For many people, 2021 was a year they would rather forget. But not me. 2021 was a year that I would take extra Ginkgo Biloba to remember. I had a remarkable year. Here’s a quick summary:
Noteworthy Happenings From My 2021:
I sold 2 homes during the hottest real estate market in history.
I bought the home I spent more than 2 years looking for. (Which means the soundtrack in my head finally switched from U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, to Kenny Loggin’s This Is It!
I coached high school track and field for the first time. (My daughter Ava made it to state in the discus as a freshman. Which made me look good as a freshman coach.)
I helped coach my son Magnus’s 5th-grade tackle football team. (I specialized in coaching the boys on their volume and hypeitude.)
I planned my high school class reunion in Hanover, New Hampshire. (And there was almost no drama. But enough to keep it interesting.)
I traveled to Vermont, New Hampshire Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, Alabama, California, Texas, Minnesota, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Pennsylvania New York, Rhode Island, Tennesee, Massachusettes, Kentucky, Connecticut, Arkansas and Missouri.
The Weaponry, the advertising and ideas agency I launched in 2016 celebrated its 5th birthday. (I invited Marilyn Monroe to jump out of the cake but she didn’t return my calls.)
I bought 2 new cars. Because the old ones (10+ years old) asked for a rest.
The Atlanta Braves and my guy Austin Riley won the World Series.
And my man Tom Brady won yet another Super Bowl.
(The last 3 are just fun for me. I had nothing to do with any of them.)
How To Make Your 2022 Great.
Great years don’t just happen. They are made to happen. And it all starts with planning. That’s why I call January Planuary. Because now is the time to plan your great year ahead.
What makes a year great is up to you. But if you don’t know what makes a year great feel free to use my plan, and adjust it to suit your own goals.
The 10 Things I plan in January. (Or Planuary)
Travel: Especially the Places I gotta See Before I Die type of travel.
Things I want to learn: This includes stuff like music, language, how to perform standup comedy, how to perform crouch down comedy, taking a hunter’s safety course, CPR certification, or getting my motorcycle license.
Books to read: I pick some important books to read each year. Or set a goal like reading a book per month. Or 3 books per month. Audiobooks count. And they are one of my great life hacks.
Career goals: I pick new challenges, set new targets to hit, make a change, or start a new business.
Life goals: Like writing a book, hiking the Appalachian Trail, coaching or volunteering
Connections to make: I ask, Who do I want to meet next? If you haven’t planned this before try it. It could change your whole life.
Reconnections to make: Like planning a class reunion, team reunion or a friend meetup.
Making time for big progress: I block time for progress against my goals. Like writing every morning between 6 am and 7 am. Or time for exercise. Or beard grooming.
Timelines: I determine when I will do the big stuff. And I create timelines and deadlines to bring the more complicated goals to life.
Other: This could be anything. Except for the 9 things above. Because if it is one of the 9 things above you don’t need a 10th category.
Great years don’t just happen. You have to make the year great through your plans and actions. Now is the time to create the plans. Put dates on the calendar. Make your year look amazing in January. Then make your plan your reality by living into it all year long. Then look back on New Year’s Eve at all you experienced and accomplished. Do this year after year, and you will have created a great life.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Long-term success is hard. Partially because short-term success isn’t that hard. It’s easy to string together a couple of quick improvements when you start anything new. Because you start everything new at your lowest level. Which means the first few steps often offer quick wins, confidence, and rewards. You just follow the yellow brick road, and all the little people cheer you on and give you new shoes.
Things Get Harder
But then you run into a non-improvement event. Or the unthinkable: Deprovement. Then you take a few steps back. This is especially common when you have really great success right out of the gate. Because you set the bar higher than you have the capacity to clear with your early skills and experience. #childactors
It Happens To The Best Of Us
But setbacks also occur when you have loads of experience. Because what used to drive better and better results stops working. Frustration sets in. Your confidence takes a kick in the tenders. And there you are at the crossroads of success.
