For whatever reason when I am working on a project that is not succeeding my first thought is that I am not working hard enough. Hard work is a requirement for success, there is no doubt about it. Our culture is loaded with proverbs extolling the value of hard work ie. “the early bird gets the worm” and “sweat plus sacrifice equals success”. Maybe that is why people so often expect success because they are working as hard as they possibly can. I have a newsflash for you IT DOESN’T WORK!
What is success?
Success is defined as the following:
- The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
- The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
- A successful performance or achievement: The play was an instant success.
- A person or thing that is successful: She was a great success on the talk show.
For our purposes lets just take the first definition as it encompasses everything else on the list. From the definition it seems that success is not a nebulous concept, rather success is reaching a set goal. This is the biggest problem for most people, they have not defined the goal they are trying to reach, hence they never feel successful even when things are going fairly well.
Setting a goal is the first and most important thing you should do when beginning anything. If you don’t set a goal, how will you ever know when you are done? If you are never done, how can you begin something else? This is where most people trip up, they have a general idea of what they want to accomplish, but they haven’t set up any real goals. Goals have to be specific and measurable, they also need to have a time table associated with them. Without a time table it is impossible to measure how near or far we are to achieving our goal. If I decide I want to double my income it may seem like I have a goal, but I’m only half way there. The reason is pretty simple. If I want to double my income in the next 6 months it will take a very different strategy than doubling my income over the next 10 years. Determining a time table helps me define my strategy. Defining my strategy helps me with the next step in setting the goal, determining if the goal is reasonable.
Not Optimistic Or Pessimistic Just Realistic
Goal setting is not just about deciding what you want to achieve and when you want to have it completed. You also have to look at your goals and decide whether or not they are achievable. Lots of people doom themselves to failure at this step. A very optimistic person will probably overestimate their success and set goals that far exceed their capability. Here is a statement that we have all heard, and some of us have probably said. “There are over 300 million people in the US, if we only sell to 1% of them that is 3,000,000 sales!” Venture capitalists hate to hear statements like this because it means you haven’t done your research. Your target market is nowhere near 300 million people, even if it was there is no way you could do enough advertising to reach them all. If you try to set your goal based on the idea that you will sell 1% of the US population anything you are pretty well doomed to fail. On the other end of the spectrum people who are overly pessimistic are likely to go with a different approach. They are likely try to do everything on their own to keep costs down. This sounds like a great idea until you realize that you are losing sales because you are doing the selling, marketing, product development, etc… and don’t have enough staff to meet demand. Don’t set goals based on your gut, do real research. Find out how long it took other people in your industry to ramp up, seek advice from experts in your field, do absolutely everything you can to understand how and when you will achieve your goal.
Next time I’ll post about what to do once you have your goals in place.