I finally read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I now owe this man gratitude for saving me from another seven years of professional wandering.
Ferrazzi urges readers to create a Relationship Action Plan (RAP) before proceeding with the rest of his book, which gives tips for reaching out to those who can help you get where you want to be in life. Creating a RAP involves setting a three-year goal, then reverse-engineering goals in 90-day intervals from that point.
I thought putting a three-year goal on paper would be easy because I know exactly where my passions, interests and talents coincide. However, I ended up spiraling into a two-day crisis. I went to nearly every friend in a panic, distraught because I couldn’t envision a clear destination described in words. It’s cute to be lost and wandering in your 20’s, but when your 30th birthday starts approaching at rocket speed like mine is, the romantic life of being a free spirit starts feeling like a self-imposed prison term.
The problem prior to creating my own RAP was that (again!) I wanted accomplish too many things at the same time. In trying to fit diverse goals down on paper, I saw that it was unreasonable to expect that I’d be a successful freelance writer, web producer and coffee shop owner in three years. What troubled me even more is that I really didn’t want to spend my entire life doing any of those things. So, as Ferrazzi suggests, I created a RAP for each of those tracks.
I noticed I was getting way off the mark from what I truly want in life. Spending time to achieve the various three-year goals I was writing down wouldn’t help me get significantly closer to becoming a novelist, which has been my lifelong ambition. It’s the only reason I ever wanted to own a coffee shop: so I can sit in my own cafe, read, write and be a part of a local community of writers and artists.
Then another three-year goal came to mind, followed by a gut feeling that this was the right answer. I revisited the idea of grad school. For seven years I’ve been wrestling with the nagging feeling that I want and need higher education. This time, with my fear and ego aside, I looked into how I can become part of a literary community while learning from some of my heroes at the same time, and also taking time to master my skills. Grad school was sounding better than ever.
Per the steps of setting up a RAP, I made an “A” goal that three years from now I’ll be in enrolled in an MFA creative writing program near wherever my partner decides to do his post-doc. Then I made a “B” goal, which is a more refined and ideal version of your “A” goal. In that case, my “B” goal was that I’d be enrolled at Columbia’s MFA program, with my partner in a post-doc somewhere near NYC.
From that three-year goal, I made financial goals in 90-day intervals that would incorporate saving money towards my future coffee shop, money for grad school, as well as portfolio development goals that would help me get into grad school.
It took two painful days to come up with the plan, lots of processing with friends and my partner, but the panic eventually subsided. It was well worth the suffering because all my goals started falling into place rather floating around in my head.
Putting names of people next to each 90-day goal is the next step of making a RAP. Knowing whom to approach and what for gives flesh and blood to the plans you make to reach your goals. It gives a sense of purpose to each contact you make. It’s a lot easier getting help from someone when you know what you want rather than going to someone begging for guidance. That’s just bothersome.
Since creating my RAP, I can look back at my life and feel comforted by the fact that I haven’t been as aimless as I sometimes have felt. I’m still in the process of putting names from the past and present next to my goals; just started talking to those people and building relationships with them; and now I’m working tirelessly on getting a freelance career going so as to help fund the achievement of my goals.
Here is what has changed for me and why you should create your own RAP too: I’m not as discouraged when the going gets slow or when I reach setbacks. Sometimes it still feels like slogging, but at least I know where I’m going instead of feeling like I’m lost in the woods. The courage and determination I have now has never been this abundant.
There are more reasons than just the RAP to check out Never Eat Alone, but the RAP is my favorite. Whether you read the book or not, I recommend asking yourself where you want to be in life three years from now in terms of definite goals. You’ve been warned that finding the answer might not be as easy as it seems, but with some time, talking and persistence, you’ll see that the answer is just a bit obscured rather than non-existent.