This is your movie moment. This is when too many people quit or give up. Which is the only way to truly fail. When you face such challenges, and challenges will be faced, here’s a recipe to move beyond the swirly-whirly swamp of stalled progress, and fulfill your personal legend.
8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.
Short-term goals. Set easily achieved short-term goals that get you moving in the right direction again. Make some of them laughably easy. That way you will both meet your goals and laugh. #winwin
Long-term vision. Remember the big picture. Your long-term goals will not be achieved in one straight push. Keeping the long-term perspective reminds you that this is just a chapter in your story. And adversity helps make every story better.
Focus on the most impactful area of improvement. Find your one thing to focus on that will have the greatest impact. There are almost always small actions that have huge consequences. Find those actions and take them.
Forget your failures. Don’t dwell on your failures. Move past them as quickly as possible. Nike Founder and CEO Phil Knight said, “The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”
Identify with your successes. Remember that the successful you is the real you. The setbacks and stumbles are temporary and will soon be purged. Like Chris Gaines or Sasha Fierce.
Take responsibility for your failures. Take complete ownership of your failures and shortcomings. By taking ownership of them, instead of blaming others or making excuses, you are taking full ownership of the solution too.
Look at other areas of your life. Humans are complex machines. Often a disruption in one area of your life has an impact on other areas. Examine your sleep, your nutrition, your relationships, your other stresses, and your time commitments. Chances are that the challenges you are experiencing in one area of your life are having an impact on other areas of your life as well. Because the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
Believe in yourself. Have faith in your ability to identify the problem and make the necessary adjustments. Lead your own fan club. Because the person who thinks they can and the person who thinks they can’t are both right.
Setbacks are a key part of any great story. They force you to improve. Which ultimately makes you stronger, smarter, and more capable to face the next challenge. So embrace your challenges. Then go write your next great chapter.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them.
We all have big goals we want to achieve. However, the goal setting isn’t the hard part.It is not enough to know what you want to do. It’s what you do do that matters. In order to achieve your goals, you have to take action. A lot of action.
The good news is that to accomplish your most important goals you don’t need to make things happen in giant steps. You simply have to make steady progress. I find it useful to think of my most important initiatives as trains. The objective is simply to move the trains down the track.
1. Identify your trains.
Start by focusing on your 1 to 5 most important initiatives. Remember, 5 is the max. More than 5 dilutes your attention and your energy. This is why we don’t have the Jackson 6, or go around high six-ing each other.
2. Start each day with your list of trains.
They could be businesses you want to build, fitness goals, work projects, passion projects, volunteer efforts, or travel plans. In fact, your trains can be anything you want to do, make or accomplish. Heck, your train could be to catch drops of Jupiter or to meet Virginia.
3. Write down an action you can take that day to move each train down the track.
Determine the next step in the process that will help you make progress. Always be thinking about the next task to take on, like A-ha said.
4. Take that action.
Some actions will move you inches. Some will move you feet. Some will move you yards. And others will move you miles down the track. However, all actions, large or small, will get you closer to your goal.
The key is to get your trains movings. Your biggest goals, hopes, and dreams are like locomotives. They are heavy, powerful, and hard to get going. Simply getting the wheels to start turning can feel like a monumental task. Especially if your goal is to build a monument.
But once your trains start moving it is easier to pick up speed, like Sandra Bullock. You will soon find yourself taking more and bigger actions faster. Before you know it you will have momentum on your side. Your actions become habits. And you will start ticking off tasks like the clicking and clacking of a train speeding down the track. (By ticking off I mean completing. Not making-mad, like my parents used to say to me.)
At the end of each day, check to see if you moved your trains down the track. The answer should be clear. You either took action or you didn’t. If you did take action, note whether you moved inches, feet, yards, or miles. Of course, these are meant to be symbolic relative measurements. They translate to small, medium, large and Neil Armstrong-sized steps forward.
