Specific Goals and Hitting Them

18 08 2017

Goals.  How do you hit them?  How do you place them within sane and profitable range?  How do you avoid the extremes of setting the bar too low—being unchallenged and bored—and shooting unrealistically high (and being discouraged and defeated)?  Where is that happy in-between where you can reach the cookie jar by standing on your tiptoes?

A few years back, a colleague and I were discussing the importance of setting goals that were challenging yet attainable.  My friend told me that when he was an insurance salesman, he and his fellow agents would huddle in the mornings and lay out their sales goals for that particular day.  His buddies would generally shoot for the moon:  “I’m gonna sell ten policies today.”  He would set more modest but sufficiently difficult targets: “I’m going to sell two of this policy and one of that package.”  And he would usually hit the mark, while his co-workers failed to meet theirs and were thus discouraged.

There’s an old adage that says “slow and steady wins the race.”  This, of course, is a nod to Aesop’s famous story of “The Tortoise and the Hare.”  Through patient plodding, the much slower and ungainly tortoise won the race over the faster but cocky hare.  If you persevere, you win.

This is not to discourage the practice of giving yourself a worthy but difficult task.  But it is important to keep a healthy balance between mediocrity and insanity.  Those who avoid the shoals on either side generally sail on to success.

What are your goals for 1) continuing education—whether at a learning institution or through self-education via reading, listening and viewing, 2) physical fitness and weight loss, 3) strengthening your relationships, 4) improving your vocational skills?  Have you written them down, which is critical to their fulfillment, having engaged your conscious and subconscious mind by doing so?  Do you have a process, broken down into manageable bites, so you can meet these targets?

Here are some of the benefits one derives from setting goals and then hitting them:

  • You get the benefit of meeting the goal itself. If you lose that portly thirty pounds, you feel better about yourself and have become healthier.  If you learn a new skill, you can use that to help others, elevate your station and earn more.
  • You receive a boost in self-confidence and self-respect rooted in genuine accomplishment, rather than fantasies.
  • You strengthen your goal-attainment muscles because you are encouraged that, yes, you can do this!

Set goals.  Set them high enough to stretch you.  Write them down, with concrete dates and metrics indicating you’ve met them.  Then hit them!

Suggested Resources:

Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want — Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible (Brian Tracy)

Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny! (Tony Robbins)

 

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Sound People Investing

26 07 2017

This summer I’m learning about financial investing, the market, economics and how emotional volatility affects judgment in one’s investment strategy.  A basic investing principle is that you find companies that are undervalued, whose stocks are priced below what they’re worth, and then buy their stock—which is ownership in the business–leaving a margin of safety for market fluctuations that occur inevitably.  (Disclaimer: This is not financial advice and I am not an expert.)

Many of us are situated in life in a way that allows us to have input into the lives of others.  This may be because of our positions in the workplace, an organization, a group of people and our families.

I’ve had the privilege for quite a few years to be asked to mentor people in their personal, spiritual and professional self-development.  I don’t ask for this—it’s always a case of being invited into someone’s life and business.  I don’t take it lightly.

I’ve learned some things after doing this a while.  My recent learning about sound financial investing has stimulated my thinking about the kinds of people we do and don’t invest in with our time, talent, energy and money.

What then are indicators of strong value in another you’re seeking to mentor?

  • Strong work ethic. Two of the finest guys I ever worked with happened to be brothers raised on a farm.  During the six month time I mentored them, they both carried multiple jobs, including the farm, and each worked ninety to a hundred hours a week.  They weren’t looking to outsmart the work.
  • Bias for action. They deliver on their word and aren’t all about planning to do something.  They actual follow through.  They ship.
  • Character. They are true to their word and apologize when they fall short.  They’re not trying to live two, or three, or four, lives.
  • Intelligence. They can think on their feet, whether well-educated or not.

There are other value indicators.  Add some of your own. What kinds of qualities other than these do you find motivates you to invest in another?

Now, what are indicators of weak value in those into whom you intend to pour your life and learning?

  • Liars.  No brainer.  If they have trouble telling the truth, your investment is already at risk.  Your name is attached.  Bill Hybels, minister of a very large church in suburban Chicago, says that if you find someone on your staff who plays fast and loose with the truth, “Fire them.  Fire them immediately.  Fire them.”
  • Lack of initiative. A former colleague and I had a discussion many times over the question, “Can you really motivate someone who will not motivate themselves, is not a self-starter?”  We both concluded, having managed lots of people over the years, that you can’t.
  • Sloppy communication habits. I once lived in a region where someone in business could make a ton of money simply by answering their emails and phones and text messages promptly.  A common attitude with a lot of business people who live in the area is less than diligent about this. There are some forms of financial want that are avoidable.  This is one of them.  If people are slipshod about basic courtesy and good business sense in the matter of prompt response, move on.  Your time is too valuable.  If you’re in business with them, you’ll go broke.

