Goal setting

When Success is the Ultimate Failure

You wouldn’t be looking at this if you were 100% content with you current life and circumstances. And I’m not sure that ever becoming 100% content with your life is a recipe for success, fulfillment and happiness. By being 100% satisfied and content with your current life, there is no room for growth and progress. And inside all of us, I believe, is the need to grow so that we have more to give. Our yearning to grow and to give are the needs of our spirit and the soul. This is why I believe if you aren’t growing, you’re dying. How often do you hear about successful and wealthy corporate executives who retire and move down to Florida with the intention of doing nothing but relax, that die soon thereafter. It’s an amazing phenomenon. They literally within a month or two of retirement. Our nervous systems weren’t built to sit on the beach and drink pina coladas all day.  We were built to be constantly improving and growing ourselves so that we have more to give to others (whether it be the ones we love, the community we live in or the rest of the world).  Another place where this shows up is in depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are great signals. They typically manifest themselves as a result of a neurotic and intense self focus. People who are clinically depressed as well as those who suffer from anxiety (the co-morbidity between anxiety and depression is high) have mastered focusing their attention on themselves and their problems.  As a metaphor, people who are depressed are literally running a negative tv commercial about themselves and their problems on repeat- over and over in their mind. They spend virtually none of their attention and focus on helping others or getting outside of their narrow view of the world. Anxiety is much of the same.  This is why people commonly say that depressed and anxious people should spend time around those who are less fortunate. Additionally, Dale Carnegie in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living affirmed this idea when he wrote, “A good deed, said the prophet Mohammed, is one that brings a smile of joy to the face of another. Why will doing a good deed every day produce such astounding efforts on the doer? Because trying to please others will cause us to stop thinking of ourselves: the very thing that produces worry and fear and melancholia.” And there is a stark difference between the ‘pleasing’ he is talking about and ‘people pleasing’. People pleasing comes at the expense of one’s own happiness. People pleasing is being an emotional hostage to others and allows no room for free self expression.


Many people initially enter the self help and personal development world because they are hungry for more success- whether it be money, relationships, career success, power, possessions, etc. They then seek strategies and methods for achieving these external goals. I have no problem with success driven individuals. Success is a noble goal. However I think what many of these success seekers fail to understand is that just by getting the money, the car, the house, the girl or their perfect physique- this will not lead to happiness and contentment in and of itself. What leads to true fulfillment is not what we get or achieve, but who we become as a person. Interviews with numerous 80 and 90 year olds’ who are on their death beds have consistently affirmed this overlooked distinction. Jim Rohn always affirmed this by saying, “The major value in life is not what you get. The major value in life is what you become”.  Have you ever achieved a goal that you had wanted so dearly and once you got it you asked yourself, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” The pleasure and enjoyment derived from the money, the possession, or the actual goal that was attained is a temporary high. It might last a day, a week or a month, but soon thereafter you will return to your default state of existence and only be left with the person you have become. This is why people who win the lottery see only a momentary spike in their level of happiness and then return to their default level soon thereafter. Unfortunately lottery winners almost always find a way to lose all their winnings and return to their default financial level too. This is not a coincidence. Money is nothing more than a symbol for the amount of value we are able to provide as a human being.  And most people choose to chase money directly and never focus on the value they are providing to others. Most people seek external goals for the possession of the prize in and of itself, when in reality the quest for the external goal is a journey that is going to require them to grow, develop and improve themselves in a way they never expected. Such a journey is going to be rewarding not because of the prize that is sitting at the end of the road, but because of the person they will have to become to get to the finish line. Enjoyment is found in the journey. The end result is a pleasant reward temporarily, but the ultimate fulfillment is found in who the seeker had to become to get there. 


Understanding these distinctions is crucial for your own journey toward greater success and fulfillment.  Many spend their entire life climbing one latter, only to realize that it is resting against the wrong wall.  The question you should be asking yourself is not what external goal you think will make your life better, but rather who you must become in order to be satisfied and fulfilled. Step into your 80 year old self and look backwards. This exercise of evaluating your current path from your 80 year self is about operating out of the context rather than the content. Most people make huge life decisions based on what is the easiest or most comfortable route in that moment. They inherently sacrifice long term success and fulfillment for short term comfort. Its kind of funny, people spend more time planning their next vacation then they do planning the rest of their life. 