If you take no action your train will remain in the station. But through consistent action, your trains will reach their destination. It’s as simple and certain as that.
Move your most important initiatives farther down the track every day. Small, consistent actions start the wheels turning. Then come bigger actions with bigger results. Which ultimately help you build momentum. A train with momentum is very hard to stop. A person with momentum is nearly impossible to stop. Make yourself that person.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
We have finally come to the end of 2020. This year is certain to be a first-ballot inductee to the Year Hall of Fame. The unprecedented health, economic, political, racial, and social issues of 2020 have made this a year like no other.
Yet the adaptability, innovation, resilience and humanness revealed in 2020 have shown just how amazing humans really are. While cockroaches are known as the species that will survive anything, 2020 has proven that human survival skills are very well intact. Right Mr. Darwin?
Preparing For 2021
Now it’s time to prepare for a great 2021. Why prepare? Because great years, like great lives, don’t just happen. We make them happen.
A key element of living a great life is self-reflection. Asking yourself good questions is like conducting your own performance review. It’s a simple way to discover where you need to course correct, where your course is already correct, and where your corset could correct.
1. Am I educating myself? Getting better starts with getting smarter. Continue to self-educate and your knowledge, abilities, and competitive advantages will grow like compound interest.
2. Am I exercising enough? Your body is your life vehicle. Regular exercise keeps it in top shape. Which will allow you to travel further, faster and over rougher terrain.
3. Am I giving enough to others? Shel Silverstein famously wrote about The Giving Tree. But there is also a magical Giving Boomerang (perhaps made of wood from the giving tree). Because when you give your time, talent and treasure to others, good things come back to you in even bigger and better ways.
4. Am I disciplined enough? Discipline is what gets the job done. If you are not doing the things you’ve committed to, or if you are not avoiding the things you should avoid, check your discipline. Remember, you only need enough to create a habit. Then the habit takes over and discipline can be deployed towards something else.
5. Am I thinking big enough? The answer for 99% of us is no. Think Bigger. Think as big as you can. Think Elon Musk-y. Because bigger thoughts lead to bigger results. It costs the same amount to think big as it does to think small. But the return on your thinking investment is much different. You can always go bigger. #TWSS
6. Am I taking the actions that matter most? Not all actions are created equal. Remember the 80/20 rule. Find the small actions with the biggest rewards. There are a lot of actions that generate very little results. Simply taking the right kinds of action (interacting with the right people for example) can change your life. For proof see Sliding Doors or Run Lola Run.
7. Am I empathetic enough? Are you putting yourself in other people’s shoes? (Like Dr. Scholl’s) Are you really thinking about issues from someone else’s perspective? Want to make and keep more friends? Or develop more sales? Develop your empathy.
8. Am I providing more value than I am costing? This is the key to becoming a highly valuable and sought after human. Always give more than you take and you will remain in control of your destiny. As soon as that ratio flips you are no longer in the drivers seat. Sorry Charlie.
9. Am I getting better or getting worse? Check your trajectory. You are either headed up or down on every possible measure. The good news is that with all but some physical aging issues you can always improve your own angle through focused effort, commitment and mindset.
10. Am I strengthening my network? Most people think far too little about the strength of their network. But take it from the mobile carriers, it is all about the strength of your network. Continue to develop and maintain meaningful relationships. Make as many genuine friendships as you can. When you do, your social, professional and political capital will continue to grow. Which opens you to more opportunities. Remember, opportunities are human things.
11. Am I valuable to know? Do you add value to others? Are you kind, helpful, or inspiring? Do you offer access and connections? Are you are great listener? Really think about the value you offer others. The more value you offer, the more people will seek you out. And you want to be sought after.
12. Am I stretching myself? Growth occurs by stretching beyond your previous abilities. By stretching you expand and strengthen. If you are not stretching you are prone to atrophy and shrinkage. Nobody wants shrinkage. Just ask George Costanza.
