How to intentionally improve odds of success |

How to intentionally improve odds of success

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by those doing it.” — James A. Baldwin

I love this quote and I think it’s true, but I spend a lot of time indirectly talking people out of things. As a result, untold amounts of time, money, heartache and headache may have been spared. People often read my column and call me for feedback on an idea they’re working on. I love these clients. It’s a unique opportunity to glimpse into the minds of others, play in their world, explore opportunities, and hypothesize possible outcomes.

Most are looking for a sounding board, some practical strategy or just a little validation that their idea is legit. They just want someone to listen and take them seriously. I help people to conceptually play an idea through like a movie. Essentially, we storyboard the idea from concept to completion, looking at as many angles as we can think of, and try to determine what happens and how things turn out in the end. It’s fun, playful and remarkably energizing.

I’m not one to tell someone, “This is a bad idea.” But often, people get there on their own. My job is to ask the tough questions, look at the intention behind the idea, explore realistic logistics, and see if there’s practical alignment. Working together to map it out, if people lose interest, we re-examine the intent and rework the details to see if we get a sexier ending. If we don’t, we do it again — and again.

This is the process of living intentionally. I’m all about innovation, pushing the boundaries and living on the edge of our comfort zones. I encourage people to vet the ideas that support who they want to be and what they want to do. I believe life’s too short to dream and do nothing. As a strategies consultant, the process of developing ideas is about getting the vision out of your head, putting it on paper, talking it through, and playing it out — for better or worse. There’s a time and a place for “winging it,” but thinking things out on the front end exponentially improves our odds of success.

The fearless go-getters interrupting the critics are the ones who do this well. These are the people who play out scenarios, amass assets and resources, develop contingencies and enroll tactical partners. They build figurative and literal prototypes, beta test theories with sample users, conduct market research, and look for ways to leverage innovation with what works. Those who break through and succeed are the ones who work it out effectively.

I recommend my three-step method for this process. Simplify. Clarify. Inspire. 1) Simplify and focus your idea as far down as possible. 2) Clarify by organizing the details for easy access and rapid retrieval. 3) Inspiration to purposeful action comes with two prerequisites, ownership and accountability. Bringing your great idea to life with vibrancy and style will inspire accountability only if what you need to do aligns with your authentic values. That’s ownership.

This process helps people to identify where they are out of alignment with their true selves, and helps them to realign with who they want to be, and ultimately what they want to do. Storyboarding the movie version of your idea is an invigorating method where you get to construct results out of thin air. Manifesting that reality is as simple as goal mapping consecutive action items along the way to your target outcome. Schedule each subsequent action item and check each one off, one by one.

Life is what happens along the way. Things come up. Circumstances and conditions change. Unforeseen challenges arise. That’s life. Intentional people thoughtfully articulate the life they seek and spend their lives working to achieve those outcomes. First, decide who you want to be and what you want to do. An intentional life is what happens when you commit to that purpose. Anything else may be the tail wagging the dog.

Evan Zislis is founder and principal consultant of, delivering hands-on organizational solutions and strategies consulting for households, businesses, students and life transitions. For more information about simplifying your stuff and organizing your life, call 970-366-2532, email or become a friend at

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