As Founders, we spend an inordinate amount of time setting and pursuing goals, yet the ones that truly matter — the ones that affect us personally — are often amorphous. If we’re spending every waking moment working toward a goal, it stands to reason that our goals should have an insane amount of fidelity.
We Tend to Suck at Goal Definition
If you ask a startup Founder what their goals for the startup are, they may say something like “To sell for a billion dollars!” But that’s a pointless goal unless that Founder needs exactly a billion dollars (or their percentage of it) to achieve their goals. Also, if you have a plan for spending a billion dollars please call me – I want to hang out.
A better goal would be “I need $281,520 to pay off my student loan debt, put money down on a house, and put $50k in the bank for emergencies.”
That type of goal has a specific definition and a deliberate purpose which allows us to make tons of decisions based on that outcome. For example, we probably don’t need to take on a ton of investment to achieve that outcome or build a giant company. We can hit that goal with way less complication.
Goals Should Be About More Than Money
Money is a very binary goal, but we should also be specific about what our non-numeric goals are. For example, we all say that we want “more freedom” (it’s why we started a company!) but do we ever really define that freedom?
That freedom may mean that we don’t ever want to answer to anyone ever again (my favorite), but we should be specific about who we don’t want to answer to. Are we talking about investors, customers, employees (all of the above)?
I personally never wanted to answer to a Board again (so we don’t have one). I didn’t want to deal with huge enterprise customers that could crush my business (so we don’t have those). The list goes on. By making goals very specific we start to create a tight roadmap toward real success.
The More We Tighten Up Our Goals, The Easier They Become
It turns out, the hardest goals to reach are those with the least definition. It’s like when we say ” I want to be happy” — again, a dumb goal — because in and of itself it lacks definition. On the other hand, as we distill our goals into highly specific outcomes, it turns out they are often way easier to achieve.
A great method I’ve personally found is to not only make them highly specific but make them incremental. Instead of saying “I want to lose 40 pounds” try “I want to lose 1 pound by Monday.” Smaller, focused goals have the highest chance of success. And if we’re going to be spending an insane amount of time pursuing goals, doesn’t it make sense that we invest some serious time refining them?