This post is not to sway you away from going after your goals and dreams, rather it is to awaken you to the fact that the goals themselves are not going to be the things that provide the ultimate enjoyment and fulfillment.  The person you are to become en route to your goals is the ultimate prize. The actual goal is just the cherry on the top and a great symbol to remind you of the person you have become. Understanding this simple yet commonly overlooked premise of personal development can literally save your life. Failure is not the ultimate failure. Failure is temporary. The ultimate failure is reaching your ultimate goal and still not being fulfilled.





Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work

If you’ve ever read a self help/personal development book I’m sure you’re familiar with the trite idea that people who set goals are more successful than those who do not.  You’re probably sick of hearing about it. I am not going to tell you to get your planner out and start writing down a bunch of goals to set for the new year.  Millions of people in this very moment are sitting at their kitchen table and listing out their goals for 2017. But how many will actually achieve what they put down on paper? It is likely that less than 3% will achieve their goals. In reality the number is probably closer to 1% or a fraction of that one percent.  The key to changing your life is not setting more goals and adding things to your to do list. It is much more simple than that.  It is about setting the context for your life and operating out of it. This process of establishing the context is what the masses fail to do.  However if you look at the most successful people in any industry, this process of creating the context of their life is the distinguishing factor that separates them from the rest. 


What is meant by setting the context? Let’s take a look at two different examples to shed some light on this and show the contrast in approaches.


In the first example, let’s look at Randy. Randy is 45 years old and makes 100,000$ a year working in sales. He is 30lbs overweight and his family life and relationship with his wife is average. They have good days and bad days. Today he sits down at his kitchen table and sets his goals for 2017. He says he wants to make $125,000 this year, lose thirty pounds and be a better husband and parent to his wife and kids. All respectable and very much attainable goals for 2017.  He even goes a step further and creates an action plan for how he can achieve these goals. He lists out various activities that will propel him to the success in each category. He says he will workout 5 times a week, make 5 extra sales calls a day, come home from work 30 minutes early to be with his family, etc. As the days pass by, Randy sees an overall leap in productivity throughout January and very much is acting in accordance with his goals. Then February and March come along and things start to get very busy at work. He starts eating out a lot more and spending less time with his family to meet the demands of his busy work schedule. By April his 2017 goals have gone down the drain. He’s added 5 pounds, his family life has gotten worse and he is struggling to meet his sales objectives.  This is the typical result when people set their new years resolutions and well-intentioned goals.


Rob on the other hand is a 35 year old middle manager at large manufacturing company. He makes 75,000$/year and works an average of 40-50 hours a week. He is not in love with his job, but understands he needs to pay the bills. He ultimately wants to get into coaching college football. Though he sees this as a challenging jump from a comfortable decent paying job to the uncertain terrain of college football, he has made the definite decision that he will do whatever it takes to become a college football coach. He is single and understands that in order to break into coaching, he might have to sacrifice his social life for the time being. Throughout 2016 he has filtered every decision through the context that he will do whatever it takes to break through and become a college football coach. He volunteered and was an assistant varsity football coach for the high school around the corner from his house. He also spent 20 hours on the week training high school players and preparing them for their transition to the college game.  Through this he made several contacts to various college coaches. In 2017, Rob has a discussion with a college coach about becoming a graduate assistant for their program. This would entail him quitting his job and moving 3 hours away to a different city. Just like in past decisions, Rob considers his ultimate destiny and his compelling vision of becoming a college football coach and decides to quit his job and take the leap into the coaching profession.


Compared to Randy, Rob did not set goals in the traditional sense. He did not write out his objectives in some systematic list. Rather he set the context for his life.  He created such a compelling future and subsequently made every decision through that very prism. Every decision in his life was made on the basis of one single question:


Is this taking me closer or further away from my ultimate destiny?


Rob sacrificed his dating life and social life for his compelling future. He quit his well paying job to pursue his dream. He relocated for it. This kind of definiteness of purpose is what setting the context is all about. Most people set goals and then when distractions come up during the day to day hustle and bustle of their everyday life, they forget what their ultimately after and they fall off the path.  Holding the greater context is about keeping one eye on the prize during even the most monotonous times.  Most people don’t fail to reach their goals because they make some fatal mistake or have some huge blunder. Rather they just lose focus during the small and seemingly meaningless minutia that takes place on a daily basis. They take their eye of the ball and after a few days of that, their goal slips right through their hands without them even realizing it. 


