“People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.” – Warren G. Bennis

Here’s your challenge: a car race from New York City to Las Vegas. If you get there within a certain amount of time, you win millions of dollars and a completely new and better lifestyle.

Sounds like fun? Good.

Here’s the problem: You don’t know how to get there.

The countdown has already begun. In a few minutes, hundreds of other cars will be screeching away from the starting line. What should you do? Go out and buy a map? Have a navigation system installed in your car? Or start out at the gun with the rest of the pack and find your way by following them and asking questions?

Cautious people would install a navigation system and start the race late – drastically reducing their chances of winning. Successful people would use a combination of common sense and shrewdness: staying with the pack initially and then, by asking questions at gas stations along the way, making sure they were taking the fastest possible route.

Improving your life is a little like taking part in an auto race. If you wait too long to begin, you diminish your chances of finishing. Yet if you start off without any plan at all, there is a chance you’ll get lost along the way.

When I decided to become an A student in college (after barely doing enough work to get C’s in high school), I started working on it right away. But I had a plan. And it was a plan that had been proven by countless A students ahead of me: Study the curriculum. Figure out which courses you have an aptitude for. Show up with an A-student attitude – and work your ass off.

That’s what you should do if you are ready for success. Get started immediately. But use a proven strategy – something that has worked well for others.

How to Reinvent Your Life – Introducing the Master Plan

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “master plan” as something that gives overall guidance for a project, such as the building of a church or school or city. Master plans are what real estate developers use to transform raw land into suburban subdivisions, urban centers, and waterfront business districts.

Washington , D.C. , one of the most beautifully designed cities in North America , was once a swamp. Its transformation was the result of a master plan by Pierre Charles l’Enfant. And Columbia , MD , developed from rough farmland in the later part of the 20th century, now accommodates a population of nearly 96,000.

I used a master plan to redesign a 3,000-acre residential resort on the Pacific Ocean in Nicaragua. Over 30 years of investing in real estate developments, I learned how helpful it can be to have a master plan in hand before you begin any major project.

Master plans are also used to redesign companies. Jack Welch used one to articulate and execute his vision for General Electric. He said it was the key to transforming the corporate giant from a troubled, declining billion-dollar company to a state-of-the-industry business leader.

And a master plan is what Warren Buffett and his partner used to turn Berkshire Hathaway into history’s greatest financial success story… and themselves into billionaires.

On a personal level, my partners and I have used a master plan to help more than a dozen companies grow into multimillion-dollar enterprises, including one that went from $100,000 to $135 million in 11 years, and another that went from $8 million to $320 million in 14 years.

Master plans don’t always work. The former Soviet Union and communist China were famous for their master plans, which continued to project growth as their economies gradually crumbled into dust.

For a master plan to be effective, it has to be realistic and flexible. It has to be realistic about resources and capabilities, and it has to be adjusted and/or radically changed when circumstances dictate.

But used properly, a master plan can achieve miracles. It can transform deserts into sparkling cities, debt-ridden companies into thriving businesses, and perennially under-achieving people into healthy, wealthy, happy, and wise individuals.

How Is a Master Plan Different From a Plan?

A master-planned project differs from a normally planned project in its scope. Most large endeavors, whether they are real estate projects or business developments, are designed in pieces – one significant section at a time. That is not a bad way to create change, but it does entail wasted time, resources, and capital. Because conglomerating individual designs is always going to result in gaps, overlaps, and omissions.

When you master plan a project, you account for every aspect of it: the landscaping and water systems as well as the architecture, electrical, and plumbing. By getting it all together at once, you can ensure an integrated finished product. You also reduce the time and money you spend fixing things that don’t jibe.

The Dynamics of Your Personal Master Plan

A personal master plan can help you achieve all your life’s goals quickly and with the least amount of trouble, time, and hassle. Using a master plan says you are serious about improving yourself and that you want that improvement to be radical: from C to A. You will not be satisfied with B.

A personal master plan is a formal contract between the person you are today (fed up with the problems and lack of success you’ve been having) and the person you have decided to be (the successful you who is healthy, wealthy, happy, and wise). The personal master plan will help you reinvent your life because it will force you to transform nebulous ambitions into specific objectives. It will spell out exactly what you have to learn, what you have to do, and whom you have to work with.

A personal master plan will change your dreams into tasks. In doing so, it may lose a bit of the romance. But it will compensate for that loss by giving you the exciting, uplifting feeling of progress. As each week goes by, you will be able to see, in very concrete ways, how you are improving. This will give your spirit a great lift and make it easier for you to continue making progress.

Most people never realize their dreams. Not because they aren’t smart or shrewd or motivated enough, but because when they do make an effort it is too little and misdirected. You won’t have that problem. You have already begun your journey. And you will be using a map that has been proven.

Following a personal master plan is actually much simpler than randomly responding to a dozen separate impulses throughout your life. A master plan works because it reduces hundreds of minor and sometimes conflicting dreams and ambitions into four fundamental life goals. By simplifying your goals into four major ones, you will make it four hundred times easier to pursue and achieve them.

I’ve changed my life three times. First, in 1968, when I went from being a C student in high school to an A student in college. Second, in 1982, when I decided to get rich. And third, in 2000, when I developed and began using a personal master plan for Early to Rise.

In every case, the changes were major and the rewards were gratifying. But when I began master planning my success, the improvements came faster and easier. Were it not for the personal master plan that I developed during this time, I never would have been able to write and publish seven books. Or write, direct, and produce a feature-length film. Or write 365 poems in 365 days – all while keeping my “day job.”

Using a personal master plan will put you on a new trajectory. It will take a few weeks to get everything in order, but soon after that you will start to notice the progress you are making. And before long (certainly within two months), you’ll be amazed at how much you are accomplishing. Finally, you will be doing (and actually finishing!) projects that you have been dreaming about for years. As you knock off one objective after the next, you will feel your confidence growing, your skills strengthening, your wealth building, and your enjoyment of life increasing.

It is going to be a very good year for you: the year of your miraculous transformation!

[Ed. Note: You CAN get out of debt… lose 10 pounds… start a profitable business… or achieve any goal you set your mind to. Take your first step toward success by signing up for ETR’s Total Success Achievement program. We’ll provide you with weekly motivational e-mail messages, twice-monthly goal-setting teleseminars, and proven strategies for bypassing common obstacles along the way.] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.