Category Archives: Goal

You Will Only Get What You Want, If You Ask For It

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You can’t always get what you wantgetwhat1280x1024.jpg
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

Rolling Stones

The simple rule “you will only get what you want if you ask for it” is very powerful in two ways.

1) People won’t know what you want unless you ask. That’s why it’s important to have a goal. What do you really want? Now go ask for it. You just might get it. Example: Ask for that girl’s number.

2) Be more forceful when you ask for what you want. Sometimes you just need to be more confident or clear when you ask for what you want. This works well when dealing with bureaucracies. The rep on the phone may not have the power to get you what you want but his manager might. If not try that manager above. Example: I used this today to get my loan rate lock-in extended and I was dealing with a big bank.

I’ve heard many stories of how this works well for credit card late fees also. A classmate in graduate school said he used this successfully five times in the previous year. Then finally one of the companies caught on and said they can no longer waive the late fee because he used it numerous times. Three levels of management later and he got it waived again! But this time he promised the manager, it was the “last time”.

photo credit: geishaboy500

How a Simple Story Answers All of Life’s Questions

The recent fable I told about David in Diamononia had some powerful lessons. It can help lead to the answers to life’s many questions. Here’s some more specific questions:

What’s better a gorgeous wedding or a gorgeous marriage? The New York Times has the answer.

What’s better keeping up with the latest styles or being comfortable in your own style?

What’s better being “well liked” or being your best? Willie Loman has the answer.

What’s better a teacher with many advanced degrees (e.g. papers) or a teacher who can teach? Malcolm Gladwell has the answer

Would you rather serve soup at a homeless shelter for free, or for $2 per hour? Scott Young has the answer.

Why didn’t that recent raise make you happier?  Simpleology has the answer.

The unifying answer to all of these is our view of money, materialism and externalizes. You can count on those to make you a success or you can count on your soul. I know which way I’d bet.

Next Actions:

  • Look at something you’ve been putting off because of money or other externalities and decide if you really need it.
  • Look at something you’re about to purchase and decide
  • Look at something you want to do but you think you can’t because you of an external factor and do it on your own (even in a small way).

Getting Fun Done(GFD): The Art of Stress Free Fun (and Productivity) For Kids

The internet is loaded with content on how you can be more productive and get more  done. David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity has become a virtual bible on how to achieving more in this crazy world. But if you try these techniques with your kids you’ll only end up pulling your hair out. There’s no such thing as being efficient or “processing” inboxes with kids.

Kids just want to know “when can we have fun”. I’m inaugurating a weekly series where I attempt to take the productivity tips us adults are using to achieve more and translating it to a fun, easy to use, more fun system to help kids succeed. I hope that this will in turn simplify adoption of productivity techniques that can help us all have more fun and maybe put our kids at a productive advantage in this crazy world we live in. With luck even adults who aren’t into all the fancy concepts that we productivity aficionados take for granted will be able to take something out of it.

Upcoming Articles include:

PS It’s only appropriate that I’m publishing this on my father’s birthday- who fights the world’s stresses and doesn’t let it stress me. Happy Birthday Tatty!

The Super Goals- The Missing Ingredients For Your Success

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Multicolour PeppersThe difference between a dream and success is whether you pursue your dream.

You’ve no doubt heard you need to set your goal before you achieve it. If you’ve thought about your goals you’ve compiled a long list of all your projects. But it’s likely there’s one project you missed- your life goals(a.k.a. dreams). Dreams are the ultimate that you want to achieve. They are your super goals. Here you are picturing what success looks like for you.

To set goals, you first need to crystallize your dreams. What do you want? What do you want out of life? How do you want to live it? Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? 25 years? These large decisions can have effects down to: How do you know which job offer to accept? Which house should you buy, if any? To the day to day decisions: should I buy this fancy coat?

What’s stopping you from achieving your dreams? For many people it’s simple, they haven’t verbalized their dreams. Without verbalization, dreams can’t happen. One way to put some structure around your dreams is to determine your dreams for each area of your life: career, financial, family, social, community, health etc. When you are verbalizing your dreams- focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, “I want to be fit” is more powerful than “I don’t want to be fat”.

A dream should be something you truly want. Then set your energies to it. Your thoughts, beliefs and actions should be geared toward achieving this goal. You’ll need to believe this dream is possible. You don’t need to know all the details of how it will happen- just know that it will. Logic tells you if you believe something, invest yourself in it and your mind works toward achieving it, you will be more likely to succeed.

