When Goals Matter – Part Four

I remember asking one of my mentors many years ago what I needed to do in order to be successful. His answer, as usual, what short and to the point. He said you must have balance in your life. 

 

It was his opinion that you could be the most successful business person in the world but if your family hated you then you were not truly a success. He believed that an unbalanced obsession in any one part of your life kept you from complete success. 

 

I believe he was 100% correct in his assessment.

 

So I recommend setting goals in six key areas of your life. Those areas are family and home, financial and career, spiritual and ethical, mental and educational, social and cultural and physical and mental. (For those of you who think that’s 12 areas I’m okay with that too but the pairings actually go together)

 

I think you’ll find that having goals in each of those areas can help you achieve them all. You may not always be motivated to head out to work but when you realize that you’re actually working for your family it tends to make it easier. Perhaps you’re really kung ho about getting that promotion at work but when you also have a goal to have a thriving social network you may be more likely to pull yourself away from that desk. That means you have some balance in your life. 

 

Before we go any further let’s make one thing perfectly clear; when I say social network I’m talking about the old fashioned kind, you know, the kind where you interact with actual humans, face-to-face. Talking to them…with your voice. No amount of social media followers or friends will ever replace human contact and never kid yourself that it will.

 

Now, back to goals.

 

Once you’ve determined where to set goals you’re pretty much ready to start writing them down. I like the SMART method of setting goals, you’ve likely heard of it many times. Make certain your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed

 

It’s a great method for setting goals, it has just one problem….it seldom works. It’s not really that SMART goals fail because they are not smart, they fail because most people don’t seem to understand the definition of specific. They end up with MART goals and that doesn’t even sound smart. 

 

So, in the fifth and final post of this series we’re going deep on specificity. You’ll end up with goals that represent your roadmap, a detailed roadmap, to success.

 

Until then consider this… I’ve always heard it said that there are only two things certain in life, those being death and taxes. I’d like to add this to the certainties of life: if you’re willing to be stopped in the pursuit of your goals there will always be someone or something to stop you. 


The more specific you are in setting your goals the harder it is for someone else to get in your way. You’re looking at a substantial investment of time in order to be specific when setting true goals but it’s an investment with a guaranteed return because it’s an investment in yourself. 

When Goals Matter – Part Three

Hopefully since my last post you’ve been considering those activities you do with some regularity that provide you with no return on your time investment. Your odds of accomplishing anything new go way up when you’re prepared to give up something old to get it. I guess maybe that’s what “they” mean when they say life is full of trade-offs.

 

If you’re indeed serious about stopping something in order to start something new you’ll need to set a stop goal with as much specificity and accountability as any other goal. We’ll talk about those goal setting characteristics in our next post but the key thing to remember is that a stop goal is indeed a goal and the same rules apply if you plan on achieving it. Old habits die hard and unless you’re very intentional about killing them they tend to linger on indefinitely.

 

There is no magic to the number of goals you have but keep in mind if you’re focusing on 21 different things you actually have no focus at all. Prioritizing your goals in order to focus is a key to actually achieving them. It’s also perfectly okay, in fact it’s good practice, to occasionally adjust and rethink your goals.

 

If you’re serious about goal setting then it’s vital that you be honest with yourself. If you have a goal to be debt-free in 3 years then don’t try to convince yourself that you can go three years and never spurge on something. Build the occasional spurge into your goals, discipline is important in achieving goals but so is realism. Being overly aggressive when setting goals causes frustration and frustration is a short path to failure.

 

Your formal goal-setting process begins by determining your vision and your mission. You should write out an actual vision and mission statement to guide you through your goal-setting and your life. Your vision statement is a description of where you are going in life and what it will look like when you get there. Make it fun, make it appealing and make it truthful. This is YOUR vision, don’t be talked out of it by someone who wants to run your life. It’s hard enough to achieve your own goals; you’ll find it nearly impossible and totally unfulfilling trying to achieve someone else’s. 

 

Once you have your vision statement you’re ready to develop your mission statement. This is a statement that sums up the direction you want your life to take in the future. That direction should be leading you directly to your vision. Once developed your mission will become the driving force behind your goals, both personal and professional. 

 

Goals always matter but when you’re on a mission you’ll find that goals really really matter.

 

By the way, if you’re still wondering about those stop goals then a mission statement can really come in handy. If you’re doing something too frequently that doesn’t help you accomplish your mission then you may want to set a stop goal around it. That allows you to focus more energy on the things that do help you accomplish your mission.


