One morning about ten years ago, Lee Weinstein was standing in front of his bathroom mirror, shaving. He asked his reflection a question: Do you want to keep working for someone else? To his surprise, the man in the mirror answered with a resounding, “Hell no!” Lee listened, and, after 15 years happily working as a public relations executive at Nike, he opened his own PR firm in Portland, OR. In 2017, he wrote a book called Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook, which details his goal-setting methods. He and his wife, Melinda, offer companion workshops to help individuals plan out their life’s goals.
Since there is no better time than the start of a new year to take stock of life’s goals and to set new intentions, we asked Lee to share his own story, and offer tips for getting what you want out of life -- and business! As Lee, himself, so aptly puts it: “If we only get so many trips around the sun, shouldn’t we all have a plan?”
Why did you decide to write a book about life planning?
My wife Melinda and I were married in 2000. Soon after, on a Saturday morning, I brought this big sheet of butcher paper into the kitchen and said, “Okay. We’re married. What do you want to do with your life?” We figured we had until we were about 83 years old or so. We sketched out the years, and we saw we had about four decades to plan out.
When we shared reports on our life plan on Facebook, friends went nuts! “How do we do that?” people asked. “We can’t do that ourselves! Could you lead workshops?” We started teaching workshops across Oregon, and it’s been life-changing for participants. Now we wanted to offer this project-management approach to life planning to a wider group of people with our book.
What does the title of your book Write, Open, Act mean?
“Write, Open, Act” refers to three things.: Writing down your life’s wishes Opens up new possibilities that you can Act on to live a fulfilling life. We’ve developed a hands-on workbook that enable people to build a visual Intentional Life Plan in less than a day. It gives them a clear view of their life’s wishes and goals, plus steps and tools to help them realize and manage their plans.
Does it work?
I think that the sheer act of writing something down makes it happen! As airy-fairy as that sounds, it activates the universe. I’ve learned you can have these big things in your mind, but if you don’t write them down, will they happen?
From our original life plan from 18 years ago, my wife and I have accomplished about 90% of what we wrote down – getting the jobs we wanted, buying a farm in the Columbia River Gorge, traveling various places with our two daughters. There are goals you know you won’t realize -- for me, it was climbing Mt. Hood -- and you can put those aside when you update your plan each year.
You recommend creating a large visual life plan with butcher paper and colorful Post-It notes. Why use paper and not, say, a computer program or a journal?
Human beings are visual creatures. Having something in a computer program or in a book or rolled up in your closet isn’t as powerful as having a large visual timeline of your life, from the current year to your expected death year. We’ve had people try to put their plans into Excel spreadsheets or who’ve rolled them up and put them in a closet, and then never look at them. Most of our alumni have their plans hanging in their homes — in the stairwell, hallway, bathroom or the bedroom.
Where is your plan hanging, Lee?
Our plan hangs in a hallway right outside our guest bathroom! I walk by it every morning. We go to it and look at it, and we update it every January. Our guests see it and ask, “Are you really gonna do those things?” It’s fun because it prompts conversations.
Having your visual plan somewhere in your home makes it a constant presence in your life. Life is short. We all have hopes and dreams and can get sidetracked by our daily duties such as work, taking kids to soccer matches and doing things around home. Our process helps people achieve those big things that, at the end of life, they can look back on with pride.
Some people may balk at the idea of a “death date,” but you approach it from a positive perspective.
I’ve had some push back on this, saying it was depressing. But I’ve always believed that quote from my favorite movie, Harold and Maude: “Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.”
I don’t think you want 17 years to fly by and then you’re wishing you’d done something. So, let’s make sure we’re being intentional, let’s make sure we get these big things done. I personally believe that we’re supposed to leave this world a better place, and we want to make sure we realize some of our dreams, too.
You’re an entrepreneur yourself. What strategies do you rely on to set intentions for the business year ahead?
One of the things we do at the beginning of every year is a S.W.O.T. analysis of our business. What are our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats? It’s a wonderful reminder of how good our business is, but it also helps us look at what we need to change to stay in business, to compete and to be better.
I’d recommend everyone do a S.W.O.T. analysis and be really truthful so you can address problems or behaviors that need to be busted. Life is short — and business lives can be shorter if we don’t tackle issues straight on.
Go back and re-review your plans to be sure they’re relevant. If you don’t have a brand plan, create one. If you do, see if it needs updating and if it’s still relevant to your consumers. Above all, listen to your consumers and ask them what they want from you. They’ll be more than willing to offer ideas and suggestions.
Before you go
QB Community members, do you have a life plan? What about a solid business plan? What are some lessons from your personal life that you’ve applied to your business and vice versa?