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Setting & Achieving Goals

Design The Life Of Your Dreams Using These Simple Tips

An Entrepreneur contributor outlines how to to design your life the way an artist would.

Stephen Key

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Years ago, my father shared a simple bit of wisdom with me that you’ve probably heard before: Life is too short, he said. Too short to do something you’re not passionate about, that is.

My father loved his job at General Electric. In fact, he didn’t even think of it as work.

He was on to something. Spending your entire adulthood working a job that provides you with income but no other type of satisfaction is a waste of your life. Consider the prospect of spending 40 years working day in, day out and looking forward only to the weekends and vacation. Yet that’s what most people do.

At the time I had that important talk with my dad, I was studying business at Santa Clara University, and I hated it. On a lark, I took an art class and discovered that working with my hands gave me immense pleasure. I wanted to create! Not only objects but also my ideal life. When I told my father this, his response was to go for it. “Follow your heart,” he said.

Artists never stop creating. You shouldn’t, either

My father encouraged me to take a risk at a critical juncture. And fortunately, it paid off immensely.

These days, I get to speak with young men who are looking for advice. Looking back, I can see that when I began studying art, I took the first step toward designing my own life. Of course, along the way I did a few things I wish I hadn’t – and I wasted some of my time.

Related: 4-Step Formula To Pursuing Your Dreams

But now, ironically, my journey has come full circle. I’m all about business these days, and I absolutely love it – because the work I do is on my own terms. I use my creativity every day. The traditional way business is taught just didn’t work for me.

Now I know better: Business is an art form, too.

Looking to find your own way, and quickly? Here is my best advice on how to design your life the way an artist would.

designing-a-life

1. Learn from others

Find people who inspire you and topics that feed your soul. Dig deep! There is so much information available today. You can truly become an expert very quickly. So, when you discover something that truly excites you, get involved. Find others who are doing something similar and reach out to them. This is easier than it sounds.

Here’s a tip I picked up from Tim Ferriss, the prolific writer and influential podcast host, who approached me for advice back in the day. Before you reach out to someone, do your homework. Know details about that person most people don’t. Flatter and tell this person how much he or she inspires you. Ask questions this person hasn’t heard before. He or she will know you’re being genuine because, obviously, you’ve put in the time.

The next thing you know, this person will ask, “What can I do for you?” Respond that you’d like to be involved in the questioner’s industry and ask if he or she has any suggestions.

Let your enthusiasm show! It’s contagious. And it’s such an attractive quality. Few people will turn you down. This approach is simple and it works. Use it to discover opportunities and get help pursuing them. Truly successful people have had many people in their lives help them. Success, to me, is being able to choose what you want to do each day.

2. Create a plan

Ask people you admire how they achieved the goals you’re interested in. Don’t get too attached to the plan you create, though, because it’s going to change over and over again.

Someone said to me the other day that it’s a little like going off-road when you first start out. There are going be a lot of bumps and things you’d prefer to to avoid, but you’ll get there.

Now that I’m in my sixties, I know that it’s easier to hit a target if one is sitting right in front of you!

Take jobs that will teach you tools that make you indispensable, but don’t let any job define you. Look at it this way: You’re not working for them – they’re working for you. They are paying you to learn, aren’t they? So, raise your hand for everything. You are gathering tools to use later in life.

Select jobs that will give you tools you can use for the rest of your life. I’ve been mostly self-employed. When I have had a job, I’ve always had my next move in mind. Even the lousiest jobs are beneficial if they fit into your plan.

Related: Financing Your Dreams Through Family, Friends & Fools

And yes, it’s your plan

So, raise your hand to take on other responsibilities. Learn as much as you can. Remember, your attitude is your greatest asset. Skills can be taught, but not attitude. That’s priceless.

Following are the must-have skills I recommend you seek out. You don’t necessarily have to go to college to find them. But you will need them to achieve success in designing your life.

1. Financial intelligence. Work at a bank or take a class. The bottom line is, understand how to make money work for you so you’re not just working for money.

