Audio Blog, 9:14
Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” is one of my favorite books. It tells the fascinating account of several climbing teams who attempted to summit the earth’s highest mountain, Everest on May 10, 1996.
Beyond the grueling physical, mental and emotional challenges that the climb presents is one simple truth: You climb the mountain by ensuring that the small steps taken are planned in advance, and guide you to each successive base camp, which ultimately leads you to the top of the mountain.
In other words, the realization of small goals lead you to the final objective, and that is why this book is symbolic of the goal setting process that we need to emulate if we want to accomplish big long-term goals.
With the clarity and inertia generated by goal setting, you will set yourself on the right path, and be prepared to kick down the door of opportunity when it is cracked open. Every successful person that I have studied has identified this as an absolutely necessary exercise.
Why? Goals get you going in the right direction and provide motivation, focus, rewards and benchmarks along the way.
However, as was clear in “Into Thin Air”, it would be virtually impossible to reach your “summit” without first identifying it, so if you haven’t taken the time to read the “Where Is Your Ship Heading” post yet, please do so now.
It is also true that even when your final destination is clearly identified, there is only a remote chance of you actually reaching it without having a climbing plan, with base camps along the journey. Intuitively, everyone gets this point.
However, many goal setting programs are complex, time consuming and burdensome, and people get frustrated. This post is going to provide a quick, simple and effective framework to help you.
“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” ~ Jim Rohn
You don’t need anything fancy to start, and it doesn’t matter if you are 18 or a senior citizen. Just simply get out a blank piece of paper and write down any broad life categories that you deem to be important. For example:
* Family / Relationships * Social * Educational * Financial * Professional * Health & Fitness
Next, write down the most important long-term (25-year) goals in each category. Don’t get stressed about not clearly knowing what the right answer should be, or how in the world you will actually accomplish it. Just have some fun, and think boldly. Allow your creativity and self-awareness to be liberated, and sketch out the goals of a “future person” who is bigger than you currently are now.
“An average person with average talents and ambition and average education, can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our society, if that person has clear, focused goals.” ~ Mary Kay Ash
After identifying what is important, piece together this information in a 25-year vision paragraph. Below is my vision statement from August 1995. I was still in the Army, single without children, no formal business skills or advanced degrees, and didn’t posses any significant financial or real assets.
“My vision is to become a well-educated, physically fit, financially successful entrepreneur earning in excess of $1 million per year, who balances a family life with a meaningful community presence. I will use influential public speaking to make a substantial impact on how other people view life. I will strive to see the positive attributes in others and motivate them to reach their true potential, which will help me to reach my maximum potential. I will constantly operate outside of my comfort zone in order to grow. Other guiding principles will include an intense work ethic, aggressive investing, positive attitude, win-win philosophy, diligent self-study, and a routine health and fitness program.”
Once you have your 25-year Vision Statement, start reverse planning. To accomplish those 25-year objectives, what are the goals (base camps) that you need to establish along the way.
As an example, I will share my goals in the Educational and Financial categories, written in August 1995.
Fort Benning, Georgia.
Educational (August 1995, Age 28)
- 30-day (September 1995): Enroll in Kaplan GMAT prep course in Atlanta.
- 90-day (November 1995): Complete the GMAT prep course and exam.
- 1-year (August 1996 Age 29): Accepted into one of my top choices for Business School (MBA).
- 3-5 year (August 1998 Age 31-33): Graduate from an MBA program with Honors.
- 10-year (August 2005 Age 38): Attend professional seminars and conferences in my chosen field.
- 25-year (August 2020 Age 53): Conduct paid speaking engagements and seminars on self-help and leadership topics.
Financial (August 1995, Age 28)
- 30-day (September 1995): Save $700 savings, and invest $300 in a Scudder Investment account.
- 90-day (November 1995): Save $2,100 savings, and invest $900 in a Scudder Investment account.
- 1-year (August 1996 Age 29): Accumulate a total of $24,000 worth of financial assets. Avoid assuming any student loan debt. Continue to send monthly financial assistance to Mom.
- 3-5 year (August 1998 Age 31-33): Accumulate $35,000 worth of financial assets. Earn over $100,000 per year. Ensure my contributions are more than that amount. Purchase a modest first home. (3 BDRM, 2 BR and a treadmill). Increase financial assistance to Mom.
- 10-year (August 2005 Age 38): Earn over $250,000 per year. Develop an expertise that justifies amount. Purchase a larger, all brick home with a large yard for a growing family, and a jacuzzi/swimming pool and a fitness/weight room. Possess the financial security to assist family members, and ensure that Mom is comfortable.
- 25-year (August 2020 Age 53): Earn over $1 million per year through work, investments and rental income. Achieve financial independence. Red Ferrari sports car. Own my own personal aircraft!
Of course, I have not achieved all of my goals. However, I have achieved several, and I certainly benefited from the purpose, focus and clarity of the goal-oriented process.
When you develop your goals in each category, post them in a personal location, and review them frequently. There is something convincing about committing to a path and writing it down. (Even if the path changes).
Additionally, print out a copy, and share it with a confidant, so that someone else knows the intended direction of your life. This person should be trusted, supportive and approach life in a similar manner (so as not to rain on your parade too early in the process).
Remember, even if you don’t accomplish the goals as specifically designed, the momentum that you will establish by taking action will open up opportunities that you may not imagine. In August 1995, I had no idea that I would establish a career in a large bank. I actually expected to be an entrepreneur after earning my MBA. However, attending business school opened up the door of opportunity that I decided was consistent with the direction of my life plan, and I ran through it.
As Napolean Hill said in “Think and Grow Rich”, “what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.
See you at the top!