The Edge Blueprint

According to the Urban Dictionary, YOLO is "an overused acronym for 'You only live once'". It's also defined as "The dumbass's excuse for something stupid that they did" and "Carpe Diem for stupid people".

Which is a bit of a shame because to me YOLO (or Carpe Diem to us clever people) is less about risking all for a single moment of excitement and more about making the most of the 'one life'. It's a reminder that this isn't a practice run; that life is precious and that we should therefore think about how we can make the most of it.

YOLO to me means the opposite of reckless abandon. It means planning – because when you plan, you can make sure that you create the conditions to do the maximum amount of whatever it is that makes you happy.

That's why I developed The Edge Blueprint – it's a guide to achieving the life you want. Your career is, of course, a big part of that but it is just one part and you're more likely to be happier – and successful – if you think about your life as a whole.

The Edge Blueprint draws on the latest findings from neuroscience and psychology, complemented by the wisdom of some of the great philosophers. But perhaps more importantly, it brings together the insights I've gained from the thousands of individuals that I have trained and coached over the last 20 years.

You could, over the course of a lifetime, discover some of this for yourself but by that time it's a bit late -and experience can be a painful and costly teacher.

So why not take a short-cut.

The Edge Blueprint is not a prescriptive, "you must do this", manual – it provides you with a framework and offers a number of perspectives that you can adapt to your unique situation.

Would you consider yourself a success if you were unhappy? In the words of Aristotle:

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

The first step in The Edge Blueprint is to find your vision sweet spot. This is where 4 perspectives on your life overlap. These perspectives are:

  • what you want
  • your values and emotional drivers
  • your resources and constraints
  • and the opportunities available to you

Let's begin by considering what you want from life. I'm not suggesting that you do this right now – better to schedule a time, in a quiet place, without any distractions – that means phone off! I would recommend having a pen and paper to capture your thoughts – you're going to have lots of ideas and it can be very frustrating knowing that you had a great idea but can't remember what it was.

Look forward to somewhere between 5 and 10 years from now – far enough away for you to bring about significant change and yet close enough to feel a connection with your life today.

Think about the different areas of your future life – work, social, family, sport, leisure and so on.

You may wish to use the 'Life in a Day' approach. Imagine you are living in your future vision. You wake up and open your eyes – what does the room look like, who, if anyone, is next to you. As you walk through your home to the kitchen, what does it look like. Are there children around. It's a work day – are you going to an office. If so, where and what will your job be? What will you do after work? What are the important relationships in your life. And so on. Try to make your vision as tangible as possible – don't just think, "I'll have a nice car." Think of a specific model and colour. Bring this level of detail to every aspect of your vision. Connect with it emotionally.

You want your vision to inspire and motivate you. There are hiccups and obstacles to overcome in most people's lives – a strong vision can remind you of why you are doing what you do. You can draw on it when times are tough. And when times are good, you get a double-hit of the pleasure hormone dopamine – you're having fun and moving towards your vision.

Man in White T-shirt and Black Pants In A Running Position

Before I go further, let me add 2 notes of caution.

First, make sure that this vision represents what you want from life. There is a lot of pressure to conform – from society, family, friends, colleagues. And without realising it, you can begin moving towards a life that would make someone else very happy, but not you. This is now the time to reflect deeply on what you want. Think about the times when you have been happiest. Or the times when you have become so involved in something that you have lost track of time. How can you create more moments like these?

Second, and very much linked to my first cautionary note is: don't put too much emphasis on possessions and material wealth. Money is important. Too little and your chances of happiness diminish. But once you get past a certain point – slightly above average earnings – the line on the chart flattens. Doubling your salary does not double your happiness. Through a process known as hedonic adaptation, you get used to the extra material 'stuff'; it loses its shine and you return to your happiness baseline. If you want sustainable happiness, you need to focus on your raising your happiness baseline. Think of your happiness baseline as being a measure of your overall contentment, the net outcome of all your emotions; it's how you feel about life generally. You'll have peaks of joy – a night out with friends – and some troughs – your favourite sports team losing. But these are transitory, and you'll return to your happiness baseline. So, to reiterate, the key to happiness is to raise your happiness baseline and I've added a few notes on how to do this that you may want to read after watching the video.

Our second sweet spot perspective is your values and emotional drivers. You’re likely to be happier if you integrate your principles on how you wish to lead your life into your vision. For instance, if you believe in helping others less fortunate than yourself – what are you going to do about it? Again, be specific. 

