Why You Should Burn Your SMART Goals

You know those SMART goals that your boss made you set this year for your personal development? The ones that are supposed to make you better at something or other? Or maybe you made them for yourself on a personal journey you wanted to undertake. Either way, go ahead and pull those out, and set them on fire. Yeah go ahead and burn the shit out of them. Or right click on the file and with a flourish smash down the delete button. Now let’s talk about why.

Just about everyone in the business world is familiar with SMART goals by now. Some of the words in the acronym have been switched around or interchanged over time, but the gist is below:
S. – Specific

M. – Measurable

A. – Achievable

R. – Realistic

T. – Time based

When you think about those goals that I just had you shred, and look at them in this format, how inspired were you? How visionary did you feel? Did they excite you and get you out of bed in the morning? My hunch is they didn’t.
It’s a subtle difference, but what you should do instead is set SMART milestones. Your goals, though? Make them audacious. Make them exciting. Make them a vision so grand that when you think about them, you get so damn excited that you can’t help but go and work towards them. Your steps along the way? Yeah, make those bite-sized. But they aren’t your goals. They are just the stairs you have to climb up to your unrealistic, un-measurable, impossible, unrealistic, timeless aspirations. Go ahead, get to burning.


Keep Them Listening

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.” What in the world? What does that mean? How did she explode? Did she slowly blow up into a round ball like Violet Beauregard and then pop? Or was it more violent than that? There are just so many questions! That is the beauty of that opening line by Iain Banks’ novel The Crow Road. How in the world are you going to put that book down after reading that sentence? You have to go on.
As an English major in college I took multiple classes in Creative Writing. In all of them, the importance of the beginning of short story or novel was a topic that came up in every class. It can hook your readers and bring them tumbling directly into your story. You don’t have long to convince a reader that they should stick with you for the duration. Many people make a decision if they will buy a book based off what they can scan through on the first page and on the back cover.
In one of these classes, I distinctly remember spending the majority of a class period, almost an entire hour, just discussing the opening line. The teacher stressed how easy it is to lose a reader in beginning of a story. But she also stressed how you can immediately hook a reader with an opening line, which will then carry them far enough into the story for you to develop your characters and plots – and really sing your claws into them. I’ve included some great opening lines for you below to enjoy:
It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)
It was a pleasure to burn. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. —David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System (1987)
Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash. —J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)
The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)
It is not much of a jump to take this concept and apply to the sales world and our initial impact on a prospect, but I encourage you to take it and apply it elsewhere as well. Pitching an idea to your boss? Writing an important email or memo? Negotiating a raise? Rolling out a change you know will be unpopular? You need to get people interested in your story, and you need to get them interested fast. Take the time to craft a knockout opening, and you will have the audience still with you when get to the meat of your communication. If you lose them too early then payoff remains buried.

Want to Succeed? Stop Relying on Motivation.

There is a saying “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you keeps you going.” This quote is attributed to Jim Rohn, an author and motivational speaker. I will be honest in that I have not read much of Jim Rohn’s work, nor have I heard him speak, but this does not stop me from being a fervent believer in that simple declaration.
It’s easy to do. You see someone who is in better shape than you. Or is younger than you but more accomplished. Or is admired by someone who you wish spent more time admiring you… Whatever is causing it, we all know that feeling of deep-seated motivation that would cause us to run through a wall. We make all kinds of grandiose declarations to friends and families about the changes we are going to make and the work we are going to put in. We daydream about the results we are going to see from our extra work, our self-control, and our dedication. We may even go out and spend money on items we think will help us to get there!
Unfortunately for the majority of us, the alarm clock that goes off an hour early the next morning in order to help us fulfill all of those promises does not deliver with it a does of that same energy. Often the feeling is gone, just like that. In the span of 12 – 24 hours that unstoppable drive, that incredible force, has been muted and muffled by a few short hours of sleep. Some of us manage to keep the flame alive for a while, long enough to eventually retire from our new endeavors with little to no shame. But the majority of the population never even gets that far.
It is my firm belief, that what stops us from getting where we want to be – where those intense internal passions told us we deserved to be – is a simple lack of discipline and organization, a vast majority of which can be solved through habit and routine. Did you know that Maya Angelou wrote regularly in hotel rooms to minimize her distractions? Did you know that Benjamin Franklin broke his day down into hour by hour intervals, one of which included “examination of the day”? Were you aware that Ernest Hemingway liked to stop writing in the middle of an idea so he had a fresh place to get started the next day without having to stare at the page for inspiration?
When you hit the wall – and you will hit the wall, quite violently, I promise – you need to fall back on routines and habits. That way your motivation has nothing to do with it. Your body  and mind simply behave as they believe they are supposed to. The best book I have ever read on the subject is below. Give it a look. Later you will agree that it was more than worth your time when you look back at a goal you have accomplished instead of up to where it is still hanging over you.




