When my nephew was 15, he came to live with my wife and I. He was a bright kid, but due to circumstances surrounding his life, he often defaulted to being the victim, rather than the victor, and would accept considerably less than what he wanted instead of making an effort to achieve his dreams. By the time he turned 20, he desired full freedom to come and go as he pleased, work when he wanted to work, and stay out all night if that was his desire. I found myself saying those words that I thought I would never say, “As long as you live under our roof you will follow our rules.”

Over the subsequent weeks, he went from disgruntled to downright ill-tempered. I decided I needed to put this strategy stuff to work. I took him to dinner at one of his favorite restaurants. And using the back of a couple napkins, I took him through the strategic planning process.

“Let’s spend some time talking about where you are today, where you want to be, and some of the things that need to happen to help you get there. Is that okay?”

Situation Assessment

When he reluctantly agreed, I wasted no time asking, “Let’s talk about where you are today, what’s good about it, and what’s not so good about it. What do you think? Think about your current situation. Consider the things you have that make life easier for you, that you would not have if you lived on your own. Let’s build the list. What are some of the advantages of your current living situation?” Of course his response was, “There are no advantages.” I helped him out a little, reminding him of free rent, free food, access to a number of creature comforts. While we ended with a list of four or five strengths, when it came time to talk about weaknesses, he had no trouble immediately listing several things, including four or five different restrictions.


I said, “Let’s talk about where you want to be. If you had your druthers, what would your life look like today?” His focus was completely on his living situation. He was not at all ready to talk about career, college, or other long-term areas of focus. He was clearly living just beyond the end of his nose, not unusual for someone just getting out of his late teens.

Strategy Formulation

I then walked him through barrier and critical success factor analysis. He quickly understood that a lack of funds was a key barrier. But he got excited when he realized the key success factor was finding a roommate! When we evaluated the alternatives, he saw that if he found a roommate, identified a place that was walking distance or a bicycle ride from his work and could save a little each week toward a down payment, he could achieve his “dream” of independence within twelve weeks.

He became a man on a mission.

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