13. Am I surprising people? Are you simply doing the things others come to expect of you? Or are you surprising them with new abilities and ambitions? Have you become predictable? Or are you endlessly interesting? Keep the surprises coming.
14. Am I keeping my word? Trustworthiness is the bedrock of relationships, and the gateway to opportunity. Check your trustworthiness more often than once a year. Keeping your word is required on a daily basis. Like flossing and changing your undies.
15. Am I living into my vision for myself? You have aspirations. But simply having aspirations is not enough. You have to get yourself to the destination. You have to become the person you imagined, dragon. Do the doing, not just the dreaming.
16. Am I noticing those who need me? We all have people who need us. Family, friends, clients, employees, community members. Do you see them? Do you notice what they need from you? Do you notice what you have to give?
17. Am I being present? Be now. This is all you ever have.
18. Am I taking care of my health? Have you seen your doctor and dentist lately? Do you have a doctor and dentist? How about a mental health specialist? A chiropractor? Take care of yourself. Because everybody needs a body.
19. Am I eating well? You are what you eat. Literally. Be mindful of your personal building materials. It makes a difference. Because you don’t want to look like a Cheeto in your Speedo.
20. Do I have a healthy way to destress? The world is an all-you-can-eat stress buffet. You need to have ways to rid yourself of the stress. Sleep, exercise and church are my go-to’s. Find your ways to destress best.
21. Do I have enough human interaction? It is easy to become isolated from others, especially during a global pandemic. Humans are social creatures. We need a minimum of human interaction. Positive human interaction is often exactly what we need for comfort, belonging and perspective. During times of isolation, use technology to get your daily allowance of humans. Don’t use Chat Roulette.
22. Am I spending enough time in nature? Spending time in nature is great for re-grounding yourself. A little quiet time with Mama Nature provides peace and perspective you can’t get anywhere else.
23. Am I getting enough sleep? Sleep is the great reset button. It enables you to regenerate your best self. Take advantage of it. Get as much as you need.
24. Am I finding joy in my work? Work fills half of your waking hours. Finding joy in work is finding joy in life. If you are not finding joy it is time for a change. A new approach, a new job, or a new career should be on the table.
25. Does my boss value me? An unfair amount of your happiness is tied to your relationship with your boss. If you have a boss that values you and treats you well you have won half the battle. If not, make a change. Life is too short for bad bosses.
26. Am I living a story worth reading? You only get one shot at life. Make it great. make it a story worth telling, worth hearing and worth reading.
27. Am I positively impacting others? At the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on others. Focus on making a positive impact and you will live a great life.
28. Am I laughing enough? This is the easiest way to measure happiness. Laughter is more valuable than money. Spend more time with the people who make you laugh. They will make you feel most alive.
29. Am I making others laugh? We are drawn to people who make us laugh. Are you able to see the humor in life and share it with others? A humorous perspective is always a valuable resource. Especially during difficult times.
30. Am I investing enough in my most important relationship? Think of the one relationship that means more to you than any other. A spouse or significant other. A parent, child or sibling. A friend, partner or neighbor. Are you investing in that person as much as you should? Always give the most important people the most.
31. Am I giving more than people expect? When you offer up 30 questions do you actually give 31? It’s not that hard to do. Overdeliver. People remember.
Self improvement starts with asking yourself good questions. You are a work in progress. Knowing what you should work on is how you make the progress.
*If you know someone who would benefit from these questions, please share this with them.
I have a confession to make. I love Mondays. I dislike the term Hump Day. And I have disdain for the term Finally Friday. Although I dig the song by George Jones. Wait, I think that was 4 confessions.
Your Week Is Your Life
I believe that your workweek is not something to survive. It is your life. In fact, 71% of your time is non-weekend. Which means the workweek is not your enemy. It is your greatest asset. If you dread Mondays and finally feel good again on Fridays, you are doing it wrong. Bang a gong. Now it’s time to get it on.
