Being Brave

Being Brave

Lisa O'Neill

Lisa O'Neill

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As an ‘action addict,’ I am allergic to procrastination. One of my life philosophies is that there is nothing more painful than regret, I think regret is more painful than failure.


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One of the problems with being clever is that you have a lot of options. You have a huge number of possibilities. This might look like a good thing, but in my experience of working with clever people, it causes a lot of procrastination – and at the risk of being dramatic, I would say causes commercial paralysis!

As an ‘action addict,’ I am allergic to procrastination. One of my life philosophies is that there is nothing more painful than regret, I think regret is more painful than failure.

One of my favourite parts of the Thought Leaders curriculum is the cluster strategy.

It teaches us to ‘fail fast’. It encourages students to test their commercial hypothesis and experiment every 90 days with an offering to a market.

The concept is really simple. You take something you know, offer it to someone who might benefit from it and deliver it in a way that both you and them prefer.

What do you know?
Clever people know a lot. If you are a clever person who has had a few birthdays, then you will have also have done a lot! This combination of your expertise and your experience, creates a sweet spot. This awareness will lead you to a market that could benefit from your unique combination of what you know, and what you have done.

Who could you help?
Who are the people, businesses, and industries that could benefit from a little bit of you? Where have you been, who have you met, who do you love to be around? Spending time thinking about who you want to work with rather than just who you could work with is useful.

Who do you know?
Start with the group that you know the most people in. Being known to an industry is a huge bonus. You set yourself up for success when you sell to an audience that you already have some experience and credibility with. At the beginning of this game, students try and tell me that they know no one. This is simply not true. You have past colleagues, friends, family, friends of family, family of friends…. You have loads of people in your world that you have not even considered the possibilities they could create for you. List the people you know personally, professionally, past, present and future. Mine your inbox, your phone contacts and your social media for all the people that you know and who know you.

What do you want?
What do you want to be an expert in? What do you want to be known for? Who do you want to be known by? Taking some time to create a ‘want’ list about what you really want in your practice, life and world is an important planning and visualisation exercise. Then, as my very sensible Mother taught me “do what you have to, then you get to do what you want to…” Do what you need to do right now. Write the blog, set up the meeting, sell something boring, collect some cash flow. If you keep doing these things, you will create the conditions where you get to live a life by design. You literally get to do what you want, when you want with who you want. At Business School, my favourite meme is ‘work you love with people you like, the way you want” – how good is that!?

What does the world need?
This is the last but very important question to ask yourself when deciding on the right cluster to launch. Often the only difference between a good idea and a bad one is timing. Considering what the world needs is how you make sure that your work is relevant. The most commercially smart people I know give the world what they need, not what they want to deliver. This is about being open and aware of the needs of your community, your people and the industries that you serve. One of my idols is fashion editor, Diana Vreeland. She famously said “You’re not supposed to give people what they want, you’re supposed to give them what they don’t know that they want yet.” Clever people who are commercially smart know what their clients need and want before they do. Spend time thinking about the world, about the problems that people are dealing with and how you can help.

Creating clusters is fun. Launching clusters is brave. We need to stop being scared of the unknown and start being more scared of never knowing.

Lisa O’Neill

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