Your emotional drivers are not always obvious to you and certainly not without a little introspection and reflection on your feelings. Consider how you feel when you gain or lose:

  • status and respect – how important are other people's opinions to you? Is it important for you to win and record tangible achievements?
  • autonomy – do you hate to be micromanaged and prefer to be in control and do things your way?
  • uncertainty – how tolerant of risk are you?
  • relationships – do you get a buzz from working in a team or are you a loner

Your objective is to develop a vision that satisfies your emotional drivers. If autonomy is very important to you, then a career as a freelancer may be more suited to you than a career in a rigid organisation; though if you are also risk averse, this may push you back towards a different type of organisation, perhaps a smaller one. At this stage, you're not making any firm decisions – you are simply considering your life from several perspectives to help you develop a vision that, if you achieve it, will bring you happiness.

The next perspective is resources and constraints. What counts as a resource or a constraint depends to some extent on your vision but examples may be: your access to finance, level of debt, ongoing financial commitments … but your most important resource is you yourself. It is your skills, connections, personal brand, communication skills, mindset, financial savvy and productivity that will drive your success. These are so important that I have created a separate video, the 7 factors that drive success, to address them.

The final perspective is opportunities. Where do you see your best chances of success? It's not an easy question to answer. As Yogi Berra said:

"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future"

Yogi Berra

Nevertheless, you can't simply bury your head in the sand. Go with your gut instinct and begin your research. Google is your friend. As time goes on, your searches will become narrower, you'll get to know which bloggers and journals have the best insights, which forums have the most interesting discussions and which organisations are leading the way.

If you find the research boring, then that may be a good indicator that you haven't yet found your niche.

In the middle of these 4 perspectives is your sweetspot – a balanced vision that is realistic and inspiring, that fits your capabilities and emotions, is consistent with your values and that will bring you sustainable happiness.

Developing your vision is an iterative process – you'll move forward in a particular direction only to find new information which forces you to re-evaluate your options. But don't worry and don't crave certainty – in our turbulent world, your vision will – and should – always be a work-in-progress that you constantly revisit.

There are plenty of motivational speakers and self-help gurus who will encourage you to set BeeHags (Big Hairy Audacious Goals): Dream big, think positive and you'll overcome every obstacle. These experts may well provide some illustrations of a near-impossible target being set and achieved. The most famous example is probably President Kennedy's speech:

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies."

President Kennedy

Within 10 years, Neil Armstrong was making a giant leap for mankind and stepping onto the surface of the moon.

But was this all down to setting a big target. If the resources hadn't been in place, would positive thinking alone have got a man on the moon? And why stop at the moon? What if President Kennedy had said Mars – would a man have walked on Mars in 1969?

Bold success stories can inspire but there are many who set ambitious targets, thought positively and failed. Hope and positive thinking do not constitute a strategy.

Aim high but be a realistic optimist.

Talk with others. Articulating vague ideas into coherent sentences that someone else can understand can be extremely valuable in clarifying your thinking. You may also get some useful feedback and new perspectives. And, if people know about your areas of interest, they can become part of your information gathering system.

With a rough draft of your vision in place, it's time to start some tentative planning.

Let's assume that you have created a 5-year vision. Ask yourself for each area of your life: "For my 5-years' vision to be a real possibility, where do I need to be in 4 years' time?"

Set some milestones – not goals, simply markers of where you would like to be.

Then move back a year: "Where do I need to be in 3-years' time, if I am to hit my 4 years' milestones."

And keep moving back 2 years, 1 year, end of this quarter, end of his month, end of this week, tomorrow.

In this way, you break a large, possibly daunting, target into small steps – steps that begin immediately.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”


It's easy to put off the actions that will move you towards your vision. These are actions which, in the words of, Stephen Covey, typically fall into Quadrant 2 – Important but not Urgent. And because there is no deadline, they tend to get put off. By creating deadlines through your milestones, you are more likely to take the actions you need to achieve your vision. And when you act, you create momentum.

And that momentum is more likely to be maintained if you enjoy the journey.

I have spent a lot of time talking about the destination – your vision – but if you don't enjoy the journey, you are unlikely to arrive at that destination. In the words of Steve Jobs:

"If you don't love it, if you're not having fun while you're doing it, you're going to give up … the ones who quit are sane; who would want to put up with stuff if you don't love it."

If you love something, you persevere. Your passion means you focus with intensity, which leads to mastery, exceptional results and success.

And remember hedonic adaptation – don't take the risk of trading 10 years of sacrifice for 6 months of bliss – create a path to your vision that rewards you in the present too.