2. Sales intelligence. Take any sales job. The worse the better! Cold-calling and door-to-door sales are absolutely terrible, but you’ll learn more than you could ever imagine about human nature – which is priceless. With this insight, you can gain some control over any situation. Once you obtain these powers, don’t abuse them.

3. Management knowledge. Knowing how to manage and lead people so that they’re successful is a powerful tool. If you work at a fast food restaurant, work up to a management position. When you learn to help others, you actually learn how to help yourself. That’s also priceless.

4. Keep an open mind. As I’ve gotten older, I say yes much more often. You never know what might happen. Many opportunities have arisen for me because I was able to keep an open mind.

5. Be curious. Never stop learning. Keep reading. Become a student of life. We all can and should try to improve ourselves.

6. Truly care. Make sure you give the people who matter to you your full attention. Listen deeply. Everyone has something to offer.

7. Look at the obstacles in your life as opportunities. You’re going to encounter problems every day of your life, so choose to look at them differently starting now. I highly recommend reading The Obstacle Is the Way, Ryan Holiday’s powerful book on this subject.

8. Give back. You can never give enough back. Don’t expect anything in return, ever. You’ll be surprised where this attitude can lead.

9. Be dedicated. Create a habit of dedication. Like anything in life, you have to do something more than a few times to get good at it. Also, get in the habit of being on time. It denotes respect.

109. Travel. You can learn a lot about yourself and the world we live in by experiencing other cultures.

11. Embrace new technology, especially as you age. It’s a big world out there, but it’s getting smaller every day. Don’t let yourself be passed by.

12. Protect yourself from the noise. You are truly influenced by the inputs you receive. Don’t pollute your soul with garbage. These days, it’s everywhere.

13. Treat everyone with kindness. Everyone is unique, and everyone is on this journey we call life.

14. Never talk badly about others. Keep your opinions to yourself. When you take the high road, people notice and respect you. Your friends will always come to your defense anyway.

15. Don’t chase money. If you find something you truly love to do, there’s a very good chance you’ll have the money you need to design your life.

The upshot? There will be many ups and downs in your life. Try to enjoy the ride each and every day.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Stephen Key is an inventor, author, speaker and co-founder of InventRight, LLC., a Glenbrook, Nev.-based company that educates entrepreneurs in how to bring ideas to market. In the last 25 years, he has liscenced more than 20 new products. He is author of the One Simple Idea series of books including One Simple Idea for Startups and Entrepreneurs, (McGraw-Hill, 2012).

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Setting & Achieving Goals

How You Can Turn Those ‘Near Wins’ Into Successes

As a start-up, there’s nothing more devastating than losing a deal you thought was yours, or realising your great idea isn’t the game-changer you thought it was. But there’s an upside to those ‘near misses’ — they’re excellent opportunities to learn from and perfect your offering.

Tumi Menyatswe

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perseverance

By good fortune, I started my career in a commonly misunderstood and widely overlooked sub-sector within the aviation industry, load control. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what that is. In simple terms, load control focuses on the safety of passengers and the weight and balance of an aircraft. The work ensures that the centre of gravity is always within certified limits and structural weight and balance restrictions are never exceeded. A huge responsibility, even for the trained and desensitised.

For most of us hyper-ambitious individuals, when we don’t get to ‘the top’ as per the initial plan, we tend to wonder whether it was even worth it to start our journey. We lose our centre of gravity. Being one of the two selected candidates (after a nationwide search with over 500 applicants) for a world-class management trainee programme and later moving on from that ‘fairly clear path to success’, I’d always felt like I had failed, and dismally.

Let me explain. The programme was aimed exclusively at nurturing new talent within Global Load Control. It was industry-specific, and when I secured such a coveted spot, I felt on top of the world — my path was clear. Except it wasn’t. I realised I wanted a different environment where I could get exposure to working with entrepreneurs, especially because by then I had spent time within the Cape Town start-up ecosystem. I knew exactly why I was moving on, but it still felt like I’d failed.

