Destination Unknown

Copyright © Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL 2021

February 4, 2021

The sky above us, the unknown.

"He who angers you, controls you." Unknown

I am a planner, a work-the-plan, a get-it-done kind of guy. I'm not particularly eager to live without a purpose helping to guide me to a predetermined destination. I modify the plan when it is suitable. However, I adjust the plan with justification for the change. I work on the concept of mapping out where I want to go in comparison to where I am from a figurative standpoint. It works for me and for the customers I have served over my years of caring for them.

2020 had me in the company of what seemed like the majority of the human population. I had more people coming to me for my advice on what they should do amid global health, economic, and political upheavals than I have experienced in years. It became clear to me the pattern resident in these inquires was an espoused anger hiding their genuine fear of the unknown. These people had a unquestionable problem. The answer to this problem was clear: help them with the strategic planning of their circumstances.

I considered at length the anger I witnessed. The Latin adage si vis pacem, para bellum is translated as "if you want peace, prepare for war." I also heard the angry people tell me they were fighting this and that. They were fighting against COVID-19, fighting for a political agenda, fighting to stay in business, fighting to either have or prevent this or that. It was not clear to me who they were fighting, how they were fighting, and often why they were fighting. I found the deeper I went to understanding their fighting, the more I could see their fears. They were trying to get back to peace by fighting in some type of hostility. I understood this condition, as I struggled with it myself for years.

There are many clear reasons before us today as to why anger has advanced to fighting. A 2020 report from the Corruption Perceptions Index published annually by Berlin-based Transparency International ranked global regions where corruption occurs. A summary review of these regions also found strong economic growth where there is little corruption. The Wall Street Journal reported this week McKinsey is in settlement talks with states over how they advised Purdue Pharma to boost their OxyContin sales. I will spare us both the heartache of addressing the drama trauma of the 2020 US election events. Suffice it to say, there is quite a bit of undeniable defiant aggressiveness by those we are to be trusting for leading us to cause their followers to be upset with their performance, upset to the point of angry, and angry to the point of undertaking some type of fight with them.


I both read and hear from those around me, and abroad, they feel burned. Burned, in terms of being misled by their leadership. Misled, to the point of metaphorically having their hand burned by being told to trust touching the pot that is quite hot. Misled, in terms of not having income anymore from employment that is no more. Misled, from not being sure what political topic we are working on now as there are so many topics, and a good leader would have the decency to tell their constituents what topic to work on for the moment. Being burned, as it were, is no justifiable reason not to have a plan to carry out the strategy you need to accomplish for your life and for your followers, for you to realize success. I get mad when I burn my hand. I release adrenaline to deal with the pain. It is a form of controlled anger. It is an act of survival, as I am not sure how badly I hurt myself from the burn. I have not cut my hand off as of yet to respond to any burning, any pain, or perhaps the shame of having burned my hand. It took me years to learn being burned, as it were, by an unhealthy relationship is not a justifiable reason to not continue to relate to people. The example I present here is both literal and figurative. They both hurt, and they both changed my behavior. The point is to use the pain of your being burned, perhaps by yourself from not having a plan to accomplish your strategy, to change your behavior now for the betterment of you.


The most direct form of counsel I can provide anyone undertaking strategic planning is to calm down, eliminate anger, and move to a reasoned position. "He who angers you, controls you." I make this statement because those who have no plan to determine and the accomplish their strategy have come to me in a state of calamity. I have no reason to believe this combination will change based on what I know of human behavior. I cannot overstate the value of a calm approach to accomplishing strategic planning. I have seen people achieve this counsel somewhere between a matter of seconds and a matter of years. Sure, some parts of strategic planning can be accomplished from an upset, angered, and even unreasonable position. However, I am talking about getting out of the mess you find yourself in sooner than later. It is not my place to judge how anyone arrived at their lot in life. It is my place to help them move to a better place should they want my help. Better, what is better? We all follow someone, one way or the other. Defining betterment is a question only a follower can answer. Only the follower can answer it because they decide with each step they take to continue following their leader once they have determined their leader is leading them to a place more preferable than where they stand now.