Rethinking The Week
Think about each week as if it was your entire life. Start Mondays like a youngster. State your goals and plans for the week. Then get to work. If you accomplish your goals by Friday you can enjoy a happy retirement. Which in this case, is your weekend.
I have been using this simple life-week construct for most of my life. There are 3 keys to making this construct work. The first is a clear Monday plan. Knowing what you want to accomplish during your week is key to keeping you focused and progressing.
The importance of Monday is no surprise. Although in my perfect life-week construct I actually start the plan on Sunday night. Which is probably a bit like planning your life while you are still in the womb. Like Womba Thurman. Or Mr. Wombastic.
Work Like Boots
The 2nd key is putting in the work. You have to put in the focused effort to make strong progress towards your goals. Without putting in the focused work you are simply wishing for success. And if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry.
The Wednesday Breakdown
However, the third key to this approach is not so obvious. If you think of your week like your entire life, then Wednesday is not the day to celebrate getting over the humpty-hump. Wednesday is the day to have your midweek crisis.
Having a midweek crisis means having a legit concern that you are not where you thought you would be at the midpoint of the week. This will cause you to closely re-evaluate your plan for the rest of the week. It will force you to make important adjustments in your priorities and productivity. The crisis and refocusing will help make sure you reach the end of your week with the type of progress and accomplishment you set out to have.
The Go In Goals
Your goals are your guides. You can’t just set them and forget them. You must check in with them often. They should guide your daily and hourly actions. They must drive your priorities. They tell you what you must sacrifice and what your non-negotiables are. So set your goals every Monday (or Sunday night). Then every Wednesday you must refocus on what is most important in order to hit your targets by Fri-yay.
If you want to be more productive every week, start thinking of your week like your entire life. Set your goals at the start of the week. Have a serious evaluation of your progress on Wednesday. Refocus your efforts. Use your time. And achieve all that you set out to. Your life is built week by week. Don’t let another one slip by waiting for Friday.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them by Wednesday.
Do you remember the first day of your career? I do. It was weird. On the first day of my advertising career I got shown to a mostly empty cubicle, was handed a schedule of my departmental orientations, and was mostly abandoned. The 2 highlights of the day were that I was taken out to lunch by a handful of other creatives at the agency, and that I didn’t get fired.
Two decades later when I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I wanted to do things differently. I wanted something more profound to happen on the first day. And I wanted it to be OSHA compliant.
We had an exciting new employee start at The Weaponry this week. She is significant in that she is the first member of our team who started with us right out of college, without prior advertising or marketing experience.
After talking with the new team member for an hour about what we do and who we do it for and why we do it the way we do it, and Mountain Dew and the Dewey Decimal system, we gave her The Weaponry’s unique first day assignment.
The assignment for our new team members is to spend 1 hour writing. Even if you are not a writer.
First: We ask that you spend 30 minutes writing down your career goals and aspirations. We want you to think about the journey you are on and all that you want to accomplish. We ask that you think big, be specific and paint a clear picture of what success looks like to you.
Second: We ask you to write down your goals, aspirations and expectations for the upcoming year. We want to know what you want to know and how you expect to grow. We want you to think about how the first year fits within the Elon-Musky career you just wrote about.
We ask our team members to share their goals for the first year. It helps us understand what they are expecting to get out of the year. It ensures that they will get the support and knowledge they most want over the next 365 days.
The Career Goals Overview is private. That is just for the new team member. We want our teammates to feel as if they can think really big. We want them to set gonzo goals without judgements. We want them to start their careers with the end in mind, so that they can clearly understand how the next step in their career can help them make progress towards their ultimate goals.
We also acknowledge that their career goals may not involve us. Or even working in our industry. I am Ok with that.
This exercise helps create career clarity, direction and calibration. It will help them refocus when they lose their way, or stall. It will provide guidance when making decisions about the opportunities that come their way. And It will help them prioritize long term goals over short term rewards. Plus, the writing exercise will make for a cool scene when a movie is made about their amazing career. Note to the director: I want my role to be played by Morgan Freeman or Awkwafina.
