15 Minutes

Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.

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Why We Don’t Set Goals


Having this app track my jogging route with a moving red line makes me want to fight Nazis.

The first chapter of my first book is all about goals. How to set goals, how to keep your goals updated and relevant and in front of you all the time. A whole slew of reasons on why it makes sense to have goals. They keep you enthusiastic, they keep you focused. If you think and dwell on your goal you are drawn towards it.

I think everyone understands the concept that if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. I’m sure most people have heard of the case studies comparing classmates that set goals absolutely obliterating the accomplishments of those that didn’t set goals. Yet there are still very few people that actually set precise, specific goals for their lives. If they do have a goal then it is a vague, indistinct goal.

I’m guilty of this. Even very recently, despite the fact that I wrote a chapter on this very subject.

I finally healed from various injuries enough to start running a few months ago, and I’ve been semi-regular at it since then. But I never set an actual precise, specific goal. Just kind of getting out the door to “get in shape.” Which is of course better than sitting at home with a bowl of ice cream, but with the vague, indistinct goal of “get in shape” it’s easy to lose focus, lose enthusiasm, and skip the occasional day. Or week.

I was advised (thank you, Cinda) to set some kind of running goal, like to enter an upcoming 5K race. But I never did. I dragged my feet (which probably accounts for my slow jogging speed) and just sort of slogged through my workouts. I didn’t set a goal because:

  • I didn’t feel that I knew enough about fitness to set a running goal. Which is dumb because I have access to a personal trainer and I could have asked.
  • I was lazy. Which is also dumb because I was expending the energy to go outside and run but not willing to exert the mental effort to figure out a goal.

So, ignorance and laziness were my two reasons.

Last night however, as I was leaving my front door and turning on my running app trying to get a good GPS signal… My phone app threw down a challenge! It invited me to accept the Echo 50K Challenge.

The Challenge: “Track 50 kilometers with Runkeeper over the course of a month. They can be runs or walks, they just need to be GPS tracked!”
The Reward: “Get $20 off any Magellan Echo watch and three free months of Runkeeper Elite for completing!”monk

Now, I have no interest in a watch of any kind (because it hampers my kung-fu skills), but I thought that it was a cool idea to force people to move 50 kilometers to qualify for a discount on anything, so I hit “accept challenge.”

And just like that, my little free app tricked me into having a goal. A precise, specific goal. 50 KM in 1 month. And after consulting with a Canadian, I learned that kilometers are way shorter than miles!

So, to readdress those two lame excuses from before.

Ignorance is no excuse for not setting a goal. Make up some arbitrary number and make that your goal. If it’s too easy, you’ll know to set the bar higher next month. If it’s a statistical impossibility that you didn’t realize is utterly impossible, you’ll still be much better off striving towards perfection than ambling aimlessly.

Laziness is no excuse for not setting a goal. If anything, having a goal will empower and energize you. It gives you something to always strive towards. It’s what makes video games so addicting, because you are constantly trying to reach the next level or unlock the next badge. Not having the goal actually just adds to your burden.

A funny thing happened as I began running. The Runkeeper App sounds off every 5 minutes with your distance and pace. I usually keep my phone in my pocket with the volume turned way down, but at the 10 minute mark I managed to hear it say “distance 0.0 miles.” I fished my phone out of my pocket and sure enough, even though it showed I had a good GPS signal, for whatever reason it wasn’t counting the distance I had just run.

I had set a goal just ten minutes prior, and already adversity was conspiring against me! Which made me think of another reason that people don’t set goals: Fear. Fear of not attaining your goal, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish. Sometimes just the fear of standing out. How many times have you talked about some dream, goal or vision for your life to a group of “friends” and had them just belittle you for it? Remember, having goals is a rare thing, and being rare necessitates being different. Being different means facing opposition. And sometimes obstacles will be placed in your path to test your resolve.

Ignorance and laziness are dumb reasons that I had. Fear is not a dumb reason. Fear is a very real, potentially damaging force in our psyches. Fortunately it can be cured by a simple step: Action (which is coincidentally the second chapter in my first book, it’s almost as if my book has life lessons that are applicable to my daily life).

I’ll write next week on the subject of overcoming fear (look at me setting more goals), but in the meantime I want to encourage you to set a goal. Set a goal this week for something that you’ve never done before. And if you’re afraid to start, tune in next week for a blog post on overcoming fear.

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Analyzing The Cause of Death of Your Dream

hello-my-name-isWhen we are children we have big dreams and goals. We have zero understanding of finance, or economics, or world anything. All we know is that we want it all. Sports cars, space ships, a team of racing camels, a mansion in the clouds; all while being both a rock star and the king of Norway. Of course some of those things are possible, some are dependent greatly on your bloodline, and some are ridiculous and frivolous. But that’s okay, you’re a kid and it’s your dream.

The real danger is when you are an adult, or at least old enough to understand a little bit about how the world works. It’s dangerous to develop a dream at that point later in life. Because when those dreams die it kills what’s left of the child inside you; which is another way of saying it pushes you that much closer to death.

Do you have a dream that you’ve given up on?

It may not have been a big, honking, audacious dream.Maybe you just wanted to complete your doctorate. Be a full-time spouse or parent. Travel to Israel and walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Be able to support your parents in their old age. One of these things leapt into your heart one day as more than just a “oh, that would be nice if…” but rather as a “I will, I shall, I must one day…”

But if it’s something that you were passionate about at one point, then you have to ask yourself, “How did it die?”

Was it murder? Did someone kill your dream? Either someone in a position of authority that forced you to abandon it. Or someone intimately close to you that made you choose between your dream and your life together.

Was it disease? Perhaps something in your environment killed it. Usually the number one environmental cause of the death of a dream is ridicule. If enough people around you make fun of you for having a dream, it can get slowly whittled away.