There are other signs of potentially poor investments.  What are some you can name?

There is a place for charity and for giving people a second chance.  This post is not about that.  The market goes up and down and people have good days and bad.  This is about well-established habits of engagement with life.

Invest carefully.

 

Recommended Resources:

A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring (John Wooden & Don Yaeger)

Mentoring 101 (John C. Maxwell)

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson (Mitch Albom)

 

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The Necessity of No

25 07 2017

“The most basic boundary-setting word is no.”  So wrote Henry Cloud and John Townsend in their bestselling book, Boundaries.   Some people excel at saying “no.”  My wife is quite proficient at it.  Me?  Not so much.  But I’m learning.

I know a minister who requires those he’s going to marry to read Boundaries.  He said this book is the most important book to him outside the Bible.  And to prove it, he asked a prospective groom—to whom he’d assigned the book quite some time before—if he’d read the book.  This was Wednesday.  The wedding was on Saturday.  “Uh, no.  I haven’t gotten to it.”  “Well, you better get reading or I won’t marry you guys on Saturday.”

He read the book.  It’s a big deal.

One of the go-to sentences we use a lot these days, especially with those close to us when we cannot say yes is “they’ll just have to figure it out.”  We are defaulting to this more and more, with good reason.

If you don’t know how to say no to people, you are like a painted target.  Those who have a poor sense of boundary and propriety hone in on “really nice people” like an F-15 locking on to a target in war.

If you don’t learn how to say no, you will have a life of varied chaos.  You will allow yourself to be taken advantage of.  You will enable irresponsible behavior.  And with such enabling behavior comes burnout and a loss of self-respect.  I know.  I’ve been there more than I’d like to admit.

People say yes to all sorts of requests for lots of reasons, some good, others not.  Sometimes we say yes because we are generous people who want to help.  But if one’s tendency is to always say yes to some appeal, it’s unlikely that the motives are pure and good.

We often say yes because we feel guilty saying no.  We say yes because we want approval.  We say yes because we’re afraid our egos will suffer if we do otherwise.  We say yes because we are anxious.  Most of all, we default to yes because we lack a clear sense of self.  Edwin Friedman calls this self-differentiation.

When we say no.  When we are not quick to step in when someone has gotten into a jam, with all the attendant drama, we not only hurt ourselves, we hurt them.  There is something healthy and ennobling about letting someone “figure it out.”  It is in solving the problems of life, especially the kind we’ve brought on ourselves, that we grow.

So here’s a challenge.  Starting with small steps, begin to know when to say no.  And then say no.  One of our favorite forms of no is “I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.” If your default setting is to say yes, you probably need to work on changing it to no.  Take a step back and be brutally honest with yourself.  “Will this really help them or is it just sparing me pain in the shortfall?”

 

Suggested Resources:

Friedman’s Fables (Edwin H. Friedman)

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (M. Scott Peck)

 

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Don’t Waste My Time!

24 07 2017

“Just as theft of money is theft, so is theft of time.”

                        (Mesillat Yesharim, ch. 11)

Yesterday, I was cranky.  I’m not usually that way.  But by morning’s end, I was in a sour frame of mind.  Frustration, kvetching, it was all there.  My wife thought it was funny.  She doesn’t get jalapeno from me often.

Why?

We went some place expecting one thing and got another.  As we get older, we’re a lot more sensitive to having our time wasted by others.  We wasted our time, an hour and a half gone.

Employers are well-aware of how much time is wasted in office and factory.  Web surfing, prolonged breaks and lunches, endless chatter around the water cooler.  There are stats on the web that give big estimates of time loss.  They’re not flattering.

Time is that limited commodity that cannot be replaced.  Our time is finite.  We all die.  If someone takes my money, it can be replaced.  But that lost ninety minutes yesterday is gone for good.

For reflection:

  • Do you chatter on endlessly either not answering when you’ve been questioned or filling the air with needless details? You’re wasting someone else’s time and energy.
  • Are you fully engaged in the tasks at hand or do you dilly-dally around in a half-hearted way, not giving your best effort and focused attention?
  • Can you challenge yourself going forward to answer questions simply and directly?
  • Are you able to refrain from giving unsolicited advice or when asked advice, padding it with lots of verbal filler?

In business, those who can sum up and not waste the boss’s time and energy will find favor much faster than those who spend precious minutes in needless circumlocutions.

Point of this post is not finger pointing.  I have been lousy at stewarding the time and energy of others.  I’m looking to change things up.  Time cannot be replaced.

Care to join?

