Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Strategy of "Dude, Let's Try This!"

I started reading Erika Andersen's book, Being Strategic: Plan for Success, Out-think Your Competitors, Stay Ahead of Change earlier this week. I've taken some of her ideas and started experimenting with them in context of everyday life. Since I'm always interested in the thoughts of the Subject Matter Experts in my trusted network, I've asked my friend Jackie (of CDK Creative and The Powder Keg of Awesome podcast fame) about how she approaches strategy. I was stunned by her simple approach to strategy:

"Dude, Let's Try This!" 

"Is that it?" I thought. I thought there were some highly-detailed, complicated matrix involved in seeing the greater picture and charting a path to success. I wasn't expecting a strategy which seemed simple, yet obvious. But "Dude, Let's Try This!" strategy worked for The Powder Keg of Awesome, which is still going some 68 episodes and 16 months later. During this time, the podcast often featured published authors, thought leaders, and other interesting special guests. And it all started with "Dude, Let's Try This!"

After taking a moment to recollect, I've realized that key moments in my life also began with "Dude, Let's Try This!" approach, even if I hadn't realized them at time. When the training wheels on my bicycle fell off, I discovered that I could ride my bike without falling down and scraping my knees. It was a liberating moment for a four-year-old. The idea of getting off my bike and pushing it all the way home, just because the safety net broke, didn't cross my mind. When I discovered and tried new types of leafy greens in grocery stores, the "Dude, Let's Try This!" approach introduced me to the world of arugula, endive, and radicchio (goodbye, iceberg lettuce). When I missed turns while bicycling to a destination, trying alternate routes led to discoveries of many off-the-beaten-path eateries, small shops, gardens, and other attractions. Good thing I didn't frantically consult a road map after missing turns (these moments of serendipity mostly happened before the age of smartphones and Google Maps).

"Dude, Let's Try This!" approach also happened during social gatherings. Over a decade ago, some friends and I decided to go on a dining adventure. We had mostly visited predictable destinations--like diners or pizzerias--during our previous outings, but this time we decided to check out a Lebanese restaurant in the Belmont neighborhood. We didn't know much about the cuisine, except for the ubiquitous hummus and falafel. One of the friends, who happened to be in his late teens at the time, had never tried Mediterranean food before. We ordered many small plates to share, discovered the tasty qualities of Lebanese cuisine, and had a great evening. We made return trips afterward.

As a music enthusiast, I realized that about 99 percent of bands and artists I listen to probably got their start with "Dude, Let's Try This!" approach. I highly doubt that these musicians were awaiting approval from some so-called authorities before making things happen. All of my musical activities started after I adopted a "Dude, Let's Try This!" strategy and started composing music on a four-track cassette recorder, a secondhand synthesizer, and an underpowered Macintosh computer back in 1992. The songs I wrote were awful, but the experience of doing things opened up many opportunities in the future. I've met other musicians, music fans, event curators, and future collaborators after I made things happen.

The "Dude, Let's Try This!" strategy opens doors to exploring new opportunities. I probably logged about 80 miles on the elliptical machines at the gym during the past year. Could these endurance exercises translate to taking on a new challenge? I'll find out when I participate in my first organized run ever--a 6K course--next weekend.

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