How to Get What You Want — Faster

You can get there. But it'll require a different path.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to level up — and build a career or company you love.

Today’s one thing: Obsessing over what you want.

That one thing, better: Acting on what you need.

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You want to get somewhere — fast.

You have ambitions! Plans! No time to wait!

And yet things are moving slowly. You don’t know how to hit the gas.

Here’s the problem: You’re too focused on what you want, and not focused enough on what you need. And as a result, you might be missing the solution that’s right in front of you.

Today, I’ll give you a framework to help you move forward. And I’ll start by showing you how this kickstarted my career.

I once felt stuck.

Me, maybe 2006

There I am, at my desk at one of my first jobs out of college. I was a local newspaper reporter — and I was frustrated.

I wanted to make fast leaps. I wanted to go big. Work at major publications, writing about major issues!

But when I looked for models of success, what I saw depressed me: Reporters would spend years slowly climbing the ladder — moving from one newspaper to the next, sometimes for their whole careers.

That can’t be me, I thought. But I had no idea what to do.

So I asked myself: What do I need to get ahead?

Most industries, I’d been told, are about who you know. I didn’t know anyone. So I broke my situation down in a way that I’ve found helpful ever since — and that I included in my book, Build for Tomorrow.

Because it allowed me to do this:

Optimize for what’s available.

Think about what it means to want something.

Really, you’re talking about three things all at once:

First, you’re talking about what you already have. Then you’re talking about the gap between what you have and what you want — the literal distance between them. And then you’re talking about how good it would feel to have the thing.

But you know what’s missing? It’s a practical, cold, objective look at why you don’t have what you want, and what it takes to get it.

To figure that out, break your situation down into three categories:

What I Have: Literally, what’s the situation? What do you have right now, good and bad?

What I Need: This isn’t what you want. This is what you need, so that you can get what you want. What skills, experiences, or resources are necessary?

What’s Available: You just listed what you need... so what actions or opportunities are available to help you get those things?

That last category is the most important. So let’s be clear: When I say “available,” I mean available right now. We’re not talking in five years, or in a fantasy world, or what you wish was available. We’re talking within reach, right now. Something you could do today.

A couple important caveats:

  • It’s not perfect! I’m not saying the solution to all your desires is within immediate reach.

  • It’s not easy! This new path will take time and effort.

  • It’s not instant! Just because you can do something today, that doesn’t mean it’ll solve all your problems tomorrow. This is about finding the right path, not the quick fix.

That might all seem abstract. So here’s how it applied to me:

My three categories.

To remind you: As a frustrated 20-something, I wanted to be a big-shot writer at national publications. But I had no connections, little experience, and a local newspaper job that no hiring manager at a national publication would take seriously.

Which meant my three categories looked like this:

What I Have: I have a job, but it’s at the bottom of the ladder. This means I’m surrounded by people who are also at the bottom, and likely cannot help pull me up.

What I Need: I need to learn from better writers and editors. I need the experience of writing for bigger publications. I also need evidence of my skills—because sure, I believe in myself, but I have not been validated in the marketplace.

What’s Available: Freelancing. Writers can pitch an individual story idea to an editor at a big publication, and if the editor likes it, they’ll assign and run the story. These editors may not hire me right now, but maybe they’ll take a chance on me writing one story — which would give me experience working at that high level, thereby improving my abilities and proving my worth.

That felt like a revelation.

Until I did this, I knew what I wanted — which was to work at large publications. But I hadn’t thought about what I needed — which wasn’t just a better job. I needed to refine and reframe my skills.

Working at a series of small newspapers would not get me there. Freelancing would.

So I started doing that — and although progress was slow at first, it worked exactly as I’d hoped. Freelancing allowed me to build new connections, work at higher levels, and ultimately get the roles I wanted. My career today is a direct result of that one decision.

It’s now time for you to execute.

Made with DALL-E 2

I framed this newsletter about speed — about the frustration of moving slowly towards something we want quickly. But that’s not quite right, is it?

We don’t need to move fast. What we need is to feel like we’re on the right path.

These are different things. One is just about quickness. The other is about certainty.

The latter is the important one.

You don’t need immediate gratification. What you need is a sense of progress and control. You need to know that you’re meaningfully moving towards your goal — and that you’ve crafted the best route there.

But to do that, you must know what you need.

And then you must do what’s available.

That’s how to do one thing better.

P.S. Miss last week’s newsletter? It was about how to make a change — when you’re not sure what to do next. Read!

P.P.S. Want to sponsor this newsletter? I’ve begun working with some sponsors, which will begin running soon. Inventory open for this fall — reply to this email and we’ll discuss!

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