In my next post I’ll discuss the areas of your life you may want to consider setting goals and exactly what a true goal looks like. Until then start thinking about your vision and mission. Understanding, with great specificity, where you want to go in life is absolutely essential if you truly hope to get there.


When Goals Matter – Part Two

I should probably warn you right up front that the process of setting truly achievable goals is serious work. It requires some heavy thinking and a substantial commitment of time. If you’re not at a point in your life where you want to have a measure of control over every aspect of it then maybe this post isn’t for you.

 

If however you want to be the driver of your life then read on, I’m talking to you.

 

A solid goal-setting process begins with the investment of some serious time considering what is important in your life. That might sound easy but here’s the deal, what is important in your life isn’t what you say it is, it is what you show it is.

 

For instance, you might say that losing weight and maintaining a good physical condition is an important goal for you. But if I followed you around for a week would I be able to “see” that in you. I’d have my doubts if I followed you up to the snack counter at the movies for your third popcorn refill. 

 

It’s so much easier to say what’s important than it is to show what’s important. Other people see what is truly important in your life, often before you do. Before you set a single goal you need to understand that it’s your actions that really reflect what’s important in your life. So don’t “think” about what’s important in your life, “watch” yourself and “see” what’s actually important in your life. Better yet, ask your mentor or a close friend what they think is important in your life. That could be a huge eye-opener for you.

 

Once you understand what is important in your life then you’re almost ready to set some true goals.

 

I say almost because there is one other absolutely vital step in the goal setting process that most people completely overlook.

 

Before you can set a true goal you MUST set one or more “stop goals.” These are the things you’ll stop doing in order to start doing something else. Achieving most goals means doing something that you’re not currently doing. That means you’ll take on something new, something which requires some sort of time investment. 

 

Most people set this goal without any consideration of where the time will come from. Unless you’re one of the rare people who sits around wondering how you can burn a few more hours before bedtime, you’re day (and night) is already too busy. Setting a goal which requires more time without the time to achieve it is merely setting a fools goal. 

 

If you have no time to invest in achieving a goal then the goal will not be achieved. Period.

 

One of the biggest, if not the biggest mistake people make in goal setting is not starting by setting stop goals. 

 

So, in my next post we’ll start the goal setting process by discussing stopping those time consuming, low return activities that all of us do without even thinking about them. They are often mindless little things but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly expensive in terms of the time it takes to do them.


Until then start noticing how you use your time and ask yourself what you’re doing that really pays no return. If you could stop doing it without anyone, including yourself, really noticing then maybe you should just stop doing it. Think about it! 

When Goals Matter

So, I’m on the tee box of a fairly long par four hole on a world renowned golf course. I hit a perfect drive, long by my standards and my ball rolls to a spot in the middle of the fairway. It leaves me with an easy shot to the green except that the green is well above me at the top of a sizable incline. I can’t actually see the putting surface but my golf map shows me the size and shape of the green so I decide to go at the middle of the green. I figure that’s my best chance at a par on this challenging hole. 

 

Well my shot felt perfect and I was certain when I reached the top of the hill I would find my ball at least near the center of the green. As I approached the top with great anticipation I saw my ball almost perfectly placed in the absolute center of the green. Another perfect shot!

 

In that same instant I looked for the hole to see how long my putt would be. I looked and looked but to my amazement I simply couldn’t find the hole. My playing partners couldn’t find it either. We couldn’t find it because there was no hole. I was crushed, the rarity of two consecutive good shots was for naught. I couldn’t finish the hole because there was no hole. Whatever happened the rest of the round no longer mattered either, I could not reach my goal of making par on this difficult hole.

 

With the goal gone I quickly lost interest in the remainder of the round. 

 

Or at least I would have if that had actually happened. (The part about the green not having a hole isn’t the only made up part of the story, the part about the two great shots in a row is even more unbelievable, at least for me) 

 

Imagine running a race with no finish line… how far are you willing to run knowing there really isn’t a finish? 

 

Imagine paying big money for front row seats to an NBA Basketball game and once you reach your high priced seats you see that there are no baskets. The players will just be running up and down the floor dribbling and passing the ball but never actually taking a shot. I mean why take a shot when there is nothing to shoot at?

 

You wouldn’t pay money to watch that because there is no outcome….the players work just as hard, it just leads to nothing. I’m betting they would be bored almost as quickly as you.

 

As unlikely as those scenarios may seem the fact is that a majority of people go through their lives playing basketball ball without a basket and they run a race with no finish line. You see, a majority of people, actually a vast majority, have no formal goals in their lives. They have nothing to shoot for, there is no finish line to cross. 

