Here’s how to get good at strategy: words. Start with words, continue with words, and finish with words. You have one job - get good at words.
Why? At some point, everything is words. If you can see it, it’s words. If you can think it, it’s words. If you can feel it, it’s words.
You live in a world of your own making and you use words to sustain it because you see the world through the words you’ve used to create it. Like everyone else, you choose the meaning of these words because their meaning keeps your world’s meaning alive. Words are your world’s life support. However, a word you use everyday means something else to someone else somewhere else because that’s how that someone keeps their world alive.
Yes, words make worlds but words can do much more - words can do anything. A novel’s words can take us into someone else’s life. Two words can seal a promise. Words can start and end marriages, deals, and wars. One word can forever follow a newborn. A magic word can help a child get what she needs. Final words can give peace to a life as it ends.
You can use words as maps, torches, and breadcrumbs. You can use words as fireworks, tickles, and peace. You can locate yourself with words, stand a career on words, and expose ideas good and bad with words.
If your words can, you can.
When you do strategy, you make meaning from mess, and words do this for you. Research is a hunt for words - you can watch and count but, at some point, you’ll use words to guide and later explain your hunt. An insight updates how you see the world - it gives you words that introduce you to something magnificent that you never knew existed or it gives you new words for something you knew existed but with magnified meaning. A creative brief is a brave attempt to capture only the most important words. A presentation is a long set of words that gets you to the creative brief. An idea happens in words. Job titles, too - otherwise you wouldn’t keep asking for that promotion. Words can do anything but they excel at seeing through mess. This is why books on writing are great books on strategy.
However, words aren’t easy. Words will stumble through you and plop into the world hoping you can teach them to walk. Many words will need to take that walk to draw you to that one word. And, on some days, words will not stumble out at all.
At their worst, words make everything hard. If you think word length impresses people, if you think education earns you more syllables, if you think a presentation or portfolio is better with more slides, understand this: big words are hiding places and good strategy doesn’t hide. Good strategy exposes and it uses words with bite to reveal itself. So, you have a choice - either do the hard work of finding words that work hard or use words that make hard work for everyone else.
Finally, there are two ways to dismiss words. First, you can say actions speak louder than words. But here’s the thing, words act louder than actions. Words lead to actions and they tell the stories of those actions - words are the brains and memories of actions. Second, you can dismiss them outright and you can say words don’t matter at all but you’d use words to make the point.
In strategy, words are all that matters.
Strategy is your words.