Choose Your Future

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you will wind up somewhere else” – Yogi Berra

Consider this: There are a near-infinite number of possible futures for your business. Inherently, most of these possibilities aren’t very good. Virtually every one is not optimal. Why not choose to create one of the best possible futures for your business?

Choose your future? C’mon Steve. What do you mean, choose my future?

Yes. Choose your future.

The hard truth: You choose your future whether you want to or not.

Every time you do anything — yes, anything — you are affecting the course of your company’s future. Sometime’s these actions are as momentous as the CEO’s decision to cook the books; sometimes they are small gems, like the receptionist offering to hail a cab for a client in a snowstorm. In every case, they have an effect on the future. Take the receptionist’s action, for example. Like the apocryphal butterfly flapping its wings in South America and causing a hurricane half a world away six months later, this client’s view of the company has been altered by her small gesture. Maybe he’ll be in a better mood on the way to the airport, have a glass of wine during his snow-induced flight delay, and decide to award the next contract to your company. You never know what effect a tiny action can have…

Now, zoom out from single actions, and think about the cumulative effect of the thousands of things you do every day. Can any of us think, for even a moment, that the sum total of everything we do doesn’t affect the course of our business’s future? For example, if people in your company regularly ask customers for input and feedback, then just as regularly respond to that input and feedback, won’t that inevitably affect the future course of your business? Conversely, what if people in your company share a bad habit of ignoring customer input? I don’t even need to ask you if you think that would affect your future.

No matter whether you try or not, you inevitably choose your future. It might not be the future you really want, but your actions will choose it. Everything you do is an overt choice about the future you will have.

I wrote in a blog post recently about the film What the Bleep Do We Know? which connected one of the basic ideas of quantum physics — that the observer influences reality — with the choices we make in every day life. The film does a great job of showing how our minds influence our realities by affecting our worldview and the actions we take in response to that worldview.

What future do you want to choose?

So, if you’re going to choose your future, you might as well choose a good future. I’ll let you in on a consultant’s secret little observation: When I first meet most companies, it’s very clear to me that they haven’t spent a lot of time talking about what kind of future they want to have. Oh, sure, they’ve discussed their future… a bit. They may have a rough ongoing conversation about expansion into Europe, or about developing new products to meet new government regulations, or about someday going public. But, in virtually every case, their picture of their company’s future is fuzzy and unformed.

How often does your company ask, “Who do we intend to be?” How often does your senior team work together to create a clear, rich picture of your company’s optimal future? Or do they just muddle through and end up meeting an unexpected future when it arrives?

“Who do we intend to be?” is a question you should ask now and continue asking every day you are in business.

I wasn’t using the term “Invent Your Future” 25 years ago, at age 25, when I graduated from business school. But I was asking myself “Who do you intend to be?” on a pretty regular basis. I was a bit obsessive about choosing my future, and now that I’ve turned 50, it’s interesting to look back and see the future I chose for myself. I really wanted to be a dad, and now Arna and I have three wonderful kids, ages 23, 21 and 17. I wanted to play in a band, and now Shakshuka has been together for 15 years and released three CDs. (My 21-year-old son Levi is our drummer.) I wanted to have my own business, and I’ve been doing that for the past 12 years. I wanted to write a book, and now I’ve written two. I decided I didn’t want to take cholesterol-lowering medicine every day for the rest of my life, so I got myself in good enough shape to go off the medication. I did these things because they were important parts of the future I wanted for myself. I get frustrated sometimes when I think about all of the other things I haven’t done, but the reality is that I haven’t done them because I haven’t chosen to include them in my future. Our ability to accomplish things has less to do with skills and abilities and more to do with the choices we make. I just made certain choices that were important to me.

The Window and the Mirror

“But there are too many variables that affect our company’s future,” you might be thinking, “and we can’t affect them all.”

Of course there are many variables. Some of these variables are not in your control, such as interest rates in 2013. Other variables are in your control, like where to invest your capital.

To acknowledge the place where you have choice is to be enlightened -Amit GoswamiSo a first step in choosing your future is to recognize what is in your control and what is not. I like to think of this distinction as“The Window & The Mirror.”Know what is going on in your environment — outside the window — and understand it with great depth. Then, look into the mirror and say, “I understand what is going on out there, and here’s what I’m going to do to make the best of it.” When you acknowledge where you have choice, you are making a very important step in choosing your future.

