Sticking to Any Plan
by Steven M. Ledbetter
3 minute read
I live down the street from the headquarters of Twitter and have seen the company move headquarters a number of times all over my neighborhood of SOMA. Interestingly, the original idea for “twttr” was using SMS text messages to communicate to a small group, which Jack Dorsey prototyped and launched internally at his company Odeo in March of 2006. By October Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, and some others purchased Odeo and in April 2007, only 11 months after coming up with an idea, Twitter was spun off into its own company. A company with one small problem Evan Williams reflected on in 2013: With Twitter, it wasn’t clear what it was… There was this path of discovery with something like that, where over time you figure out what it is. Twitter actually changed from what we thought it was in the beginning.
No one at Twitter knew what the hell Twitter was, no one knew how it was going to make money, and no one knew what users were eventually going to do with it. But on the eve of their IPO, the company down the street from my apartment in SOMA is valued at about $12.8 billion.
Point A: “wouldn’t it be cool to send short messages to a group of people?”
Point B: 200 million users, 400 million daily tweets, and a $12.8bil valuation.
One Plan at a Time
Twitter started with a plan that involved sending messages to groups via SMS. Then it changed. Then it changed again. But there was always a plan and always a short-term goal: get users. Once users happened, then Twitter would figure out revenue and revenue would happen. One step at a time; one plan at a time to get to the next step.
Most people who are trying to improve their health and fitness jump from plan to plan, too. Some want to run a marathon, win a powerlifting meet, have 2% bodyfat, and jump between plans to reach all those disparate goals. Others just want to lose fat, but jump from diet to diet, training plan to training plan, all before ever really dedicating themselves to any one of them. The result is a lot of jumping and not a lot of fat loss, marathons, or powerlifting meets.
In his Intervention workshops, Dan John talks about the Navy Underwater Demolition Team’s mantra: “Plan the dive. Dive the plan. Discuss the dive.” This system only works if you actually dive.
Negotiating the Plan
When I work with my clients, I want to make sure they actually dive, so I negotiate the plan to make the dive so simple that they all but have to go on it. In medicine, this is called “concordance,” or sticking to a plan of action that is arrived at by the mutual agreement of all parties. As part of my goal of making each habit my clients embark on ridiculously easy, I lower the bar on the habit until my clients are 90-100% confident that they can do it. Then they do that habit and nothing else for 14 days. Not because there’s anything magic about 14 days (According to Lally et al. (2010) the magic number is 18-254 days and we might repeat the same habit for weeks until they are doing it consistently at least 80% of the time). However most people’s attention span for behavior change is about two weeks. They usually think, “hey, I’ll try anything for two weeks!” but I haven’t met many people who think the same about 6 months or a year.
Twitter stuck to their goal of getting as many users as possible for 4 years, and that plan took many forms. I doubt they knew it’d take that long, but when all you’re focused on is the next step, it doesn’t really matter: you just keep walking.