 

As a result they lose interest in whatever it is they are doing pretty quickly. They go through the motions of life without really living. They can tell you what’s important to them but you’ll seldom see it in what they do with their time. 

 

Most people spend on average 40 hours planning a vacation of a week or longer yet invest virtually no time planning the rest of their lives. Goals are the plan for the rest of your life. 

 

If you truly want success, long-term lasting success as defined by you and you alone, then goals matter. 

 

The most successful people in every walk of life have goals and a written plan to achieve them. In my next post we will look at where and how you may want to set goals, real goals, achievable goals, for yourself. 

 

Goals will guide you towards greater success and fulfillment in your life so be sure to catch part two of this post just a few days from now! 

The Need for Feedback

Some people want feedback on their performance and some people don’t. But if you’re a leader you need to understand this basic fact: ALL people NEED feedback. At least if their performance is going to improve in any significant way.

 

As a leader it is vital that you provide that feedback if you want your people to grow. By the way, if you don’t want you people to grow then stop calling yourself a leader. Just sayin’.

 

This feedback must be fairly consistent and very specific. It can be “scheduled” like during an annual review but it can also be spontaneous, occurring in the moment that you think feedback would be helpful. I should also point out here that if you are providing feedback only during those scheduled annual reviews you’re likely not providing your people with nearly enough feedback to be truly helpful. 

 

Let’s talk about specific feedback. “You need to improve” is NOT feedback, that’s criticism. Feedback involves much more detail. Be as specific as possible about where and how the improvement must occur. Let your people know how you will determine if the improvement has happened. Provide a timeline on when the improvement needs to happen and set a specific date and time to provide updated feedback to confirm that you’ve seen the required change. 

 

Do not ever tell someone they need to improve in a particular area by the end of the month and then leave them wondering if you think their improvement has been sufficient. You need to follow up with additional feedback.

 

I wonder sometimes if the reason so many “leaders” are poor at providing feedback is that they feel giving feedback could lead to confrontation. If you’re a leader who feels that way it could be because you see feedback as something you only provide when improvement or corrective action is required. However, the best leaders provide feedback in all circumstances, bad and good! 

 

It seems most every leader understands the some sort of feedback is required when improvement is needed. What many forget is the it’s also great to provide feedback when things are going well. When you give feedback for a job well done you reinforce the successful actions of your entire team, even if the feedback was provided to a single individual. Feedback for successful actions also needs to be specific, “nice job” barely qualifies as a compliment much less feedback. Tell the person WHY it was a nice job, share with them specifically where they went right and encourage them to continue the effort.

 

A couple of key points here; obviously feedback given to promote corrective action or improvement is best given in private, between you and the person you’re trying to help. Feedback for positive reinforcement can and probably should be given publicly to display a model of successful effort. 

 

Now, back to where we started, some people want your feedback and some people will “resist” your feedback so don’t attempt to force your people to drink from the well of feedback rather inspire them to have a mighty thirst for it. 

 

You inspire them to thirst for feedback by showing them you truly care. By showing them that you have THEIR best interests in mind. 

 

When your people know the feedback is intended FOR them and not directed AT them they will likely become much more receptive. 


One last thing for those of you on the receiving side of feedback. I’ve never in my life received negative feedback. The feedback I received may well have been intended to be negative, I simply refused to receive it that way. That’s a choice and it’s one I would encourage you to make as well.

Communicate for Success

Words are the basis for all successful communication. There are certainly nonverbal factors that come into play but your choice of words has a huge impact on how your message is heard.

 

How effectively a person communicates is a key determinant in their level of success. 

 

Poor speaking or writing skills can distort your image as a capable, knowledgeable professional. When you hem and haw, trying to find the right word you can give the impression that you lack confidence….or worse.

 

There is a temptation to over compensate by using a 25 cent word when a 5 cent word will do. I could use an obfuscated, byzantine and problematical word here but instead I’ll just say it’s best to use descriptive, simple words in short sentences when communicating. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking or writing, clear and concise is always better. 

 

If someone needs to look up a word to figure out what you’re saying then you have likely missed the mark. 

 

You’ll seldom impress someone with your communication skills by using big words they don’t understand, you’ll impress them by being understood. 

 

Another killer of successful communication is waffle words. 

 

Certain expressions, phrases and word choices can rob people of their opportunity to communicate effectively. These words and phrases can turn an otherwise crisp, powerful message into soggy ineffective mush.

 

“I guess”, “I hope”, “I think”, “Maybe”, “Sort of”, “Kind of” and “Probably” are just a few examples of commonly heard waffle words. The more they sneak into your presentation or document the weaker your message becomes.