You can’t choose all futures.

In his (fantastic, amazing, highly-recommended) book,Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely writes a wonderful chapter called Keeping Doors Open: How options distract us from our main objective. Ariely’s point is this: In our quest to leave too many possibilities in place, we end up diluting our efforts, our focus and our chances for success with any one option.

Isn’t this the truth! Virtually every company I’ve ever worked with (including my own) is in dire need of a “to-don’t list” that will keep them from being distracted. You just watch. When you commit yourself and your company to a focused future direction, you will enjoy much better “return on effort” with everything you do.

Don’t worry.
You can make mid-course corrections.

Yes, keeping too many doors open can distract you and dilute your efforts. But it’s very difficult to limit your options, because it’s natural to worry about the opportunity cost of the things you give up. Don’t worry about this opportunity cost too much. As the future becomes the present, you will inevitably learn new things about yourself, your company and the world you compete in, and it will be possible to alter your course. Your choice of a future can evolve as the future evolves.

The most important things are these:

  • Admit that you are choosing your future, every day, by the actions you take.
  • Be bold and choose a future.
  • Recognize what you can choose, and what you can’t choose. Distinguish between “the window and the mirror.”
  • Focus! Don’t leave too many options open.
  • Make mid-course corrections as you go forward.

You can invent your future, and to do that you must choose the future you want to invent.

Steve Yastrow

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Invent Your Future, Newsletters
2 comments on “Choose Your Future
  1. Dan Gunter says:

    Great thoughts, my friend. What I’ve learned over the years is that your intentions create your thoughts, and in turn your thoughts create your actions and reactions. If you know where you intend to go as an individual — or as a company — you will acquire and develop the skills needed along the way. You’ll build the right mental and physical infrastructure for it, so to speak. But no amount of knowledge or skill will bring success (for you or your clients) if they are not well rooted.

    Even the best map is no good if you don’t have a decent compass — and that compass consists of knowing what the heck it is you’re trying to accomplish and where you’re trying to get to over the long haul.

  2. ATIG says:

    Dear Steve,

    Infringements is not inadvertent at all, but a response to my disruptive strategic innovation.
    In fact, they use my patents and now they lies to all.

    This happens in all industries !

    About Infinite number of possible futures for my business.

    they root their client to … by doing such things!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to the Blog

On Steve's Mind
Get Steve's newsletter featuring his ideas and practical advice delivered to your email inbox.
* = required field
Latest Tweets
Craig Dwight
Steve’s approach to integrating all customer contacts into a comprehensive marketing message is a must in today’s information age. We have partnered with Steve to develop our integrated and comprehensive marketing message, and as a result of his excellent work, his new book is required reading for all of our employees.

Craig Dwight

Chairman & CEO, Horizon Bancorp
Rhoda Olsen
Steve Yastrow has clearly described the emotional reality of customer relationships and their impact on profitable business growth.

Rhoda Olsen

President, Great Clips for Hair
I give Steve two thumbs up—five thumbs up, if I had that many!

Roma Maxwell

Roma Maxwell, Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Marc Allen
We are absolutely better off after engaging Yastrow and Company. They helped us look at our business from our clients’ perspective, resulting in a cultural shift throughout our organization. These changes have made a big impact - we’ve gained new clients and strengthened relationships with existing clients. The investment was well worth it.

Marc Allen

Vice President of Sales, AMD Industries
Alex von Bidder
In these high pressure times of bite-size communications we all hunger to be listened to and cared for individually. Our customers know great hospitality, the kind that is not about selling but treating their needs as our highest priority. Steve Yastrow’s teachings are applicable to any business that values long-standing success based on personal relationships.

Alex von Bidder

Managing Partner, The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York
Chris Miller
I rarely book speakers more than once. But I’ve used Steve four times! Steve has our association’s interest at heart and works tirelessly to deliver customized programs. He always ranks highly with our affiliates because he is outcome-focused, fast-paced and highly engaging. Anyone looking for insight and understanding into marketing, branding and sales should book Steve!

Chris Miller

Executive Director, Professional Systems Network International
Jennifer Whelan
Our work with Yastrow and Company yielded the best long-term value of any consulting engagement we’ve ever had. As we grow and expand internationally, Acuative continues to depend on the branding approach and marketing tools Steve and his team developed. Yastrow and Company genuinely partnered with us, were exceptionally responsive and remain committed to our success.