I lived near the ocean for many years. I would spend time daily looking at the beauty of the clouds. The ocean always seemed to have more clouds than land areas. The sky above us, the unknown. I have flown in planes and jumped out of them by parachute. Looking at the sky helps me have a more refined view of the circumstances I face, to help me put things into a more healthy perspective. The sky over the ocean is so much different from the sky over land, such as Tennessee's mountains. A recent morning had frost in the backyard, reminding me both warm and cold days have colors to alter my perspective of the moment. A significant difference is the amount of heat coming off the continent to the ocean's vast openness. Get the heat off of you by putting aside anger, deciding to stop traveling to an unknown destination, and begin the work of determining where you want to go. Sure, read the thermodynamics laws as the starting point for your strategic planning if this will help you. However, please do not decide you need to master them before undertaking your strategic planning efforts. The key here is to take action now with your first step. Putting aside anger to meet the fears you face of not having a well-prepared strategic plan now to live this thing called life is a huge step. Take a moment and give yourself the credit you deserve for taking this step.

A frosty morning backyard sunrise

My journey with music had me performing as an instrumentalist for several decades. I learned so many crucial lessons about enabling followers, those attending my concerts, to appreciate my work by understanding the material I performed with greater depth. They understood it more when I spoke for a minute or two about the song I was to play, either before or after playing each song. It was not me bragging about my greatness or diminishing the listeners who did not know all of the finer points of a tune I would play for them. It was bringing new insight to them about what they were hearing. It matched a story to the song, perhaps a current event, along with what I knew of the audience in that moment, which helped form my spoken words to them. It was augmenting their ability to listen to what they were there by their choice to hear.

It saddens me when someone comes to me and tells me they need strategic planning, want strategic planning, are unsure what they will do without strategic planning, but are afraid they will not do strategic planning well. A music producer I worked with would go and sit with his daughter at her house, who had given up her career as a stockbroker to be a stay-at-home mother. The producer's grandchildren invariably had other children around. He would attempt to make a point to the toddlers about something he had on his mind. He concluded that if he can get his point across to toddlers, then he has succeeded in his messaging efforts. He used his powerful messaging ability to help me understand how to record better some of what I called pretty good music. If you, at your lot in life, can understand strategic planning as a series of plans involving simple communications, then you have the necessary understanding to undertake your strategic planning efforts. Note, I did not say you have the understanding of a child. What I am saying is you have the innocence of a child. This innocence is a critical success factor in accomplishing effective strategic planning.

The planning of your strategy most likely involves more people than just yourself. It is reasonable to hold a bit of fear that you will harm them by planning poorly. I encourage you not to become angry at them as you find a way to tell them you did not yet prepare the strategy you need to accomplish. Such anger will only harm the relationship you have with them. How many press conferences have you watched in the past few months where either the speaker or an interviewer was angry? How many excuses have you read in the recent business news where low earnings are not the business leadership's fault? How many times have you seen children trying to learn virtually their school work from home and decide schooling is not worth the pain? There are more than enough examples around us today to understand the gains from having strategic planning more than justifies the pain of getting your first planned strategy written down and executed. Think about you living out 2021 without accomplishing strategic planning. How do you think you will enter 2022 with two concurrent years of little to no strategic planning accomplishments?

So, I ask you: where do you want to go? I hope your answer is to develop the plans necessary to accomplish the strategy you know you need to achieve to arrive at your desired destination. If this is the case, then let's get to work. If not, then I wish you the best of everything.

I hope we will see each other here next week. Email me if you need to talk before then.

Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL
Executive Strategy Consultant

Stephen Dawson is an executive consultant of technology and business strategy, serving significant international organizations by providing leadership consulting, strategic planning, and executive communications. He has more than thirty years of service and consulting experience in delivering successful international business development and program management outcomes in the US and SE Asia. His weekly column, "Where Do You Want To Go?," appears on Thursdays.

Dr. Dawson has served in the technology, banking, and hospitality industries. He is a noted strategic planning visionary. His pursuit of music has been matched with his efforts to lead by service to followers. He holds the clear understanding a leader without followers is a person taking a long walk alone.

Stephen has lived his life in the eastern United States, visiting most of the United States and several countries. He is a graduate of the Regent University School of Business & Leadership. Contact him at