Creating a compelling vision and operating out of the context (the bigger picture) rather than the content (the moment to moment) is what separates a truly outstanding person from the pack. During every journey there will be setbacks, annoyances, mistakes and frustrations- that is a given. However someone who operates out of the context plows right through the difficult times because they have the big picture in mind. A person who operates out of the content will almost always quit and give up on their ultimate destiny because they are more concerned with being comfortable in the moment, then attaining their ultimate outcome. So while goal setting is important in the general sense, it is more important to create such a compelling future that you’re pulled to it- you’re so excited that you can’t wait to wake up in the morning.  And then when the difficulties and set backs come- you won’t be tempted to quit or take the easy road- you’ll know exactly what you want and more importantly- you’ll know exactly who you must become.  This leads me to the final part of this equation.


Once you have identified such a compelling future to the point where you’re willing to give up everything you own just to pursue it, the next question you must answer is “who must I become to get to my ultimate destiny?”  This question is not to be answered in an external sense like “I must be wealthy, have a lot of friends, etc”. Rather this question of “who must I become” should be answered in an internal sense.  What kind of person must you evolve into? What internal personality traits and qualities must you exude? What kind of habits must you cultivate? What kind of relationship would you have to have with yourself? And most importantly, what emotional states would you have to live in to reach this place?  People tend to evaluate themselves on external factors like appearance, relationships, connections, resume and background. These are the least important things in the process of attaining your ultimate vision.  If there is one quote to live by during this process of transformation, it is one by David Hawkins:


“We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.” 


Greater knowledge, connections, opportunities aren’t going to do it. Your ‘beingness’ will determine your ultimate destiny. And one’s ‘way of being’ is a direct result of one’s internal relationship with them self, as well as the emotional states they consistently live in. 


Goal setting is all fine and dandy if you are pretty content and satisfied with your current life and just want to make it 5-10% better. But if you want to completely overhaul and absolutely transform yourself into the person you must become, then you must create such a clear and compelling long term vision that you’re pulled to it, so you don’t have to push yourself toward it. Then from here you will automatically be operating out of the context rather than the content.  The next time some little hiccup happens or some annoyance gets in your way- it doesn’t fucking matter. It becomes a trivial and meaningless event because you know you are have bigger and better things to focus your attention on. This level of 100% certainty, commitment and definiteness of purpose is what separates someone who is outstanding from someone who is good. Commitment engenders passion. Not the other way around. Commit yourself to your ultimate destiny and make every decision in your life through that lens and you’ll find a way to get their.  That’s the secret to massive success- operating out of the context, rather than the content. 


The perfect example of this was the former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley who won two national championships, played in the NBA for the Sacramento Kings and is the all time NCAA assist leader.  Here is an excerpt from Adrian Wojnarowski’s book The Miracle of St. Anthony about how Hurley was operating out of the greater context as an eighth grader:


“The balls would stay locked in the steel bin for most of the next hour. They were going to hear about the St. Anthony standard for dedication and determination, the story of squeezing the last drop of potential out of a young man’s body, about how a five-foot-four, 110 pound eight grader who told his teacher and classmates what he wanted to be when the subject of goals came up one day, told them point by point, laid it all out for everyone. And they laughed at him. They laughed when he said he was going to break David Rivers’s assists record at St. Anthony, when he said he was going to earn a big-time basketball scholarship to college and when he said he would someday play point guard for the Boston Celtics.  They laughed him all the way out of school that day, all the way down to the projects, where he want back to work on his game. The St. Anthony Friars were going to hear the legend of Bobby Hurley.  Three quarters of an hour later, they were still sitting mesmerized at mid-court, and the balls hadn’t come out of the bin since the Hillside scrimmage. There was one thing that the coach swore for sure: If Bobby walked into this team as a freshman that moment, he would’ve gone after someone. ‘There would have been a problem here.  Bobby would’ve told somebody, “You’re messing with my dream”.