Before you commit to a dream ask yourself if it’s really what you want. Picture your life with your dream achieved. You may find that it isn’t quite what you want. Growing up, many of us wanted to be sports/music or film stars. If a genie came and offered to grant you that wish would you still want it? Maybe you wanted the fun that went with being a baseball player but do you really want to play every single day for 10-20 years? Perhaps you may want it, but do you want to keep up that rigorous travel schedule? The pressure of performing every day? How will this correspond with your goal of raising a family? So before you commit to a dream- think it through.

Just verbalizing your dream will get you closer to achieving it. Add your dreams to your goal list so you take steps to make it happen. Layer your dream to break it into reasonable parts. Review your dreams often to ensure you’re still striving to reach it.

May all your dreams come true.

What are your dream?

photo credit: Tracy O

Getting Dreams Done Part 2: The SMART Way To Reach Your Dreams

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Horizon of my LifeIn this series you will learn the steps needed to turn your dreams into reality. In the first part of this series we saw how to define your dreams. Dreams give you something to shoot for and strive for. In this part we’ll take dreams and turn them into goals. Without goals you wont know what needs to be done to achieve success.

Let’s take the “standard” dream “I want to be rich and happy”. That’s actually touching two parts of your life (some would say one leads to another but that’s for a different post): financial and personal. We’ll take your financial goal first as that is easier to quantify. We need to turn rich into something we can quantify (not necessarily in terms of dollars but in terms of actions). Your gut reaction may be “I want a million dollars” (or even a billion if you’re “ambitious”) but is that really what you want? You probably want what that money can buy. I’m not talking about physical assets- a car, a boat, a house in Italy. I’m talking about a life style. When you take out the physical items what you really want is the independence, fun, excitement, prestige etc that goes with those objects. As you peel layers off your dream you find out what you really want. Then you can start defining your goals. Goals are the subset of results you want. In this case you may say: “I don’t necessarily need to be rich, but I want to be able to retire when I’m young and spend my time traveling- then life would be grand”. There’s a simple way to make the dream more realistic and aligned which what you can achieve. Let’s make the dream SMART- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely- then you’ll succeed.


Use the 6Ws (Who, what, where, when, why and which) and how to get as detailed as you can about what you really want. Here you will pick the lifestyle you want your dream to achieve. You may decide that retire doesn’t mean not working- what are you going to do if you don’t work? Retirement may mean working the hours you want at a job you want. You may decide you want to teach or freelance etc. Perhaps you’ll want to join the peace corp- you get to experience more of the world, fulfill your consious and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.


What gets measured gets done.

How will you know when you reach your dream? I’m sure you’ve read about all these quotes from rich people. I just need a few more millions and I’m done. Then when they achieve it they keep trying until they work themselves into the grave. Usually this translates to a date and/or a number. What number is “young”? A 90 your old can consider himself young and a 26 year old can consider herself old. What age do you want to retire 30? 40? 50?


Are you able to do this? Is it reasonable? Do you truly believe it can happen? Can you reach a billion dollars? You can’t assume that you’re salary will be increasing at 100% a year without some major changes.


Is this something you can make an impact with? Is it important?


Give yourself a deadline. Nothing gets done without a deadline.

With a SMART goal you are more likely to know what to do to get it.

As far as your happiness goal. The more you succeed at achieving your dreams the happier we’ll be but I offer you this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

photo credit: krisdecurtis

The Last Legacy: How To Live Forever

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Steve Jobs

2005 Stanford Commencement

I always had a problem with the people who advised “live each day as if it’s your last”. That’s ridiculous. If today was your last day you would you go and start a project like creating a new computer that will take a year to come to fruition or would you meet your loved ones, say goodbye and try to convey your ideals and wishes for them? I think the best way to phrase this is “live each day as if your time is limited”. That’s true no one knows if they have a year or 30 years or 60 years. The goal then is to be with your loved ones and leave a lasting legacy and continue to build toward a greater tomorrow.

I bring this up because Randy Pausch who I wrote about in The Last Lecture on Time Management is no longer adding to his legacy.

But he lived each of his last days to the fullest. His legacy will last forever in his family (especially his children), his students and even in the internet.

Are you living each day to it’s fullest?

The Two Minute Guide To Success

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VictoryThe Two Minute Guide To Getting Things Done(GTD) went through the steps to start being more productive. Here we’ll talk about how to become successful.

Rule 1: Write down what you want

If you don’t know what you want, you can’t get it. Take a paper and write down your goals.

Rule 2: Review your goals often

Be sure to schedule time to review your list, otherwise you’ll never get to it. The process of reviewing will keep your goals fresh and give you ideas on the next step to achieve them.

