In the weird way that the world works—like when you buy what you think is a unique-ish car and all of a sudden you see them everywhere—for the past week or so, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the “starting at the end” theory. Like here. And here. And here. There’s no official definition of this theory that I know of, but the basic gist is this: the best way to embark on a new project (new website, career change, marriage, a business from scratch) is to fully visualize and map out what your ideal outcome is.
Now, I’m mostly too skeptical for hard-core Law of Attraction stuff, but this idea really appeals to the brander in me.
All too often, people—and I’m talking to myself here, too—decide to change their website, messaging, logo, whatever, because they’re nervous. They’re not reaching as many people as they like—or not reaching the right people—and they think all will be healed if their stuff could just be “cooler,” which often translates into “I want it to be something Seth Godin would think is cool.” Or worse: They want it to look and sound exactly like what everyone else is already doing.
Now, I’m all for cool websites. Nothing makes me sadder than websites like these. But when you don’t think about what you want to happen at the other end of whatever you’re starting, you’re likely going to end up on a very frustrating two steps forward, one step back journey.
The other thing that happens when you aren’t thinking of the end game is even worse: You’re so caught up in creating this cool thing that you forget why you’re doing it. You forget your audience. What do they want? What do they need? It’s kind of like when people obsess about the color of the napkins at their wedding reception, but haven’t thought much at all about actually being married (which, I admit, for a few might be a good thing).
So, what to do when you get the urge to jump into something big and new? Let’s take the example of a new (or revamped) website since that’s my specialty.
3 Steps to Starting with the End in Mind
1) Think about your ideal customer and what he or she really needs from you. When you’re redoing your site, it’s easy to feel like you need to load it up with all kinds of proof of your amazingness. And yes, testimonials are a must. But the thing that’s going to get someone to hit a “buy now” button is the feeling that you can solve her problem. So put yourself in your imaginary customer’s skin and pretend you’re browsing your new-and-improved site. What’s making her hurt? What’s keeping him from being as fulfilled as he knows he could be? Then you can spend some time thinking about how to show that you’re the very best person to help.
2) Visualize what you want your website to look like, feel like, sound like. Will it be clean and spacious? Or will it be filled with tons of pretty badges from all of your favorite affiliate programs? Will it sound super sassy? Or will the language be warm and inviting? Will you be featuring your blog on your home page? Or will your programs be the star? The more you can actually visualize what’s going to be the beautiful product of your process, the better chance you’ll have of getting there.
3) Now that you’ve got the practical stuff out of the way, spend a bit of time each day for a week or two thinking about how your work and inner life will be different when you get your new website up and running. Imagine the types of conversations you’ll have around the new way you’re expressing yourself. Think about the clarity and confidence you’ll feel. And go ahead, indulge in a bit of fantasy about Seth Godin mentioning your work in a post.
I’d love to hear stories about how you’ve had success by starting with the end in mind. What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you?