Jennifer Whelan

Vice President of Marketing, Acuative
Mike Depatie
Steve Yastrow is at the forefront of the next evolution in marketing. We have implemented many of his innovative ideas... and have seen very positive results.

Mike Depatie

CEO, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
Jennifer Whelan
“Steve’s workshops helped bring out what is best at Acuative. His insights were fresh and long-lasting—we continue to use his tools and approach years later.”

Jennifer Whelan

Vice President of Marketing, Acuative
We have seen huge benefits from Steve's input. Steve is unlike any other consultant I've ever worked with. He takes a genuine, deep-seated interest in our business. He is intuitive and able to identify problem issues quickly. We wouldn't be as far along in acheiving of our long-term growth strategy if we hadn't actively and aggressively pursued Steve's Brand Harmony.

Michael MacDonald

Executive VP Sales and Marketing, American Licorice Co.
Tom Peters
When Steve Yastrow writes, I pay close attention.

Tom Peters

Founder, Tom Peters Company
Ward Alles
Steve Yastrow knows his stuff. That's why our management team has read all of his books. And that's why we've had him as a keynote speaker at both client and employee events. From creating brand alignment, to selling more effectively, to providing top-notch customer service, Steve offers words of wisdom based on real-life experiences. He always engages his audiences with questions, interactive exercises and great storytelling that keep you coming back for more. Read Steve's books. Then book Steve. You'll be glad you did.

Ward Alles

CEO, Core Creative
Rancho La Puerta has enjoyed continued success because of the work we did with Yastrow and Company. Together, we implemented business strategies that have contributed to our success. Steve and his team truly believe in our brand, and our experience with them was empowering, fun and a great learning opportunity. I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that needs help building the bottom line

Roma Maxwell

Roma Maxwell, Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Kathleen Phillips
Not only is Steve's content sound, but the energy he displays in delivering it will knock your socks off.

Kathleen Phillips

Ernst & Young, Chicago, IL
Ditch the Pitch is a great read-- interesting, fun, and easy to follow. And I’ve already seen the concepts work. Just yesterday, I called a client and had a conversation that was 95% about the client, as the book suggests. At the end of the call, he sent a new matter my way. I ditched the pitch and it resulted in new business.


Chicago, IL
David Sank
I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that is intent on enhancing their customer experience. Prior to working with Steve, we were communicating various messages to customers. Steve and his team helped us achieve a cohesive brand message that we as a company live daily. Steve is an incredible listener and learned the nuances of our business rapidly. I can’t imagine anyone Yastrow and Company couldn’t help.

David Sank

President and CEO, Calico Cottage
Steve put together a program that produced spectacular results, and the quality of our communication and customer satisfaction is vastly improved. I’ve been in business for 40 years, and Steve’s the first consultant that I’ve gotten my money’s worth from. We’re going to continue to work with Steve and the bright, energetic people that are on his team.

Jim Winter

COO, Dimension Design
Alex von Bidder
Steve Yastrow's teachings are applicable to any business that values long-standing success based on personal relationships.

Alex von Bidder

Managing Partner, The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York
Chris Tucker
Steve is a creative and collaborative speaker who communicates his ideas clearly and concisely. He immediately understood our business needs and provided a better perspective on how our customers see us as a company. I have referred Steve to our customers in the past and I will continue to do so. He’s intuitive and has a unique way of looking at business. Steve has the experience to turn a project into something extremely valuable for any organization. I strongly recommend working with Yastrow and Company.

Chris Tucker

Director of Business Development, MBX Systems
Doug Ducey
In one morning, Steve re-energized the way we look at marketing. The only question we had at the end of the session was, ‘When can we get him back?'

Doug Ducey

CEO & Chairman, Cold Stone Creamery, Governor of Arizona
Rancho La Puerta has enjoyed continued success because of the work we did with Yastrow and Company. Together, we implemented business strategies that have contributed to our success. Steve and his team truly believe in our brand. I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that needs help building the bottom line.

Roma Maxwell

Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Yastrow and Company introduced Brand Harmony and their Be the Brand concept to our team at Jenny Craig.  I believe these new ideas contributed in helping us triple the company's revenue during my years as CEO.

Jim Evans

former President and CEO, Jenny Craig