 

Waffle words easily become habit forming. We start using them without thinking of the impact, or lack of impact on the message we’re trying to convey. Instead of saying things out of habit, try to be more aware of what you say and create new, more effective habits when you speak or write.

 

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” 


Make sure your habits are good ones!

Dear President Trump

Dear President Trump,


First let me apologize for not writing sooner. It’s just one of those things where the best of intentions just doesn’t get it done. While important, this letter never seemed vital…until perhaps now. 

 

I was a big fan of your show The Apprentice. I didn’t always agree with your decisions on who should stay and who should go and the tasks could at times be a bit lame but the whole concept was like a Science Lab of what to do and what not to do when it comes to leadership. For that reason I found it fascinating.

 

I know it’s easy to say after the fact but I wasn’t the least bit surprised (well maybe a little) by your victory in November, winners win. That’s how it works in all walks of life, even in politics it appears. Clearly there are wide swaths of the American people who do not view you in a favorable light but however you’ve done it no one should continue to be surprised by your success. 

 

I really don’t know anyone, anywhere who wouldn’t describe the Presidency of The United States of America as the pinnacle of success. You sir have arrived! 

 

Which is why I, as a student of people and leadership, am so surprised to see you behave as if you’re an up and coming street fighter looking to get someone, anyone, to recognize their potential. You absolutely, positively, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously do not have to do that anymore.

 

There are clearly people in the media who would prefer to shape your message in such a way as to make you look deplorable. They are pretty good at it too, so good in fact that they certainly do not require your rather skilled assistance. 

 

Social Media in general, and Twitter in particular, was a very valuable tool for you during the election. It indeed allowed you to get your message “out there” in an unfiltered, direct, and unprecedented way. As effective as it can be in helping you stay connected as President to your fellow Americans it can also serve as a valuable weapon for your opponents to use against you. 

 

But they are shooting blanks unless you provide them with real ammunition, and that it seems is what you’ve been doing far too often. When you do that you descend from the pinnacle of success, from the highest office in the land, to the level of your opponents. You do not have to win a fight against the media, in fact you can’t win a fight because there is no fight, it’s over, you’ve already won.

 

The only way, the absolute only way you give credence to the things they say about you, true or not, is to respond to them. You may be hitting back “10 times harder” but half your blows are landing on you. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I just can’t think of a single benefit to you or the nation of you doing that. So don’t! 

 

You simply cannot build America up by tearing down your fellow Americans, it does not work that way. You lead all Americans Mr. President, whether they voted for you or not, whether they like you or not, and whether they want to be led by you or not and disparaging those you lead doesn’t work either. Never has, never will. 

 

Don’t stop tweeting Mr. President, just stop tweeting the trash talk. Tweet about your successes, tweet about your challenges, tweet about where and how the public can help you, just don’t tweet negative stuff about the people you lead. Even if it’s true there is no benefit to anyone in doing it.

 

As we Americans celebrate our freedom this week I urge you to think of all of our fellow Americans who have sacrificed their very life to protect the freedoms we enjoy. It is they who provide us with the continued right of free speech. You sir, as do all Americans, have the right to say pretty much whatever you want but I’d encourage you to consider this: having the right to do something doesn’t make it right to do. 

 

In my humble opinion Mr. President you can best honor those fallen heroes by honoring the office which you now hold. Honor it by being your best self. Honor it by being the role model of American values and ideals. Mr. President there is simply no way to make America great again by damaging the principles by which we have stood for all these years. 

 

Let your protagonists try to provoke you but do not be provoked. Rise above the fray, they cannot fight you if you don’t join the fight. Find the courage to no longer engage them in battle. 

 

Work everyday for every American, even those who today may hate you. Their hate is their problem not yours. The hater always loses more than the hated; do them a favor and be the President who is impossible to hate. 

 

You’ve got a long way to go to make that happen but if you’re up for it then it shouldn’t really be a problem for you. After all, you’re in the business of surprising people. 

 

It’s called leading Mr. President pure and simply. As President of the United States leading is not a part time job. Everything you say and do either adds to or subtracts from your ability to truly lead. That’s everything Mr. President, absolutely positively everything

 

Every American, even those who didn’t vote for you, even those who loathe you, need you to succeed. They may be so filled with hate that they can’t see that today but that doesn’t diminish the fact. The American people need you to lead. Everyday, all day.  

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, I hope you’ll find some guidance in it that will help you as you continue to work for all of us. May God bless you Mr. President and may God bless America. 

 

Your fellow American, 

 

Steve Keating