Know Your Starting Point

Know Your Starting Point is the first of the Five Golden Rules for Effective Action.

Let me start with a question:
Did you ever get lost with only a map in your hand? It is clearly difficult to find your way home without knowing where you currently are.

How long will it take to get home?
Which direction do you need to turn?
Will there be a gas station on the way?

Start hereWithout knowing where you are, it is obviously quite impossible to answer these questions. Quite often when two parties are not happy with how a project is handled, it is rarely because they disagree about the goals. They usually don’t concur with the means, because they perceive the situation differently.

Think politics for a second. Different candidates often have mutual goals but totally disagree on the ways to achieve these. Why is that? One reason is because they significantly disagree on the current status. Governing and opposing parties all over the world commonly fundamentally disagree on what the current situation is, and as a consequence they have to disagree on what needs to be done to change it.

If you ever read a business plan or had to write one yourself then you know how important it is to describe the current situation, which usually directly leads to an explanation of why the business is needed or what the business will do to stand out. Assessing the current situation is common for planning of major endeavors. The accuracy and level of detail that is invested into assessing the current situation can be a major factor for success or failure. Please note, there is no difference for smaller sized tasks.


Example 1:

Sustainable weight loss is such a good example, because failure and success are so close together. What might look like a success after four weeks, may turn out to be a failure after eight. One reason may be that often only  a desired weight loss is considered when starting out. In other words, many start with their initial weight, an end weight, and a rough diet duration in mind. However, along with the initial weight come habits of convenience, like TV snacks, midnight visits to the fridge, a love of cheese and bacon, a need for soda and/or several other habits. With the right diet it may be possible to reach the weight goal in a certain time, but does that goal include eliminating all the bad habits? There may also be counterproductive family members. Will everyone in the family stay supportive even beyond the desired weight loss? All these factors need to be considered when starting out. It also requires quite some honesty (Rule 3) to be clear about personal weaknesses and possible risk factors that may become a problem for long-term success.


Example 2:

I am pretty sure everyone one of us had at least once started something new super motivated and then lost interest after a while.  Well, that is part of life and the possibility of not succeeding should never be the reason for not starting something new. On the other hand it is sad if we stop doing something that we initially liked because there was no time, which is a favorite reason for almost everything. If there  was no time initially then why weren’t we aware of the time constraints when we started out? We could have tried to free up more time early enough to make sure we can continue. Well, often time is just an excuse for quitting, because it’s not convenient to continue. Let’s say we are  aware of that risk when we start and would like to make sure we don’t quit piano lessons, then we could for example pay all lessons for one quarter in advance. The invested money could be a strong enough incentive for not quitting.


To Know Your Starting Point for anything you are planning to do, means exactly knowing your situation at start and all the ballast that is already there. This is the basis for successful planning and can prevent unrealistic expectations or disappointment.


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