Strategy | The Power of a Game Plan

Early in May, Steve Forbes and John Schlifske visited a handful of cities to talk about “The Power of a Game Plan.”

You’re probably familiar with Forbes, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media.

You may or may not be familiar with Schlifske, the chairman and CEO of Northwestern Mutual.

Northwestern is a quiet, extraordinarily profitable company. It's  received countless awards and has been named the world's most admired insurance company and one of the top 50 companies with which to launch a career.

Northwestern sponsored the Game Plan event, where Forbes and Schlifske covered a great deal of ground in a one-hour program. Much of what they emphasized was familiar and rooted in common sense.

One key point was that capital, innovation and brainpower are mobile. This means these vital economic forces tend to gravitate to and remain in locations where they’re welcome. These same forces vote with their feet when that welcome is withdrawn.

Forbes and Schlifske highlighted a range of factors for creating a game plan for the future. Whether you’re an individual, company or country, these factors include:
  •  Have a plan. The surest path to success and prosperity is to follow a map or blueprint.
  • Deal with debt. There are only two ways to do this: Either cut spending or grow income.
  • Think creatively. Recognize that most problems truly are opportunities in disguise.
  • Plan ahead. Establish long-term life and financial plans with clear-cut goals and aspirations.
  • Find and work with trusted advisers. They provide discipline, help you focus on the big picture and serve as a sounding board.
  • Stay the course. Resist the urge to let short-term issues drive your emotions and decisions.
  • Reduce risk. Invest in yourself and your future by saving rather than gambling on unknown outcomes.

They made a strong case for free markets and the importance of letting the market find ways to turn scarcity into abundance. Time and again, free markets have turned former luxuries, like cars and cell phones, into commodities that are accessible to most if not all of us.

They pointed out that if something feels good in the short term or promises quick reward with little effort, it’s a sign you probably shouldn’t do it. On the other hand, if something looks hard and requires discipline and effort, it’s a sign you might be on the right path to success and prosperity.

Schlifske, in fact, describes Northwestern as “the tortoise,” because its mission is to move slowly, steadily and surely toward the goal of wealth creation for itself and its clients.

Exciting advice? No. Timely and relevant? Yes.

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