Was it attrition? Did your dream just starve to death? A great slayer of dreams is “busy.” Busy keeps us from accomplishing so much in the way of personal relationships and achievements, because it keeps us focused on now, focused on a survival mindset. We neglect our dream and it wastes away.

Did it just die of old age? Procrastination kills more dreams every day than any other enemy, we just don’t realize it because it started killing them years ago. We delay, we put off, we hesitate, until finally it just makes more sense to not think about it anymore.

I want to give you two insights about dreams.

  • First, treat your dream like it’s a baby.baby

Babies are vulnerable and fragile. You can’t set it aside in the woods for a few hours and just hope that a pack of wolves doesn’t find it. You need to protect it from the wolves. Nothing is as fragile as a newborn dream. People will attack your dream for one of two reasons. A friend may push you to test your resolve. Someone else may push you just because they’re a jerk. Either way, don’t expose your dream to anyone unless you’re prepared and willing to fight for it.

Babies require care and nourishment and warmth and love. You need to think about your dream, talk about your dream, be emotional about your dream. As you feed your dream, it becomes stronger. It’s immune system gets stronger and it becomes more resistant to disease. You don’t have to keep your dream swaddled forever, eventually you can start sharing your dream with others. Some of those people will be good for your dream and they will help guide and nurture it. Some people will hate the fact that you have a dream and you should never bring your dream around them again.

  • Second, dreams can be resurrected.

Dreams are like a metaphorical baby not an actual one. A dream that has died can be brought back to life. Usually this involves removing the source of what killed it in the first place. That’s why the dreamicide post-mortem is so important. If your dream was murdered, then lock away or banish the murderer. If it was diseased, then change your environment to a healthier one. If it was attrition then start spending time and effort on the act of dreaming again; take 15 minutes to write down all of your dreams and goals. If it died of old age… well, I hate to say it, but some dreams do have an expiration date. For instance, I always thought that I would be married and have started my family before I turned thirty. I still dream about a wife and children, the time frame just has to be adjusted because I waited so long.

So if you have a dream: Protect it. Nourish it. And make it a Priority in your life. Treat your dreams like they are a matter of life or death; because in reality they are.

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Increase Your Value by 52.5% In Less Than 1 Second

pareto2I don’t remember exactly where I first heard of the Pareto Principle, a.k.a. the 80-20 rule. In fact I don’t even remember who Pareto was, possibly an economist (if only there were a convenient way to instantly look up information without having to leave my computer keyboard… oh, well).

The premise of the rule is this: you will get 80% of the effect from 20% of the cause. Or 80% of results come from 20% of the effort put in. This principle applies not just to your personal activity, priorities and time management, but also to large organizations and businesses.

pareto1Some examples of the principle in action:

  • 80% of your work will be completed in 20% of the total time spent (for those of you who procrastinate, it will be in the final 20% before deadline).
  • 80% of your satisfaction at work will come from 20% of your job duties.
  • If you own a business, 80% of your profits will come from 20% of your product line. And 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your salesmen.
  • In your church, 80% of the donations will come from 20% of the people.
  • In any book you read, 80% of the content will be found in 20% of the pages (the obvious exception being MY books which have incredibly valuable tips and information condensed into every single page including in the copyright information right next to the title page).

According to leadership expert John Maxwell this rule even applies to picnics.

  • 80% of the food will be consumed by 20% of the people. Also, 20% of the people will provide 80% of the food, but those two groups are never the same 20% people.

Usually when I talk about principles of success, I focus on the idea of slow, gradual growth, of changing our daily habits, of internalizing change and becoming rather than just behaving successful.

I’ve said many times that the idea of a quantum leap to success is largely a myth. Well, today I’m going to admit that I was wrong. Instant success is possible, and using Pareto’s Principle I will share a method that will instantly increase your profit, or relationship, or happiness, or whatever you choose to apply it to.

Stop spending time on the 80%.

End of seminar.

Well I suppose I could expound on that idea just to prove the point of Pareto’s Princple.

Legendary life insurance salesman, Frank Bettger, wrote a book called How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success in Selling (and by the way, no one ever asked him “What’s your book about?”). In Chapter 2, he carefully analyzed his records of 12 months of his daily activity (interviews, sales calls, and commissions). He came to the realization that when he took his total annual sales commissions divided by the total number of sales calls he made, his average phone call had a value of $2.80.

This realization had a major impact on his thinking, because it made him realize the value of his time, and the value of every phone call, regardless of whether the person bought or not.

Here’s what his records further revealed. 70% of his sales were made on the first interview. 23% were made on the second interview. However, he was spending roughly 50% of his time with prospects on the third interview or later. In other words, he was spending most of his time chasing 7% of his total sales.

So here’s what he did: if his prospect did not buy a policy from him after his second sales interview, he stopped calling them.

Whoa, that’s pretty drastic. What if that customer seemed like he was right on the verge of buying? Sure, there was a chance that the customer might buy. And that chance was 7%; he had the records to show it. Whereas a brand new customer that he was calling on for the first time had a 70% chance of buying.

That single decision increased the value of each call from $2.80 to $4.27. That’s an increase of 52.5%… in case you were wondering about the blog title.

pareto3Your time is valuable.

Your time is less valuable when you invest 80% of your activity into 20% of your results.

Spend your time on the valuable things first.

If you spend all of your creative energy in the 20% of activity that yields the 80% results, you would increase your productivity by four times (at least I think that’s what the chalkboard shows). Math only accounts for 20% of my GPA so I skipped it. In fact, it took me quite a while to figure out that increasing something from $2.80 to $4.27 is a 52.5% increase.

So I have two questions for you:

  1. How can you apply Pareto’s Principle to your life, and
  2. Which 80% of this blog was unnecessary?