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Now that the year is hurtling towards its end and the weather has finally taken a turn for the cold and windy winter it should be, so I begin to look ahead. Before I do that, there is one last piece of my refuelling sessions that requires I write up the notes.

This is about the time I went on Safari, or a Fuel Safari to be exact. These are non-coaching coaching sessions led by Ian Sanders. The idea being that he helps individuals see where they’ve come from and the places they might go to. I’d enlisted Ian’s help to consider how I might grow Formation London in new ways.

Some background
I’ve done more than my fair share of pitches. Nowadays, I tend not to pitch for work, although I do a vast number of pitches for my clients because I’m good at making decisions and working out how to do things differently from those who live and breathe agency life.

Almost all of my clients come to me because someone else has recommended they do so, or because they know me from a previous piece of work. Of course, I write proposals, but I don’t do competitive pitches. Not only does it not feel right to get work through the pitch process, it’s also likely to cost me vast amounts of money for little gain. I sell value not product. Value is demonstrated by doing not by presenting.

Therefore, to get across my value I need to be working. This leaves little time to consider new business pipelines. So I need to be finding ways to do while demonstrating how I can help to prospective new clients. A tough one. Something I needed help with. Enter Ian.

Wandering to bring focus
Ian tells the story of the day better than I can – I was rather preoccupied with thinking, considering and articulating to concern myself with what a Fuel Safari is. The outcome of doing one, however, was by far the most rewarding of all the recent refuelling I’ve been doing. I inhaled until I could fill no more space in my creative lungs.

He showed me what was sitting in my blind spot – as the best external influences can. I was already doing the thing that I should be doing, it’s just I wasn’t articulating it to prospective clients or myself in any meaningful way.

Sell what you do. It’s simple, and yet I wasn’t able to see it for myself.

Ian helped me hit upon a couple of things that make me, well, me. I’m good with uncertainty; I handle it well and, if truth be told, I crave it. I’m the person who chucks in their job with nothing to go to, safe in my belief that something will turn up. I then set about making that something happen. This is a strength and not a weakness. This was to be a defining thought from the day: that I’m most alive when I don’t know what’s coming next.

During our walk, we talked about Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The relevance to our plans for the day related to an observation the author makes early in the book: when you travel by car your vision is framed by windows; a motorcycle, on the other hand, allows you to see more, to observe a wider frame of reference and be influenced by a lot more than what is happening straight ahead. It’s a mode of transport that forces the rider to consider more of what’s occurring in the environment and to weigh up a larger number of potential futures than those who drive in cars. There is no sleeping at the wheel happening on a motorbike for this reason.

It’s no accident that the book is an essay on quality. Forbes even had an article on why every entrepreneur should read it.

The future mapped out
Two clear objectives came out of the day, which I will be putting into practice in 2016. Right now, they are being mapped out on my trusty Artefact Cards, just as the initial thinking was with Ian, the two of us sat with tea at The Hospital Club.

At their core, these new objectives are designed to demonstrate value, which is what I deliver through my work. I can write and talk about it, but as Ian pointed out value is best shown by ‘doing’ and not by saying.

Initial feedback from the few people I’ve talked to about them has been overwhelmingly positive. Only a full workload for early January is holding things up. Over the next two weeks I’m going to be sitting down and investigating how to bring these new ideas to life. Not too deeply, though. They will evolve as they are meant to. Iteration, as I like to tell my clients, means you can’t wait for an idea to be fully formed. It must be tested first, things must be learned that help to improve it.

For now, here are the two thoughts:

  1. In Residence
  2. The Salon

That’s enough intrigue for now. It’s time to enjoy the last days of 2015 before I begin 2016’s exhale.

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