Here’s the harsh truth: Nearly winning is failure, but that’s okay. We learn from failure. I’ve established my own core values and I’ve dared to speak up and write my own narrative. I’ve learnt to own my purpose. The road hasn’t always been easy, but in hindsight, it’s definitely been worth it.

Creating a compelling need

I have an innate ability to choose industries that aren’t open to changing their status quo. I then intentionally challenge and critique how the systems in those industries have been operating. This means things rarely go my way. It’s the entrepreneurial mindset, whether you’re starting a business or employed, to question everything, and that’s my mantra — I always ask ‘why?’

The problem is that even though I know I have a solution my customers need, because I’m challenging the status quo, they don’t always see things my way.

Related: For Vusi Thembekwayo, Focus Leads To Big Wins

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learnt that understanding the reason behind the multiple ‘not yet’ and ‘nos’ from your ideal first customers is a gift. But in order for you to claim that gift, you have to be committed to the process of understanding your customer’s needs.

Multiple authors and experts will tell you that however good your product or service is, the simple truth is that no one will buy it if they don’t want it or don’t believe they need it. And you won’t be able to persuade anyone that they want or need to buy what you’re offering unless you clearly understand what it is your customers want.

One aspect that isn’t being sufficiently discussed, is the fact that committing to that process is going to be uncomfortable and even painful in some cases. Really digging into your customer’s business to the point that you can offer them a real solution that they need takes confidence, resilience, hard work and sometimes even a thick skin if your customer or prospect pushes back. You need to really believe in your solution — but you also need to be willing to change what isn’t working.

Entrepreneurs are people too, and let’s face it, no parent wants to hear that their baby (or business or business idea) is ugly. Nurturing a positive view of yourself, finding ways of developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience as an entrepreneur. And yes, that means that sometimes you have to face the truth and change what isn’t working in your business. When facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion because that terrible feeling of not winning at first will wear off, eventually.

Stimulation for further achievement and mastery

When we don’t complete projects perfectly, it can feel as though we’ve failed. However, ‘near wins’ are important steps in achieving our long-term goals. Near wins are almost, if not always, more important than actual wins, as they set in motion a constant pursuit of improvement. In her brilliant TED Talk Embrace the Near Win, Sarah Lewis deep dives into the concept of the near win and how it’s instrumental in achieving success.

I, like most people, have experienced my own set of near wins. According to Sarah, that’s okay, because failure is what we experience on the way to mastery. And mastery is ultimately more important than success. Sarah defines success as a single moment. Something that comes and goes and is a byproduct of effort. However, what she calls mastery, is the act of working towards something. A system for continuing to set and reach for goals. As I’ve personally learnt, being engaged in that system is a crucial element in mastering your goal. Purposeful efforts make life interesting.

Stay on your own leading edge

More will always be required of you. That’s a fact. Recovering from failure requires sufficient strength and an ability to support your sense of well-being while managing the stresses brought about by failure.

The trick is learning the art of bouncing back. The term most often used is resilience. The Road to Resilience, a publication of the American Psychological Association and the Discovery Health Channel, offers a useful definition. “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — like family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Find ways that are likely to work well for YOU as part of YOUR own personal strategy for fostering resilience and overcoming failure. Along pathways to success and mastery, entrepreneurs, change agents and leaders alike will find adversity, doubt, and near wins. How you manage those is what matters, so learn and adjust where necessary.”

Related: 3 Personality Traits You Need For Success: Grit, Determination And The Will To Succeed

One last thing I would like to stress is learning to cope with who you are as a person. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. I know it’s a cliché but it’s also essential to your overall well-being and success. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience. Protect your peace because you can’t possibly function in chaos. Remember this, the dark moments that will come will also pass, so focus on getting that shine on. Cheers to celebrating your next near win.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learnt that understanding the reason behind the multiple ‘not yet’ and ‘nos’ from your ideal first customers is a gift. But in order for you to claim that gift, you have to be committed to the process of understanding your customer’s needs.