 

Suggested Resources:

15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs (Kevin Kruse)

Time Management Hacks: 10 Ways to Do More With Less, Change Your Daily Habits, Increase Productivity and Accomplish More (Thomas Westover)

 

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Get In. Get to the Point. Get Out.

21 07 2017

The title of this post is tacked on the wall above my desk.  It’s a reminder to not waste time and multiply words needlessly.  “No one owes you a reading” (Ralph McInerny, author of the Father Dowling mysteries and late philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame) is on the same page as well as famous Rule No. 17 from Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, “omit needless words.”

We tend to multiply words in print or conversation for a variety of reasons.  Anxiety is a big one; an inflated sense of our own brilliance is another; and some of us simply like to hear ourselves talk and see our words in print.  None of these are good excuses for monopolizing someone else’s time and processing capacity.  Get in, get to the point, and get out.

I spent a good chunk of my time today listening to the wise words of Wall Street legend and Columbia University Adjunct Professor, Joel Greenblatt.  Here, watch this.  Joel was recommended by a cousin who attended Columbia Business School and, I suspect, studied under Greenblatt.

I know very little about the market and investing.  This post is not about that. What struck me as I listened to Joel was his ability to get to the point quickly, to use effective and homey metaphors to make arcane concepts accessible, and to avoid wasting the time of his moderator and audience, Google in this instance.  He isn’t in love with his own voice.  He’d rather get returns for his investors and himself and use his time doing so.

If you drone on and on.  If you “have to express yourself completely” in a torrent of words, either in conversation or in print–author Thomas Wolfe was famous for this, you need to be prepared for the following realities.  One, the attention spans of human beings are shorter than ever in 2017, about seven to eight seconds.  Two, time is money.  When you don’t distill and sum up, you will find out sooner or later that the “cost of doing business” with you—i.e. talking with you—is too expensive.  To be blunt, if you prattle on, people may avoid you because their time, like yours, is limited and valuable.

This has been a besetting sin of mine.  Family have said, “Okay Chris—get to the point.”  Now I’m taking stock and inventory with the help of people like Joel Greenblatt.

So, know what you want to say, say it quickly—think Hemingway and his sparse prose—then send people on their way.

You may find they come back more often.

 

Suggested Resources:

The Little Book That Still Beats the Market (Joel Greenblatt)

Get to the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want (Andrew D. Gilman & Karen E. Berg)

Ernest Hemingway on Writing (Larry W. Phillips)

 

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Failure ≠ Final

20 07 2017

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

(Thomas Edison)

 

Suggested Resources:

Edison: A Biography (Matthew Josephson)

Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success (John C. Maxwell)

Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure (Andreas Kluth)

 

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Minimize Future Regrets–Today!

18 07 2017

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is the third richest man in the world.  His net worth in 2016 was something like 85.1 billion US dollars.

Let’s go back in time.  The internet was about seven years old.  Jeff was a member of a quantitative hedge fund, the D.E. Shaw Group in New York.  He had a very good job.  He also had an idea.  His idea was to begin selling books on the internet.

He and his boss, D.E. Shaw, went for a two hour walk around Central Park.  Jeff was thinking seriously about leaving the Shaw Group and striking out on his own.  He presented the idea to his employer.  Mr. Shaw said, “I think it’s a great idea.  But not for someone who already has a good job.”  He asked Jeff to think about it for forty-eight hours before making his decision.

Jeff formulated his pending decision within a nerdy concept called a “Regret Minimization Framework.”  Summed up, it went like this:  Project yourself ahead into the future when you’re eighty years old.  Looking back, you ask the question “If I do X and I fail at X, will I regret having tried and failed?”  Answer: “No.”

Next question.  “If I don’t try X (and thus never know what could happen), will I have regrets?”  Answer: “Yes.”

Jeff moved to Seattle and started Amazon.

We know now just how successful his choice was.  But he could not have known what 2017 would look like way back in the early 2000’s.  Amazon is ubiquitous.  We all shop there.

Regret Minimization Framework.  A big term.  Summed up, what kinds of decisions can you or I make now that won’t leave us tossing and turning at night in the twilight years wondering what might have been?

For reflection:

  • What choices have you already made that have left you with definite regrets? What would you have done differently?
  • Do you have an idea, knowing ideas carry risk, that you would like to develop and see through? If you choose not to follow through on this idea, will you regret the missed opportunities and adventures which could have been yours as your life nears its end?
  • Are you aware, as JK Rowling said, that allowing fear to keep you from stepping out on your dream is ultimately to fail by default?

Suggested Resources:

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Brad Stone)

Think like Jeff Bezos: Making of an e-commerce business mammoth from yesterday for tomorrow : 23 life changing lessons from Jeff Bezos on Life,People,Business, Technology and Leadership (Jamie Morris)

 

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