We all have the ability to positively influence those we interact with. As a business leader, coach, parent or teacher you can have a profound impact on the lives of those you have the privilege to lead and guide. Take that opportunity seriously. Look for ways you can have a positive, long lasting influence. Because at the end of your career and the end of your days, the only thing that really matters is the impact you had on others.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.
How much time do you spend thinking about your thinking? I know that’s like, totally meta. But your thinking is the most important of all subjects to evaluate. Because your thinking determines your outcomes. That’s cause and effect. You learned about it in science class. In case you were at the orthodontist that day, here’s a recap.
How it works:
Your thinking drives your actions. Your actions drive your results.
Pretty simple, right? It’s about to get even simpler.
Thinking –> Actions –> Results (sorry my arrows are totes lame)
What This Means
Small thinking drives small actions, which lead to small results.
And the flip side…
Big thinking drives big actions, which lead to big results.
What Are You Thinking?
Most people spend far too much time on small thoughts. If you think about your basic needs, your thinking will lead to very basic actions, and basic results.
Thinking about your biggest goals and biggest dreams leads to your biggest actions. Which naturally leads to your biggest possible results. This is a big deal. Like a-little-boy- trapped-in-Tom Hanks-body big.
The Price Tag
Big thinking and small thinking cost you the same amount. Which is nothing. Think about that for a moment. The difference is that the return on small thinking is very small. While the return on large thinking is virtually limitless.
Think bigger thoughts. They lead to bigger actions. Which lead to bigger outcomes.
Think about changing the world for the better.
Think about changing your community for the better.
Think about changing an organization for the better.
Think about changing your family for the better.
Think about changing yourself for the better.
Think about doing more of what you love.
Think about making more money.
Think about solving problems.
Think about creating value.
You’ll find that bigger, better things will come your way. And in a big country, dreams stay with you. #ILearnedThatInThe80s
*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.
Today, May 25th, is my birthday. I consider my birthday the most important day of my life. Seriously. If it wasn’t for my birthday I doubt I’d have a wedding anniversary. Or kids. Or my birthday suit. Or a blog.
The Real New Year’s Day
I think of my birthday, not New Year’s Day, as the starting point of my year. And this year I am focused on some very important goals. Or as a Mexican soccer announcer would say, I have some ‘Muy Importante Gooooooooooals!’
My 5 Goals For The Next Year
1. Get More Aggressive. Recently I’ve done more leaping and less looking. I’ve taken several premature steps forward on initiatives rather than taking the time to properly prepare, and consider all of the possible outcomes. The results have been impressive. By simply moving forward when I get an inkling I am creating more progress than I do when I carefully consider my options. So in the year ahead, less thinking. More doing. Or as Toby Keith said, a little less talk and a lot more action.
2. Write more. I already write like I am Orville and Wilbur’s third brother. But in the year ahead I have goals to crank my typewriter up to 11. In addition to this blog that I post to 3 times per week, I now have 3 book ideas started. I also met with a couple of magazine publishers yesterday about writing a regular piece for their pub. (That’s slang for publication. I am not writing for an Irish bar.) How did this opportunity come about? I got aggressive and contacted them on an impulse, before I really thought it through. (See Goal #1)
3. Create Another Business. There is something about entrepreneurship that is like Pringles. Because once you pop, you can’t stop. I have 3 leading business ideas I am currently working through. One involves cheese. (#WhenInWisconsin…) One is a franchise opportunity (not to be confused with a french fry opportunity). And the other involves fo real estate. (#forealdo). Of course I have other ideas that get added to the list daily. So I want to bring at least one of the ideas to life in the next year. But no matter which one wins, I want to eat more cheese.