Staying motivated

  1. It’s called ‘the entrepreneurial journey’ for a reason. It might take you a bit of time to see the value of some lessons and that’s okay, the light bulb will go on eventually.
  2. Accept that you don’t know everything. While you may start to build a business and it actually begins to work, don’t think that you’ve become a Mrs/Mr know-it-all. Continue to learn from your customers and the people around you
  3. It’s not all about you and your idea. Your business will exist because there’s a value exchange between yourself and your customer. Be very clear about what that value is and how you can keep improving on it
  4. Find a mentor. By that I mean someone who’s actually built a business and succeeded, not an entrepreneurship activist. Inspiring entrepreneurship activists are fine, but it helps to have a solid sounding board and that takes experience, and someone who has experienced failure themselves.
  5. Breathe. Starting a business is hard, growing one is hard and running one is hard. Doing this day in and day out can be exhausting. Remember to celebrate the small wins and avoid the notion that you have to land some fantastic, outstanding client or reach thousands of customers before celebrating. Rejoice over the first customer or transaction, or over squashing a minor coding bug in a few days.

WATCH THIS

Embrace the Near Win by Sarah Lewis

“My triumphs are not merely the result of a grand achievement, but of the propulsion of a lineage of near wins.”— Arctic explorer Ben Saunders

Sarah Lewis is an art historian and critic who celebrates creativity and shows how it can lead us through fear and failure to ultimate success

In her talk Embrace the Near Win, Sarah Lewis shares the following insights:

  • Success is a moment, but what we’re always celebrating is creativity and mastery. The secret is converting successes – big, small and near misses – into mastery. This starts with the value you give to a near win.
  • Success is achieving a specific goal, but mastery is knowing that it means nothing if you can’t do it again and again.
  • Mastery is not the same as excellence. It’s also not the same as success, which is an event, a moment in time, and a label that the world confers upon you. Mastery is not a commitment to a goal but to a constant pursuit.
  • In other words, the pursuit of mastery is an ever-onward almost.
  • Mastery is in the reaching, not the arriving. It’s in constantly wanting to close that gap between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Success motivates us, but a near win can propel us in an ongoing quest.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

6 Reasons Why Concrete Goals Are Essential To Entrepreneurial Success

Making dreams come true is a precise, step-by-step process.

Timothy Sykes

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Believe it – there is a right way and a wrong way to approach setting career goals. In a nutshell, the more specific your goals are, the better.

If your professional goals are nebulous, like “become rich” or “gain success,” you may be psyching yourself out without even realising what you’re doing. Setting specific goals gives you the motivation and focus to begin making them a reality.

Ready to readjust your goal setting methods?

Related: The 7-Step Formula For Goal-Setting

Here are just six reasons why you need to set specific goals to get ahead in your professional career to get ahead:

1. They keep you motivated

Setting specific goals allows you to get really clear on what you are working toward in your career and why.

For instance, if you have a vague goal like “Make more money,” it will supply similarly vague motivation. When you reach the first sign of resistance, that goal will seem unattainable and too hard, and you’ll be more likely to give up.

On the other hand, a specific goal like “Buy a condo in San Diego” is very specific and gives you something specific to work toward and to help you maintain motivation.

2. You’re more likely to achieve specific goals

Goal Setting Theory is the culmination of research that began in the 1960s by Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham. In researching the connection between clear goals and performance, they found that there was a relationship between how difficult and how specific a goal was and people’s performance of a task. Further, they discovered that specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals.

Related: You Need This One Trait To Succeed In Reaching Your Goals

Basically, research shows that when you have specific long-term goals, you’re far more likely to perform better, which will ultimately make achieving said goals far more possible.

3. You can break big goals into mini goals

A benefit of setting specific goals is that you can then get tactical about how to make them a reality. Namely, you can break each goal down into mini goals or milestones.

Say that one of your goals is to increase sales for your business by 25 percent this year. You can set specific dollar amounts as milestones for each month or quarter.

Having mini goals like this will help you stay inspired and will give you an impetus to put specific actions in work to make them happen.

4. You can adjust as needed

gpsSpecific goals are kind of like a career roadmap.

However, just like your car’s GPS, sometimes you need to shift the destination for various reasons. It’s easier to shift or adjust a specific goal than it is to change a vague one.