Disclosure: this page contains affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, we will receive an affiliate commission. But in all honesty, the book is damn good. I wouldn’t post about it if it wasn’t. Enjoy.

A Rising Tide…

This entire website is based on the premise that ideas should not be locked away in a deep dark safe within every business (or every business leader) never to see the light of day. Below is an interesting story that I believe is relevant to this mission. I stumbled across it one day when researching a potential rallying cry for my sales team as we started a new fiscal year. I believe it ties in very closely to the teamwork mentality that we need more and more in a competitive workplace and can be easily connected with an earlier post Success Is Not A Zero Sum Game.
I’ll start off with a little history lesson, if you will  bear with me for a little while. Unfortunately, as some of you will come to know, I was an English major in college, but I also made the poor decision of adding on a History minor, so you will have to put up with some of my tangents from time to time no matter how much you may not want to…
Some of you may know that the phrase “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” is often attributed to John F. Kennedy – or, more specifically, one of his speechwriters, Ted Sorenson. However, Ted Sorenson actually stole shamelessly from a regional chamber of commerce in New England called The New England Council. Kennedy used the phrase “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” so much in his speeches however, that many thought he had coined it himself.
The idea behind the phrase seems pretty simple in terms of the economy. If the overall economy does better, then the participants in that economy should do better as well. Similarly, our goal in our workplaces is to keep the tide rising, and with it all of the individuals who contribute to the results of the entire company.
However, there are always two sides to every coin, and one of Bill Clinton’s former advisors enjoyed his own addendum to the popular phrase. He liked to say that if we do not abide by appropriate policies and procedures, “the rising tide will lift some boats, but others will run aground.” Make sure that the success in your organization does not benefit some parties while proving disastrous for others. It is easy to recognize the wins that we are seeing in our own departments or divisions without realizing that other parts of our organizations – integral parts of our organizations – are being left behind. It is not necessarily their jobs to “catch up” or to “get with the program”. Decisions do not occur in a vacuum, and as you make them within your teams, realize that they create ripples. Do not let those ripples cause your coworkers to run aground!

Are You Patient Enough to Be Great?

Imagine for a moment you are a farmer. Every day you tend your fields, build scarecrows to scare away birds, water your crops, and spend the majority of your waking hours working to ensure that your crop grows and develops. After all, this is what will feed you and your family. 
Imagine further, however, that for day after day you continue flowing water and sweat into the ground waiting for a sprout and nothing shows for three years!
At this point most people’s faith would have failed, and they would have moved on to something that seemed worth their time. However, for those with the faith required to cultivate Giant Timber bamboo, this is the struggle they face. This bamboo requires three years of cultivation before sprouting and exploding toward the sky to the tune of ninety feet in approximately two months!
Now, will it take you three years before all of your hard work pays off and you see potential gains in either your bank account, your skill set, or your status of work? For God’s sake, I hope not. However, the premise still applies. Too often, we begin a project, begin some kind of skill development, begin cultivating a new talent and give it up within months after failing to realize immediate life-changing results. Dedication via habit, routine, and incremental progress is what gets you where you want to be. Many people have heard the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of work at something to become an expert. Luckily, along the way, you should see improvement and signs of progress, which should encourage and motivate you. Those milestones should drive you. Look to the next milestones instead of the end goal sometimes.
My challenge to you is take some time to reflect on whether or not you spent the past year nurturing your skills, improving you day to day abilities, and working towards being better at what you do, or if you jumped from practice to practice looking for a quick fix. Results simply are not seen overnight. They take significant time and effort to begin to see the desired outcome. If you have been watering your bamboo, the results should slowly begin to show for you over the next year.
If you have not yet seen the video of Greg Bell covering this topic, then take a few moments to watch it and reflect on what you are doing to get better and improve your skills. How are you continuing your education on the sales process, your customer service skills, and your leadership capabilities?
If you are not steadily watering your bamboo, then now sounds like a good time to start.

Success Is Not A Zero Sum Game

Everyone knows both feelings:

  • The presenter is standing at the microphone, and he calls your name. You stand up, grinning ear to ear like an idiot as people around you clap and applaud. Someone nearby likely pats you on the back – literally! You glory in the acclaim and spotlight. Or maybe you are just in a meeting or on a conference call and your individual results or your team’s results are recognized as top notch. You blush a little bit. It’s a good feeling.
  • The presenter is standing at the microphone, and he calls someone else’s name. They stand up. Jealousy, envy, even anger surge up from your stomach into your chest and throughout your body. Or maybe it is less intense and the feeling is simple mild distaste. You can’t help but lean over to your neighbor and mention the extenuating circumstance that led to this person’s success. Your not saying the you deserve it necessarily. Just saying that they don’t really either.