4. Become A Greater Connector. I am a dot connector. It is how I process the world. I love creating, maintaining and facilitating connections. This is my most meaningful contribution to the people in my circles. Because at the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other’s lives. Wait, did that just get real serious, real fast? #crickets
5. More Quality Time With Family. I put my family at the top of the list of people I want to connect with. Like the meatball on top of spaghetti. My family includes my wife, Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus. But it also includes my parents, sisters and their families. As well as my very large extended family. Especially now that I am about to make my first lap around the sun without any grandparents. Which means my generation needs to prioritize and facilitate our gatherings now that my 4 grandparents are sitting together at the great card table in the sky.
Birthdays are important. They serve as an annual reminder of the scarcity of time. To make the most of each year, reevaluate what is most important to you on your birthday. Set new and higher goals and expectations. Then charge forward to meet them. It’s how we create a life worth writing about. Which, if I’m lucky, would be book number 4.
My Birthday Wish
If you want to do me a special free favor on my birthday, please subscribe to get this blog gift wrapped and delivered to your inbox. It would really mean a lot to me. The subscribe button is on the home page.
*Also, Happy Birthday to my sister Heather. Yes we share a birthday. No we’re not twins. #howweirdisthat
Everyone has a goal. If you are ambitious, young or greedy you probably have many. Your goals serve as the magnets on your internal navigational compass. (As opposed to your Jeep Compass). Goals are what feed your actions every day. Without goals you are in danger of drifting through life.With a goal you can paddle, set your sails, or fire up your 300 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor, and set a course across the stormy seas of life towards a meaningful destination.
Goals are very personal. They represent our desires, dreams and ambitions. If your goals are large, gaudy or outlandish, like a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), they can make you seem delusional. But it is impossible to accomplish improbable feats without improbable goals.
2 Schools of Thought
One of the great questions in goalology, the study of goals (okay, maybe I just made that up), is whether it is better to share your goals with other people, or keep them to yourself. There are two very different ways to think about this. My great friend Jeff Hilimire and I stand on different sides of the aisle. So we thought it would be worthwhile to share our opposing views.
Analyzing the Analyzers
Adam Albrecht and Jeff Hilimire have interesting similarities. They were both college athletes. Jeff played tennis at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and Adam was a discus and hammer thrower on the track and field team at the University of Wisconsin. Both of these cats are also entrepreneurs.Jeff’s businesses include digital agency, Spunlogic, mobile and digital agency, Dragon Army and the great web-building, good-slinging, non-profit 48in48. Adam’s businesses include the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry and t-shirt company Adam & Sleeve. Yet despite these similarities, they have very different takes on goal sharing.
Jeff’s Views on Goals:
I’m a big believer in not only creating focused, tight, and specific goals (both short- and long-term), but also that you should consider sharing those goals in order to create accountability – for yourself and through others.
Many people have goals, but very few spend the time to write them down. When you force yourself to write something down, you’re creating a new connection in your brain with that “thing”. There have been studies that show this, but I’m not going to share them here, mostly because you have Google*.
But I have found the real power of accountability comes when you share your goals with others. If you’re the only person holding yourself to your commitments, it becomes easy to slack off or move the goalposts. Even if it’s just with a buddy, asking him or her to check in on you periodically dramatically increases the chances of you holding yourself accountable.
Personally, I like to share my goals on my blog, which is as public as it gets. And it works! One of my goals is to read 53 books this year (one more than last year,) and people I know ask me when we get together, “So, how many books are you at so far this year?” At the very least it’s a reminder that I committed to something and need to stick with it.
Not everyone needs this kind of accountability, but I’d guess 99% of people do. Let’s be real, while everyone has goals, very few people actually accomplish them. Not because they don’t have the skills, but because they don’t keep at it. They don’t stay focused, they find excuses, and sometimes they even forget. Writing your goals down and sharing them with others is at least one way to give yourself a better chance of success.
* also because I only kinda think I’ve heard that, so I might have made it up.
