Walk About

Tom Alexander, Founder & CEO of PK4 Media, continues his Freedom Tour series with his new "Walk About" article, sharing what he did to become a successful entrepeneur.

A birthday sets the annual mark for time passing, and it’s the best and most personal time to evaluate where we are. All too often we become caught up in the festivities planned by friends, family, and co-workers, and forget about the most important person of the day: me!

I recently posted an article about disconnecting, something my friends and I have termed the “Freedom Tour.” Of all the ways to disconnect throughout the year, my annual “walkabout” is my favorite. I treat my walk about like a New Year’s resolution, except I take this journey once a year on my birthday.

I have traditionally set my birthday travel schedule to cover a full 24 hours where no one knows which city I am in. I disappear, taking only my notebook, turn my phone to do not disturb, and wander around whichever city I happen to be in. It’s important to take a full day to reflect on where I am in life, what goals I set for myself the previous year, and what new goals I should be striving for in the next 12 months.

[To read more of Tom Alexander’s thought leadership click here]

I break my future goals down into categories that are important to me:

-Personal: Is this the year I finally learn fencing, piano, or that new language?
-Professional: Should I start a new company? Develop a new strategy for my primary business? How do I coordinate a better strategy for the businesses I’m involved with?
-Financial: How much should I save for a down payment or how much to donate to a charity?
-Health: Get in for that dental checkup; get my blood pressure checked; donate blood; donate plasma.
-Travel: Where would I like to travel in the next year and how can I plan for that?
-Research: What macro-level topics am I interested in, such as politics or a specific industry’s model?

During my first walkabout, I was 27, living in Los Angeles, and was about to finish the third acquisition of my career. I had no idea what my future was going to look like. Where would I go once the acquisition was completed? Would I continue on with the parent company? Would I move back to Silicon Valley, take time off work, or maybe self-fund my own business finally? It was during this day of reflection that I decided to start PK4 Media. I looked at how I would approach the market, how I would build my team, and then determined whether I had enough funds to bootstrap a company myself. That was 10 years ago, and each year my planning process grows. My written journal has transformed into a handy Excel spreadsheet to catalog my goals and thoughts. I’ve updated this to include a specific Trello board that I have integrated into my daily life.

More than just having this structure to organize my thoughts for what I want for the upcoming year, on my walkabout I grant myself freedom that I usually am too rigid to allow. I allow myself to think profoundly and give my thoughts permission to run to completion. I let myself think about anything that comes up, and it typically forces me to think about the tough situations we all endure.

Time is a limited commodity. Think about it, how often do you get distracted in a day and pulled away from what you were initially thinking or doing? Allowing your mind to run through a complete thought and evaluation can be scary, but it helps you understand those places where you are lacking and need to really devote time to become better.

This type of strategic planning is not just for my business, but my life as a whole. My annual walkabout has helped me understand who I am, who I want to be, and how I fit into all of this. I evaluate how well I’m doing as a son, uncle, nephew, friend, sibling, business partner, advisor, CEO, board member, etc.

This is another part of the ongoing freedom tour in my life: stepping away from the daily stress and understanding the bigger picture of where I want my life to go. It helped me realize I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

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