Want something? Then stop trying to get it.

All of us here have one thing in common:

We’re trying to get things.

Perhaps we’re trying to get more customers.
Or a new listing.
Or a better relationship.
Or spiritual enlightenment.

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter.  Because the way of getting something – anything – is always the same:

Be the sort of business (or person) who gets it.

This point is subtle, and perhaps hard to intuitively grasp at first – but it is so very very important.  It is the essence of effective strategy.

Let me illustrate it with an example from my own work.

A couple of years ago, I was a guest on the podcast of the brilliant Fiona Fitzpatrick, Brand Growth Heroes.  Much to my surprise, this turned out to be, by far, my most profitable bit of publicity ever.  And so naturally I thought: “I’ve gotta get me on a few more of these podcasts”.

So, I rolled my sleeves up, and set about trying to line up a few more bookings.

How many did I succeed in securing?  It was, of course, a big fat zero.

Discouraged, I parked that idea and moved on to other things.  I stopped trying to get bookings all together.  Too much effort.  Screw it.  And yet, bizarrely, I now find myself recording podcasts at a current rate of one per week.

How is it then that when I tried to get podcast bookings I was unsuccessful, but now I am getting them without any conscious effort at all?

The answer is simply that in that intervening time period, I did things which turned me into “the sort of person who gets invited on podcasts”, and so the podcasts followed.

What these things were are fairly boring and unimportant – a huge increase in social media activity, more networking and relationship building, natural growth of Basic Arts, etc. – no, what really matters is that I didn’t go out there and try to “get” the thing that I wanted.  Instead I became the kind of person who attracts that thing organically; by force of gravity.

We can summarise this change in approach as follows:

Before: “I will get X so I can be Y”
After: “I will be Y so I can get X”

Like I say, this applies everywhere.  Let’s say you’re a food brand trying to get listed in Tesco.  How do you develop a strategy for this goal?

If you’re in the first paradigm, you would set about creating an elaborate plan to convince Tesco to take you.  Research the buyers, create targeted mailers, buy data to make your case, pester them constantly, buy media space outside their head offices, etc.  All behaviours “out there” aimed at grasping the object of your desire.

If you’re in the second paradigm however, you would set your focus not externally but internally, and work on becoming the sort of brand that gets stocked in Tesco.  If you managed this transformation, then the listing would come of its own accord.  No grasping required.

Do you see the difference?

You must “be” in order to “get”.
Not “get” in order to “be”.

This cuts hard against most people’s strategic understanding.  We are trained to think in terms of goals first.  And because goals are things “out there”, that’s where we place our focus.  On going out in the world and trying to manipulate it to our ends.  That is what most people think strategy is.

But the truth – which is hard but also liberating – is that the work you need to do is never “out there”, it’s always in here.

It’s work on yourself.
It’s internal transformation.
It’s personal growth.

This isn’t just the most important form of work.  It’s the only form of work.


Because you are the only thing you have genuine control over.

This means that all efforts you expend which aren’t about transforming yourself (as a person or a business) are fundamentally wasted.  Worse actually, they are manipulative.  They are efforts to force the world to respond to you in a way that you don’t organically deserve.

Make no mistake, if you aren’t “getting” something, then by far the highest likelihood is simply that you aren’t being that which warrants that thing.

Yes, of course, the world out there isn’t flawlessly just.
External factors can work against you.
Some people are just arseholes.
Some games are rigged.

But even if that’s the case, so what?  You can’t do anything about it, because it’s outside of your control anyway.  All you can do is to be the kind of thing that attracts rewards, and trust that there is enough residual justice in the cosmos that things will turn out in your favour.

So when you’re thinking about strategy, I implore you to frame the question carefully.

Do not focus on what you’re trying to get.
If you grasp for something, it will always slip out of your fingers.

Just focus on what you’re trying to be.

Do this, and the results will flow, I promise – like rivers to the ocean.

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