“Everything you lay your hand upon serves a specific intent…” –Jonathan Ward, ICON
When you hear the term grand strategy relative to a state or government, it usually refers to the overarching strategy that 1) considers the long-term consequences of using all instruments of national power – military, economic, diplomatic, informational, etc. – to advance national interests, and 2) governs all underlying objectives, tactics, and decisions. To be most effective, a state sets policies connected and consistent with its overarching grand strategy and acts accordingly. It’s simple enough in theory. I thought about grand strategy recently while I heard the artist Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) mention his annual goals:
Ten years of explicit goals, a show in Las Vegas, and more to come in the years ahead (clear vision, generational wealth, etc.). It’s a guide to focus objectives, an anchor against competing priorities, and a framework to allocate resources. What could we accomplish with a grand strategy?
Understand what is available in your market. What is the business and competitive landscape? Who is hiring? What type of roles and skills are in demand? How are job descriptions worded? Sign up for job posting alerts (e.g., LinkedIn, The Ladders, company websites, etc.) to monitor market activity over time. There is a wealth of information available online that can help you get a sense of the market, and just seeing what is available will help you align and target better.
Develop a perspective of your optimal job profile. What are the ideal job characteristics? What does an average day look like? What personal differentiators or constraints do you have to consider? Think about job basics as well as cosmetics (e.g., work environment, travel requirements, ways of working, etc.). Consider how you would write your own job description. This will help you identify job characteristics that are important and help you evaluate pros and cons.
Target actual decision-makers. What is the best path to the person(s) making a hiring decision? Who are the gatekeepers? How meaningful are the interactions along the way? Seek specific professional interactions. Avoid recruiters with generic, poorly-worded, let’s-have-a-chat solicitations. A simple path is: a company recruiter with a specific role to fill connects with you through LinkedIn (based on experience match) and then screens you to the hiring manager. This gets you into the discussion quickly.
Articulate the value you bring to the role. Why are your skills so valuable to the hiring team? What do you have that will make others’ work life easier? How will you positively impact financial performance? Polish your job profiles and social media presences, and have your experience detailed to highlight the areas of interest to you. Same for resumes or portfolios, but of course those should be customized even further to each job you consider. Focus more on the succinct stories of value you provided than the ‘label’ of prior titles or internal jargon. Consider what you would do in the role if you had no one to tell you what to do. If you’re confident with that, share it.
Analyze and decide the path forward. What are your options? What are the trade-offs of each? What is most important to your work-life? Consider your gut feel in addition to any rigorous analysis. Evaluate trade-offs within and across opportunities. Remember that not making a decision is actually making a decision to continue the status quo. Just going through the evaluation process is enlightening.
I went to Marfa. Again. During my first visit, I had a sense I would return eventually. And so I do in October 2017, flying into El Paso, driving I-10 through a seemingly permanent border patrol checkpoint, then taking US-90 past Prada Marfa. After an enjoyable five days in New York, I’m ready for more open space, slightly less noise, and continued inspiration. Marfa once again delivers.
Upon arrival in Marfa, my first stop is Judd Foundation downtown (of course here, downtown means near the traffic stop). I pick up a current Marfa map, ask about happenings in the area, and confirm previously-made reservations. Judging from the visible staff and guests, the primary demographic in Marfa is self-selected. If you’re here, you probably want to be.
Over the next few days I have a casual Don Judd focused immersion as I visit The Block, The Studios, and Chinati. Each presents a slightly different perspective of Don’s art and vision. The Block is more of a private space with a gravel courtyard surrounding his living quarters, expansive personal library, and selected early work. The Studios contain work space, including what Don called a cerebral laboratory, across multiple buildings. And Chinati provides more of a public space for permanent installations amidst a repurposed military base that housed German POWs during the Second World War. DEN KOPF BENUTZEN IST BESSER ALS IHN VERLIEREN.
On the warmest day in the forecast, I drive to Balmorhea State Park for a swim. The mid-day roads are empty of cars, and the spring-fed pool is populated by fish. I drive fast and swim slow before lounging in the sun with my book. I think it’s a Tuesday.
And Marfa keeps evolving. There’s a proper gym now. Stellina and Al Campo are new to me. The Hotel St George is open. Another whorehouse for the millionaires, a seasoned local slanders it. But I enjoy a hamburger at the bar without being solicited. And I like the mainstays: Buns n’ Roses, Capri, Cobra Rock, Cochineal, Food Shark, Mirth, The Get Go, and gallery pop-ins around town. I depart quite charmed. Again.
As I look back on 2017, I notice the distinct absence of linearity. Progress comes in fits and starts. Certain decisions and certain moments have bigger impacts, just like certain periods in the stock market dramatically swing investment returns. Challenges and opportunities often arise in unpredictable ways. Like a sprinter in training, long months of unnoticed preparation can lead to a short visible accomplishment. The absence of linearity is exactly why recurring analysis and recurring improvement are so important to advancing in a changing ecosystem, and we all live in one. Let’s all make intentional progress in 2018, even if it’s not linear.