For instance, say you are approaching your very specific goal at a more rapid rate than anticipated. To keep yourself motivated, you can look at that goal and adjust it to meet your current circumstances. This way, you always have something to work toward and can continue to push yourself in positive ways.

5. They will make you more confident

There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from setting a specific goal, working hard and then finally attaining it. It makes you feel confident and secure in your own abilities.

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

When you’re imbued with this sense of self-accomplishment, it has the effect of making you feel more self-confident. Self-confidence can help you advance quicker in your career and improve your performance, which helps keep you working toward your goals with ease.

6. They make you more ambitious

Once you’ve set and then attained a few specific goals, you’ll believe in yourself even more. This means that as you progress in your career, your goals will become even bigger and more ambitious.

By continually setting specific goals and adjusting them to remain aspirational, you’ll create a powerful source of inspiration that will serve you throughout the course of your career and life.

Set specific goals from now on and you’ll see a big difference over time!

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

How You Can Do Big Things

The secret to achieving impossible dreams is accretion — slowly and steadily working towards your goals.

Erik Kruger

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line-in-the-sand

When you realise that accretion is about the accumulation of all the things that you do and all the decisions that you make, you start to see the importance of aligning everything in your life in the direction of your goals.

In 2005, four Navy Seals were sent on a mission to extract a high value target. Unfortunately, the mission didn’t go according to plan, leaving the Seals to fight for their lives. Three of them were killed in action. The other was shot, fell off a cliff, and in the process shattered his back and legs. He also bit off half of his tongue, and endured multiple gunshot wounds.

Yet, despite the fact that he couldn’t walk, he managed to crawl 11 kms to a nearby village and to safety.

When he was asked how he did it he said that he took a stone in his hand, stretched his arm out in front of him and drew a line in the sand. All he wanted to do was get across that line.

As soon as he managed to drag his feet across the line, he drew a new one. In fact, he kept drawing lines and crossing them for 11 kms.

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

That is how he did the impossible. One line in the sand at a time.

The Paradox

Motivational speakers love telling us to take big actions; to think and act big. Although I can appreciate the sentiment, and sometimes it’s apt, I think that it often has a counterproductive effect.

It scares people. It implies that there is also the possibility for massive failure. But it’s not just about the actual failure of a project or business. It’s the internal dialogue that goes with it.

The inner voice that starts telling you that you aren’t good enough. That you shouldn’t even try. I’m sure you can relate. We all have a judger inside us that rears its head when we are trying to do meaningful things. That criticises every move and decision. The judger has a great ability to prevent us from taking any action at all. Let alone massive action.

The Way

It’s for this reason that I always encourage entrepreneurs to simply focus on the line in front of them.

Keep in mind the direction you want to move in, and the goal you would like to achieve, and then start by crossing that first small line. And when you’ve done that, cross the second.

As you continue, you pick up momentum. Your actions become bolder because you become more confident.

Soon you find yourself taking bigger and bigger decisions and actions.

But they were born from the thousands of small decisions and actions that you took before.

Related: 7 Steps To Achieving Our Higher-Level Goals

Accretion

I talk about this principle often.Accretion is the accumulation of all of your compounding efforts, small wins, abilities, knowledge, and experiences. Over time this process accumulates and perpetuates what you feed into it.

When you realise that accretion is about the accumulation of all the things that you do and all the decisions that you make, you start to see the importance of aligning everything in your life in the direction of your goals.

The reason I am writing to you today is because of the body of work that I have accumulated through the writing of my daily email. An email that has gone out more than 580 times. Every day without missing a beat.

It’s my line in the sand that I cross every day. And the result of it has not simply been an accumulation of 580 emails. It has been a successful business, the opportunity to become a coach, to speak on stages with well-known businessmen, and write this column for Entrepreneur magazine.

Remember that consistency breeds success.

I’d much rather bet on the guy who consistently executes well than the guy who hits a home-run every now and then.

Draw a line in the sand.

Cross it.

Then tomorrow, do it again.

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