That’s it. This isn’t earth shattering. This isn’t anything you didn’t know. But this time I hope you do it.

Use your next minute to start your list.

photo credit: Georgio

The MiniReview- Keep Your Employees (or Yourself) Motivated and On Target

Each year, usually around December, organizations across the globe mandate an Employee Review. This is where managers review the progress of their subordinates and specify the goals for the upcoming year. This is helpful as it keeps employees on target so they know what the company wants them to accomplish. It motivates the employees because typically bonuses and increases are tied to the review. (If your company doesn’t do this then run and do it now.)

The Problem
There are some problems with the above system- there are too many opportunities for surprises and not enough direction. This means there’s a whole year without talking about growth or guiding your employees.

Action Steps
We’re at about the half way point of the year. Do a review now. If you’re an employee ask for a quick meeting to make sure “I’m on the right path”.

The Final Question
If you’re the manager performing the MiniReview always end with the following “What can I do to help you succeed? What can I do to make your job/environment better?”

If you’re an employee ask “What can I do to improve?”

After the MiniReview go over what you’ve discussed. Make sure each of you knows what follow-up steps you’ll do based on the discussion.

8 Steps to a Productive Day

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Path to a productive dayThe Getting Things Done Yahoo Group is having an interesting discussion about Control mechanisms.

Without control mechanisms of some type in place, doesn’t that pretty much leave you in the lap of the gods so to speak?

In my response I outlined 8 steps to being productive. I try to instill control, yet give the flexibility to be creative and maximize your day. It all starts with thinking first.


At the end of each day you should plan your next day. This may be an outgrowth of your weekly review- or as it should be called “The Weekly Preview”. Depending on your type of job think this is impossible, but it’s not. For example, if you are in constant crisis mode most of your plan may be thrown out each morning but your plan should be to get the bottom of the crisis so you can move past it.

First you’ll need to determine the most important tasks (MITs) that need to be done the next day. Don’t count daily maintenance tasks like following up and checking email as part of this. If there are 20 things you need to get done then you’re just setting yourself up for failure (unless they aren’t big and you can batch a bunch together and count it as one of your MITs).

Don’t try to fill your full day with MITs- these are just the choices to get you started. Just pick the 1-5 items that you want to get done the next day (keep it 3 or less ideally). Start with items that MUST get done (e.g. deadlines) – that if you don’t do it you’ll need to stay late. Also check your calendar of how much time you’ll have. The more scheduled time you have the less MITs you should plan. Then if you still have open slots, pick tasks that will be best for you for the long term while balancing for project size: smaller projects go first. A better idea is to use layering to cut your most strategic projects into small attainable parts so they don’t get pushed off and are the smaller projects that you end up doing.

At the end of this process you’ll have you a few MITs and a bunch of other tasks. Dont worry these other tasks will still get done.

Here’s how to schedule your productive day:

1. Most Important Tasks

Start with your first MIT first thing when you get in, before you check email or process your other in boxes. Much has been written about the advantages of starting the day early. Getting in early to do a MIT can set your day in the right track. Even if you cant get in early get to your first MIT as soon as possible.

2. Process

When you start processing your in boxes do the quick tasks on the spot. GTD has a two minute rule that in itself can trim items off your to do list before they get there. I would expand this to a 5 minute rule (or even 10) for the following scenarios:

a) Lots of small tasks

Your to do lists are long enough, if you keep having to add 5-10 minute tasks to it and cycle through 5-10 minute tasks every time you want to pick a task you’re just wasting time and energy. Further if you know someone will spend 5 minutes following up on these tasks then it wastes more time. Get it done. Once it’s done it’s no longer on your list and out of your mind. This is part of the reason you didn’t over schedule yourself, so you can properly react to your incoming tasks. If you have a lot of these tasks then you may decide to schedule a MIT for the next day to get rid of the 10 minute tasks.

b) Offensive Opportunities

Sometimes if you take care of a task quickly you can create good will. This can be used with prospects, customers and bosses.

c) Preparation

If you receive information about a task that doesn’t have an immediate deadline don’t just file it away, look at it first. Jot down a quick outline of your thoughts. You may create a few Next Actions right away. Pay special attention to missing information, you’ll want to email people quickly so they have maximum time to do proper research. Seek to get project scope/deadline early on- this will save you lots of rushing at the deadline.

d) Soaking Time

Give yourself time to be creative by figuring what needs to be done and let your mind work in the background. Again an outline helps here. Then let your brain work in the background. You can even schedule a reminder for your self in a few days to jot down a few more notes.

3. Maintenance tasks

These are the small daily tasks you need to do like ticklers/follow ups. Be sure that you go through your follow up list.

