Claim Victory with Consistent Forward Progress

As I watched my beloved Packers win this year's Super Bowl, I must have been in work mode. Instead of analyzing the ads like I usually do, I spent the time-outs and commercial breaks making analogies between football and The Writer's Life.

My creative mind was going 85 miles an hour.

Even if you're not a football fan, applying these five surefire strategies and action items to your career will help you move forward.

Commit to excellence with these ideas, and you'll be truly unstoppable.

Strategy # 1: Have a clear game plan

You probably know what your ultimate objective is, right?

Maybe you have a first goal of just finishing the Accelerated Program. Or you're dreaming of being a six-figure copywriter. Or a web copywriting expert like Nick Usborne, with multiple money-making websites. Or a self-publisher like Gary Scott, splitting your time between homes in different hemispheres.

But do you know exactly how you're going to get there?

Rebecca pointed out recently that a perfect cure for procrastination is to have a clear plan, and I agree. A big part of what holds us back is not knowing exactly what to do on any given day.

It reminded me of the last time the Packers won the Super Bowl, after the 1996 season. That year coach Mike Holmgren would script the first 20 plays of every game ahead of time. Every player knew exactly what to do without thinking. It built their confidence, got them off to a fast start, and led to victory 13 of 16 times that season.

Action item # 1: Write out a detailed plan for what you want to accomplish. I like long-term goals, but for this I wouldn't go any further than 90 days out. Break down your goal into bite-size, manageable chunks. Write it down, then do it without thinking, like the '96 Packers did.

TIP: If you're trying to figure out what your niche will be, check out Pam Foster's Niche Yourself and Thrive! Pam does a brilliant job of walking you through a system to start attracting your ideal clients faster.

Strategy # 2: Mix up your activity

What I mean by this is, schedule time for more than just writing.

This came to me as I watched both the Steelers and Packers do a great job of mixing their rushing and passing games.

In our cases, we need to balance our activity based on where we are in our writing career. If you've just finished the Accelerated Program, you may want to spend more time on self-promotion. On the other hand, if you've been marketing yourself and are suddenly flooded with projects, you'll need to devote most of your time to writing.

Action item # 2: Plan 3 types of activities into your schedule – writing, self-promotion, and professional development. Where you are in the mix will depend on where you are in your career. Divide them up accordingly.

Strategy # 3: Make consistent forward progress

There's a concept in football called "forward progress". It's when a player advances the ball forward, but then is pushed back by the defense, sometimes as much as 4-5 yards. The referee credits him with "forward progress" and marks the ball at the furthest point forward he got to before getting pushed back.

(By the way, as a writer, you no doubt noticed that the term "forward progress" is redundant. Have you ever heard of "backward progress"?)

We need a ref sometimes to give us "forward progress"!

See, we tend to beat ourselves up over lack of achievement. Yet in reality, even when it seems like we're moving one step forward, two steps back, we're actually making progress.

Realize that with every push forward you're making progress. Every time you get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself, you're advancing your career. Even if you feel like you've gotten "pushed back" – you have made forward progress! The line of scrimmage has moved up, and you are marching down the field toward a touchdown. (Okay, I'll tone it down with the football references. I'm a little excited after the Super Bowl win.)

Action item # 3: Do something every day to move your career forward. Whether it's working on a project, completing a spec assignment, becoming a Social Media Expert, sending out a self-promotion letter, everything works to advance you.

Strategy # 4: Forget about perfection

This was one of the other four "buckets", or excuses, Rebecca talked about a few weeks back.

There's a tendency to want to wait until you have everything perfectly in place before launching your business. Or to take one more class, or go through one more program to make sure you're ready.

Look, unless you're already an A-level copywriter, you're not going to be perfect. And no one expects you to be.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected on only 24 out of 39 passes. Not bad, but hardly perfection. And he won the Super Bowl MVP!

Action item # 4: Do the thing you fear! Find one thing that you know you should do, that would help your career, but intimidates you. Write it down. Then, find a way to do it in the next 30 days. No matter how audacious it seems.

TIP: Some "out-there" ideas – Send a self-promotion letter to your dream client. Take one whole day to finish a program, and implement a money-making idea from it the next day. Give a speech to a business or civic group about the art of copywriting. Hire a writing coach.

Here's the point: Stop testing the waters, and dive in the deep end. You can learn on the job if you have to, right?

Strategy # 5: Consider a half-time review

I simply mean this: evaluate your performance.

You think Coach Mike McCarthy didn't evaluate the Packers at half-time?

If you worked for a boss, you'd get evaluated, wouldn't you?

Action item # 5: Give yourself a performance review at least twice a year.

("Half-time" is July 1), or my preference – quarterly.

In this self-guided review, find out what you're doing right, and what you could be doing better. If you're honest with yourself, it will reveal whether you need to change course or keep pressing forward.

And while you're at it, give yourself a good half-time pep talk.

Legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said,

"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."

Commit to these five strategies with consistent steady effort. Give it a little extra push wherever possible (for that forward progress).

All it takes to call yourself a professional and claim victory is a few "scores". That could be finishing the Accelerated Program. Getting your first client. Writing your first control-beating piece (serious victory there!)

Here's to your success and unwavering forward progress.

Press on.

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Published: February 16, 2011

2 Responses to “Claim Victory with Consistent Forward Progress”

  1. Steve,

    Thanks for an excellent write-up.

    I think it is important, however, to learn how to distinguish between excellence and perfection.

    We must strive to pursue excellence, but avoid perfection. We are not perfect. After all, we are deeply flawed human beings. That imperfection is what makes us beautiful, unique, eccentric, individuals.

    I am thinking of Woody Allen after having this epiphany, by the way.

    We, your readers, appreciate your timely reminder. Have a good one. Cheerio.

    Archan Mehta

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