I wanted to share some thoughts I had over the weekend while watching a very well respected movie during my free time. Along with my girlfriend, I have been working my way through all of the best picture nominees for 2016. While I have thoroughly enjoyed all of them (and she has slept through the second half of a good few) in some way, shape, or form, they have all stretched our thinking and challenged our beliefs. They’ve inspired us in the way that only incredible pieces of cinema can, evoking in you that feeling of invincibility as you walk out of the theater or turn off the television.


Yesterday, she finally convinced me to watch La La Land, which was not at the top of my list even though it is the same director who wrote and directed Whiplash, one of my favorite movies (if you haven’t seen it, please stop what you’re doing and rent it. Seriously stop reading this and do it). For those of you who watched the Oscars, you may remember that La La Land was the movie that was mistakenly announced as Best Picture when in fact Moonlight was the Best Picture winner. All of the La La Land cast was already on the Oscars stage however, and had to awkwardly resume their seats while the cast and crew of Moonlight took their place. Having already seen Moonlight, I could not help but to compare the two while watching La La Land, and wonder at the Steve Harvey level blunder that was made at the awards show.


After a long agonizing review of the acting, the cast, the editing, the lighting, the screenwriting, the music, and other categories I can scarcely remember the names or meanings of, I came to a decision as to which one was better. What I figured out, and what I think we can bring to our own businesses and performances is something I see in our organization is that it doesn’t matter. The answer is that both movies are incredible and the success of one does not detract from the greatness of the other. Similarly, success in any organization is not a zero-sum game. What I mean by that is the success of Moonlight does not detract from the incredible movie that was La La Land, and vice versa. Too often when another coworker, salesperson, or leader is succeeding at a greater level than ourselves, we attempt to tear down their performance or invent a reason as to why they has better results than we do. “They get more sales leads. They are in a better market. They are riding on the Mr. Incredible’s coattails. If I had XYZ resource that they have, I’d have the same results.” And the list goes on.


When you look at the movies nominated for Best Picture, their performances stand alone and apart from each other and are judged on their merits. In the same way, we need to give our own performances honest reflections based on our individual efforts and contributions. Other employees, sales people, and leaders performances should be used to motivate and inspire you! Congratulate them on their great work! Then ask them how they did it. And steal those ideas shamelessly.

Here, Take This Round Tuit



This week, with just six business days left in the fiscal year, I wanted to expand a little bit on a phrase that our sales manager used in our Location Meeting just last Monday. If you do not remember, what he closed our meeting with was the axiom, “We are judged by what we finish, not what we start.”


I do not think there is a much more apt way to sum up the way we finish a year, finish a quarter, finish a week, or even finish a day than by that bit of wisdom. It is a constant occurrence both in the workplace and in our personal lives to start a project but lose focus as time goes on. How many of us have odd jobs around the house that we wanted to get to but haven’t? Home improvements? Fitness goals? New Year’s Resolutions? When I was a kid growing up, my father had a long list of household chores that seemed to continue to pile up. He even physically had a list on our refrigerator. He seemed to spend more time coming up with the things to fix than actually fixing them. Needless to say, handiwork was not a skill he had to be proud of. He did have a cousin, however, who was incredibly good with his hands and was an engineer with the Air Force, working on military planes for over 20 years. Whenever he asked my father when he would finish these projects listed on the refrigerator, my father would reply, “When I get around to it.” One year, my cousin gave my dad a card for his birthday that he titled “Around To It” and did so every year afterward, physically creating a symbol for the mental block that stopped my father from getting to his projects.


How many of us have created goals for ourselves out into the future, but also delay in completing the daily tasks that are required in order to achieve them? Are we ever going to get around to them? When will that be? Tomorrow? Next week? Next quarter? Nike once used advertisements that proclaimed: “Yesterday you said tomorrow,” which speaks to the same human urge to delay. Whether you term it procrastination, lack of drive, comfort with the status quo, etc., it is still one of the leading causes of unfinished business. Many of us have the skills but simply don’t take all of the steps!


If your goal this year was President’s Club or Winner’s Circle then you have six days to complete it. If your goal is Winner’s Circle or President’s Club for next year, then you only have six days to get yourself ready to achieve it. If your goal is to make more money than you made last year, do better than you have done before, or work towards a position that you do not currently have, then every day should be a step in that direction. The first step may be the toughest, but the last step is the one that many fewer people actually take because they stop along the way. We have six steps left to finish out FY16 and build our momentum to a fever pace entering FY17. Let this email serve as me giving you your “around to it” so that you can get going on what you have been delaying.