On the cover of a magazine.
Big, bold, splashy words. You’re wearing something sharp. Five years down the road from now, you’re doing an exclusive interview, and someone is telling your story to a captive audience.
Just a few questions for you, in this daydream:
First, what magazine would it be?
Second, what would the headline say about you or your project?
And, more importantly, what would the article be about?
An entrepreneur who co-founded LoudPixel and works as a photographer on weekends, Allie is one of my peer heroes, someone who I can look to as a model for creating and changing the way work is done and how we think about inventing your career. In asking this question, she asked us to consider what our future story looked like.
What’s your story?
This question looks at three important components of your story. This exercise tells you a lot about your project, career and personal vision.
First, it tells you who your audience is and what the size of your target market is. If you’re looking to be on the cover of a niche specialty magazine, your target market is much smaller than a mainstream publication such as Time or The New Yorker. That’s fine. It’s your community or market, and it’s not going to be the same for everyone. Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fast Company are some of my favorites–and yet these are still specialized, target groups that not everyone is interested in.
Second, it tells you what arena you want to play in; who your peers are, and what sort of work you’d be doing. In one of the magazines I regularly read, Landscape Architecture Magazine gives me a good idea of who my peer group is. Flipping to the table of contents, checking out the authors, and taking a look at the credits (from editors to the national group), tells me the people I’m looking to learn from, compete against, work with, and share professional accreditation and acknowledgement with.
And third, this exercise prompts you to paint the story of yourselves after success. Akin to creating a vision map for where you want to go, you get to create your story backwards by understanding what your future success looks like.
Take a minute to dream…
What would your headline be? What would they say about you? Put your dreamer’s hat on, and picture yourself in five years’ time. The projects you are working on currently, invisibly, are noticed. You’ve put them in the world, you’ve constructed something long-term that has added up to something. Maybe your recipes are featured on a local cooking magazine. Or your crochet projects are a photographic spread in a crafts magazine. Or your teaching is covered in the regional papers.
Maybe you’re a hero, and you’ve saved someone’s life on the street, rescuing them from the dangers on an oncoming car, and you get 15 minutes showcasing your brilliance.
What would they say about you?
What do you want to be known for?
Write your story in advance. Picture yourself in 5 or 10 years’ time, and write the article. I’m doing it now; I’ve actually just finished a 5000-word outline and draft of a feature article that I’d love to have put on the cover of one of my favorite magazines.
What would the story be about?
How would the story change the lives of other people? What would you have done that makes a difference?
The act of visualizing this storyline is one powerful exercise. Knowing what you want to achieve, and what’s important to you, and what excites you can give you cause to work hard during the days beforehand. It helps you prioritize what you do and don’t do. It gives you a way to layer each piece of your life together towards a goal.
If you’re daring enough, write the article. Don’t be intimidated about the awkwardness of writing about yourself, or the weirdness of it–get over that. Take a piece of paper, cast off the shadows of doubt, and indulge in your fantasy for a few minutes. Write the best version of yourself, tell the story of what beautiful things you’ve done, and really be proud of yourself for the accomplishments that you’ve achieved.
Taking the time to dream is powerful. Taking the time to carve out your thoughts about who you are and what you want to become is one of the first tools you can engage in on the way to getting there.