What’s Your North Star AND Next Action?
Startup founders tend to live at the extremes, either 1) lost in the daydream of their grand vision or 2) tunnel-visioned on the day-to-day tasks. The most effective founders oscillate between both.
Here’s a painful truth about starting a new business. You can complete EVERY single item on your TODO list every single day for weeks/months/years/decades and still not get to where you want.
Here’s another painful truth about starting a new business. You can create the most fantastic vision of a new product or service but fail to get a single thing built or shipped to a paying customer.
I’ve seen and experienced both extremes. And yes, they both suck.
Both extremes are vital ingredients, but it can be challenging for many people to hold them in mind simultaneously.
I’m reminded of the cook on the PBS documentary The Carrier.
Go to a typical restaurant and ask the people in the kitchen what they do, and they’ll give you a list of TODOs. They prep the food. They take the orders. They clean the kitchen. Repeat tomorrow and the day after tomorrow into perpetuity.
Then watch the documentary and listen to the cook’s response. “I prepare food so that the soldiers are healthy and alert so they can fly the planes to beat the enemy to win the war.”
This cook was slicing potatoes, but he could see how his contribution rolled up to the mission of the Navy. He was knocking out TODOs, sure. But he could always see the connection to the grand vision.
This is what I mean by “North Star AND Next Action.”
When I talk with colleagues, I can see them losing connection with one extreme or the other. They will get so wrapped up in the grand vision but can’t define the next 1-5 tasks to get them moving in that direction.
Or they have a pile of 20-100 things to do, but they forget to keep checking in on whether or not these todos bring them any closer to their North Star.
Ensuring they can define both is essential to ensure they have direction and movement.
Movement without direction will lead you over a cliff.
Direction without movement will leave you in the same place forever.
Ask yourself regularly if you have clarity on both. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be, especially in tech, where things are constantly changing.
The North Star may change. The actions necessary to get there may change. But as long as you hold both in mind, you will keep updating your strategy and tactics to increase your overall odds of success.
So… what’s your North Star? And what are your next 1-5 actions?