Adam’s Views on Goals
I used to subscribe to the theory that it was good to share your goals with others. But not anymore. There is a very basic problem with goal sharing. If you tell people you are going to start a business, run a marathon or donate 10 gallons of blood, you start feeling like it is true. Afterall, it has been stated aloud, and those words have floated from your mouth, through the ether, into someone else’s ear hole. That makes it true, right?
Wrong. Talk is cheap. You could say talk is worthless. (Unless of course you host a talk show, or are a police negotiator. In which case talk is your most valuable asset.)
The problem is that talking about your goals makes you feel as if you are making progress towards your goals. And the more you talk about them with others, the more you feel like they are real and true. Even though there has been no real progress. It is that false sense of progress that undermines many a good, worthy goal.
Goal sharing can also cause you to lose confidence in your ability to achieve those goals. If you want to lose a lot of weight, earn a lot of money or find a really hot spouse, and you tell someone this, you are likely to get negativity, doubt or laughter in return. You don’t need that. You need to believe you can do what you set out to do. Like Gwen Stefani, you need to have no doubt. And big goals produce doubt in others.
To avoid that false sense of progress, and to avoid the doubters, I like to keep my goals to myself. I have many goals, hopes and dreams that never get shared. Because I tell myself that my talk does not achieve anything. I find great motivation in showing people what I have done, rather than talking about whatI will do.
Goals are personal. And we are all motivated in different ways.You need to find out which approach works better for you. So if keeping your goals a secret isn’t working, try sharing. And if talking about your goals isn’t helping, shut up and get moving.
Despite our differences, we both want to hear what you think. Leave a comment and tell us if you think it’s better to shout your goals to the world like a Mexican soccer announcer, or keep them quiet, like Marcel Marceau.
I have a confession to make. When I set my yearly goals, I cheat in order to attain them. It’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone else. In fact, it’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone at all. But it sure gives me an advantage. And I don’t feel the least bit bad about it either.
Getting it wrong.
Most people set their goals for the year, and begin working towards them, on January 1st. Or maybe they start on January 2nd, depending on when the holiday falls. Or maybe January 3rd, depending on what bowl games are on TV on the 1st and 2nd. Then, despite the fact that we all have 365 days to accomplish our annual goals, most people lose their momentum before the end of the first month.
Getting it right.
I don’t want to be one of those people. So I give myself every advantage possible. I noticed long ago that no one calls you for a false start if you start working towards your annual goals early. So I cheat. I start working on my goals for next year before the current year is over.
I start working on my fitness goals for the year at Thanksgiving of the year before. I am a bit of a contrarian. So I use Thanksgiving as a cue to get fitter, not fatter. That way I start the new year with a healthy routine already formed.
My wife Dawn and I begin planning our travel adventures for the next year as soon as we have taken our final trip of the current year. Which is now typically right before Labor Day (because kids ruin everything). I found that when I waited too long to plan my vacations they didn’t plan themselves. Which meant they didn’t happen. Now we schedule our adventures early, and we get more out of them.
WWGGD (What Would Gordon Gekko Do?)
I would never consider waiting to act on my professional goals until January 1st either.
Because in business, your year is determined by what you do in the 4th quarter of the year before.
When you add new business in the fall, you start benefiting from it right away, in the beginning or the first quarter. And it pays out all year long. Whereas new opportunities that surface in the first quarter might not bear any fruit until the second, third or 4th quarter. Which means that a piece of business worth $1 million, $100,000 or $1000 over the course of 12 months will only be worth a fraction of that in the first calendar year.
Starting your own business
I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in the spring of 2016. But I began planning my business in August of 2015. I took on freelance projects beginning in October of 2015. And I used the income from those projects as the seed money to start my own agency. That early start was key to a successful launch. You can do the same thing.
If you want to be great, you can’t wait (that sounds like a Jesse Jacksonism). You can’t coast from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve. You have to build momentum. So improve your chances of making 2019 your best year ever by starting today. Do more tomorrow. Because a New Year’s resolution is most successful when you find your resolve in the old year.
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