To Succeed, Just Follow This Six-Step Plan

Stuck trying to figure out what's next? Just start moving.
To Succeed, Just Follow This Six-Step Plan
Image credit: Nigel Parry
Magazine Contributor
Editor in Chief
5 min read

This story appears in the April 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You are six steps away from your goal. So am I. So is everyone. 

And I mean it! Regardless of our circumstances, career paths, or past accomplishments, we are all six steps away. But here’s the kicker: We can never see more than one step ahead.

This is a little mental trick I came up with recently as a way to help a friend of mine. He’s stuck in his career, working a job he hates but unsure of what to do next. “How do I know what direction to move in?” he asked me. Should it be music, which is his first love? Or tech, which he’s interested in? Or content production, which he’s developed a knack for? 

Related: The Best Way To Get What You Want? Focus On Your Customers' Needs.

He’s been asking me this for months. But because he can’t decide which step to take, he’s instead taken no step at all. He’s stayed in place. And so, in effect, he’s chosen to continue being miserable in his current job.

We’ve all suffered some version of this, haven’t we? We become paralyzed by opportunity. We fantasize about making a change but fear that our fantasy won’t match reality. It’s a torturous kind of paradox, really. We become trapped by our own escape plan.

As I grasped for a way to help my friend, I reflected upon how zigzagging my own path was. I moved between jobs that seemed unrelated to each other. There’s no way I could have planned it all out -- literally nobody, myself included, would have once predicted that I’d be running a magazine called Entrepreneur. And yet, the result is undeniable: I’m happy and fulfilled…and yet, at the same time, still have much more I want to accomplish.

That’s when it hit me. Nobody can see the pathway ahead of them. We’re all blind. But the people who succeed are the ones willing to walk in the dark anyway.

And so, I developed my theory of the six steps.

Related: The Best Employees Have Side Hustles -- Here's Why

It goes like this. Whatever you’re doing right now, let’s call it Step 1. And you’re desperate to know where Step 6 is, because that’s your goal. You think that Step 6 is ultimate happiness -- the end of the path, the big payoff, the place of glory! But…where is it? You can’t see it. Is it over there, to your left? A little to your right? You don’t know. And so you might feel frozen at Step 1, fearful that your next move could be the wrong one -- that it could move you away from Step 6.

But look closer: You actually can see something ahead. You can see one step ahead. That’s all you get; you can see Step 2. And is Step 2 amazing and perfect and satisfying? Nah. Maybe it’s an entry-level job, or a better-­but-not-perfect job, or a minimum viable product you could put out into the world, or the launch of a company you don’t know will succeed, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s just Step 2 -- it’s not supposed to be perfect.

So you take Step 2. And you learn from Step 2. You discover more about yourself and your path and what you want and what you love. And then, lo and behold, you can see one step ahead again! Now you see Step 3! You couldn’t have seen Step 3 back at Step 1, but you see it now because you’d moved to Step 2.

Related: Every Entrepreneur Has Imposter Syndrome. Here's Why We Need to Talk About It.

So you take the next step. And you repeat. And if you keep going, you’ll eventually reach Step 6 and discover that Step 6 isn’t actually the ultimate goal anyway -- because there is no ultimate goal. That’s why Jeff Bezos didn’t declare victory when Amazon became the world’s biggest company, or why Oprah wasn’t content hosting a hit daytime talk show. As we progress, new achievements seem possible. New goals take shape. Step 6, it turns out, is actually just the beginning of a new path.

This is how we move. This is how we succeed. We do it one step at a time -- learning and growing along the way, sure of nothing except the power of progress. Don’t know what direction to go in? Just pick one. Do it. Step. Move. Right now. You’ll learn so much, including which step to take next.

See you at Step 6. Which is to say: See you at Step 1.

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