals. It is also important to focus on hard skills that people need to make New Media.

This means that I must also focus on showing individuals the useful, entertaining and exciting new media already available, so that the audience for this media continues to grow. Then I must focus on training people how to create their own media — audio/video recording, web sites, RSS feeds, social media. There, then is the smaller project which supports the larger goal. As a computer consultant, I know how to teach people and allow them to integrate technology into their lives and work. Each person, each small group I touch through my personal consulting, training sessions and seminars is a potential member of New Media Interchange. In fact, once educated, these same people can assist me in my larger goal, by helping others, both on a free and professional basis.

What big goals do you want to achieve? How can you support yourself while achieving them? Look to the small, yet important parts that make up your larger goals and use them achieve both immediate and future success.

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