Some people have dreams, better people have goals. Facetiousness aside, we’re about being practical and action-oriented, so I will hereafter use “goals” to loosely refer to goals, ambitions, end outcomes, dreams, etc.
So what’s the problem?
“If you can dream it, you can do it!” Yay for motivational platitudes! Or how about, “It’s all about the grind, grind-grind-grind, you have to love the grind.” Again, motivational and goal achievement common speak utterly devoid of practical know-how or intelligent adjustments toward your goals.
There’s a time and place for all that stuff. In fact, if you like the rah-rah, I suggest you peruse through Instagram and land anywhere. For now, let’s review more of a checklist approach to see what you can add or eliminate to tangibly move the dial in the right direction. Your goal could be hitting X $/month in supplemental income, hitting your next fitness personal record, or quite literally anything that matters enough for you to concretely write it down and focus on.
Step 1: Decide & Commit
Painfully obvious yet frequently overlooked. What is it that you want? What lights you up inside to give you the sustained motivation you’ll need to stick with it until fruition. If it’s a nice-to-have, it’s not happening. In the wise words of Derek Sivers, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” -Lewis Carroll
If you want 10 things at once, join the club, then decide which one or two are most important to you. Once you establish your end outcome, you can move on to reverse-engineering the smartest and most efficient way to get there, fueled by the requisite motivation and intention.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” -Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Step 2: Reverse-Engineer or Model
Finding the Right Mentor or Coach
Bar none, the best way to springboard yourself toward your desired outcome is finding and modeling after the right mentor, coach, or example. Nothing novel here, but what people don’t emphasize enough is the criteria to find the right model or mentor. For such an important question, the answer is remarkably simple; the best mentor or person to model after is someone is a) is currently doing what you want to learn and b) is doing it well and at a level to which you aspire. If you miss one of those, you’ll likely (not always) run into trouble. They have to be in the weeds of the business/activity NOW, to be up-to-date enough to be able to help you, versus. them spewing out antiquated information that worked for them in a prehistoric period. The other criterion is a bit more self-explanatory: if they haven’t achieved the results you want, for themselves, how could they possibly teach you or get you there? The frequency with which I’ve seen pudgy trainers training someone skinner is both disturbing and perplexing. #NoJudgements
Modeling after success applies to almost anything. Marketing 101 will teach you to swipe or model after advertisements and campaigns that have already proven to be successful. You rarely, if ever, have to reinvent the wheel. Figure out what’s already working, or who’s already figured it out, and start following what got them there.
The Best Path Is the Most Efficient Path
If you can’t find or afford the right coach, keep looking, but let’s move on to the next best thing: reverse-engineering the goal. Consider all the possible activities that could inch you one step closer toward your desired outcome, and pull out the 80/20 – the 20% of the activities that will result in 80% of the total positive impact. You could do a lot of things, but only a few will make the most difference, and they tend to be the most obvious and mundane. For example, if you wanted to get a handle on your health, you could cycle through 30 different protein powders and supplements, or you could simply cut gluten and sugar, and get enough sleep. If our friend Pareto isn’t giving you a clear answer and you don’t know which are the 80/20 activities, here’s another question to consider:
“Which one of these, if done, would render all the rest either easier or completely irrelevant?” Timothy Ferriss, Tools of Titans
Now that you have identified the highest leverage tasks, it’s time to obliterate all the noise in your way to perform at your peak. Near and dear to my heart, we have…
Step 3: Eliminate Distractions
This one is so important it deserves a full and separate post (which I’ve done only in part, here). If you want the elimination Bible, I recommend you read Essentialism.
“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” – Greg McKeown, Essentialism.
In a world inundated with notifications, social media, and instant messages, we’ve conditioned ourselves into a culture of expecting immediate responses and engagement on a 24/7 basis. This is fabulous for OPA (Other People’s Agenda) but detrimental for you accomplishing anything of value, beyond the facade of busyness. Clear the path so that you can execute your highest leverage activities on a daily basis with consistency and quality. What you eliminate or subtract is equally if not more important than what you add in to achieve your expressed goals. This elimination process requires perpetual revisiting and constant reassessing of what is on your schedule or in your way hindering you from executing with clarity, ease, and focus, yielding Flow. Distraction= person, place, or thing that doesn’t directly bring you materially closer toward your stated goals.
Here are a few common distractions to help you get started:
- Push notifications on your phone that don’t require your real-time attention.
- Social media and FB walls/timelines/posts.
- Negative, annoying people and other energy vampires.
- Groups, clubs, or organizations that eat up your time more than they add value.
- Clutter, physical and digital.
- Mundane decisions.
Step 4: Execute Daily
The path has been cleared, you know what you need to do, and why you are doing it. There a few theories (pre-calendar/timeslot everything, Pomodoro Technique, etc.) of how to execute most effectively, but the bottom line is to find a way to get the activities completed by the end of the day. I recommend you make your execution process a habit or routine, so you don’t waste cognitive resources each day deciding when/where/how you will complete your tasks (adding yet another barrier to achievement).
Be honest with yourself here and figure out what it’s really going to take for you to accomplish your day with consistency. Who do you need to talk to, what do you need to see or do, to put yourself in the focused and motivated frame of mind to get it done. If watching re-runs of Rich Froning makes you feel like a sufficient POS (piece-of-shit), compelling you to step it up, then I’m not (self-)judging.
Have a written list, on paper or via digital notes/reminders, and check it off each day. If you want more help coming up with the list or inspiration, check out Andy Frisella’s “Kill It Every Day” podcast episode.
I’ve observed a war between the “work smarter not harder” and the “grind until Gary V is proud of you” crowds, so if you implement Step 2 and Step 4 here, you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Step 5: Adapt & Readjust
Ready. Fire. Aim. Like any plan, you must reassess and make minor or even major modifications along the way. Again, as is evidently the answer for everything, the answer is balance; you can’t give up before you ever had a chance to succeed/improve, but you also can’t work yourself to death ignoring the signs along the way that you’re doing something dead-wrong. Can you find a better mentor/coach? Can you automate something with software that you had previously delegated or were doing yourself? What other variables can you manipulate or test to prove out a more efficacious path?
“You’ve learned the Ultimate Success Formula: Know your outcome, develop the sensory acuity to know what you’re getting, develop the flexibility to change your behavior until you find out what works—and you will reach your outcome.” – Anthony Robbins, Unlimited Power.
I interpret the, “develop the sensory acuity to know what you’re getting,” part to be Tony’s nice way of saying don’t be a complete imbecile by disregarding the writing-on-the-wall information if something either worked or didn’t.
Test, re-test, persist. Along the way, you can pad your ego from others by telling them you’ve “pivoted” or “changed strategies” to mask your failed experiments. Repeat this entire process, moving up the food chain on to bigger, more impactful, and more challenging projects until you no longer want to grow or until you D.I.E., whichever comes first.