4. More MITs

Spend uninterrupted time on your next MIT. Set your environment so you can get in the zone.

5. More Processing/Breaks

Breaks are good for you- just don’t take it to an extreme. Two to five minutes every hour gives you time to rejuvenate. After a break you can switch gears to the next MIT or processing time.

You should schedule processing time at key intervals of your day. Different jobs have different requirements. I would recommend once in the morning, once before and after lunch and one last time before you leave.

6. Context

You can only do certain tasks in certain places. In your Preplanning, you may have scheduled yourself to be in a place to do one of your MITS (e.g. a meeting). Be sure that you think through where you’ll be so you can have a productive time during the transitions e.g. as you wait. Trace your steps through transitions. If you find yourself in your car be sure to have your cell phone or something appropriate to listen to.

7. Seize The Day

After you’re done with your MITs for the day, you pick your next task by gaugin the time available/energy available. If you’re ambitious you can find another MIT, otherwise just slice and dice and get your task list down.

8. Start Planning

Before you leave for the day preplan (see the first section) the next day to get it going on the right foot.

As you see this schedule is rigid but allows flexibility. You may be going along one day doing your tasks and realize that the current task can be ATEd (automated, eliminated or delegated). If you spend some extra time now you’ll receive greater benefits in the future. You can then decide to schedule it for the next day or push off your next MIT to the next day and do the automation on the spot.

I used this flexibility to write this blog post. I started the base of this blog post as a reply to the conversation but as I kept writing I realized it was getting lengthy as there were some concepts I wanted to explain. Some may have quit and said there’s too much to write and not enough time allocated. Instead I took the extra time and it became the foundation for the blog post that I wrote later.

Have a productive day!

Photo credit: Maik Radke

How to Succeed Without Really Trying

No Elevator To SuccessMichael Jordan can beat you at a game of basketball without trying. Donald Trump can find a better real estate deal than you with just a few calls. Jeremy Schoemaker can make money on a web site faster than you with minimal effort (and get other people to promote for him for free). Skellie can get more subscribers for a new site in just 5 days than you can in a year of trying. So how do they do it? Why is it so easy for them? The answer is they built a machine.

In this article I’ll outline how you can build your own machine. The concepts are simple but the results are long reaching. Building the machine may require hard work to create a foundation, but once it’s built you can achieve success without really trying. Follow the four rules below and your machine will give you long term, self-perpetuating success.

Long Term

Is Trump smarter than you? Maybe, maybe not. But his machine is certainly better than yours for making real estate deals. Trump’s machine has many industry contacts to get him the right deals. It has his knowledge in evaluating deals. It has his financial backers allowing him to move on his deals. His machine has many parts to it that allow him to succeed almost automatically.

A machine is different than an experience. It’s built to have long term results. I may have bought a house once and certainly would have some knowledge of buying a house but I’m not setup to do deals consistently. It’s more than just being smart- anyone can take the time to read a book to get the essentials of success. It’s about building a foundation. It’s building the bank relationships. It’s building the industry relationships. It’s building a track record to make people want to invest in you. It’s building a staff that knows what needs to be done. It’s the mind set that this will be done more than once, so I should plan accordingly and not just get it done.


The Trump example doesn’t mean that you need to be big to build a machine. Being big can actually be detrimental if you don’t have your machine under control. Let’s take Skellie for example. Does she have a big organization behind her? No. Is Skellie a better writer than you? Probably, but not necessarily. She may be a good writer but there are probably a number of blogs that are better written than hers that don’t receive the attention she gets (I don’t have examples because those blogs don’t get attention so I haven’t seen them). So what is it that makes Skellie able to launch a site and instantaneously attract 1000 subscribers? It’s her machine of course. Her machine is her ability to use her creative talents and harness loyal readers. Her machine includes the loyal readers she built up at Skelliewag. It includes her contacts with other bloggers. You get the idea.

Building a machine requires a commitment to quality otherwise your machine will work against you and create problems instead of solutions. Success requires that you solve the problem. That you create a process to ensure quality. That you review your open commitments so items don’t slip. A well built machine does the same thing over and over again.

Skellie didn’t take shortcuts by sacrificing quality in her content. Quality takes constant introspection and improvements. For example, Skellie batches her writing to one day a week (in advance) and has a system to deal with writer’s block. Skellie has found the way to keep creating quality content and her machine helps her achieve success.


How does Paris Hilton have the resources to continue her escapades? Simple, she’s an heiress to the Hilton fortune. The money in her trust is her machine. The money that built her nest egg just keeps earning more money with little effort. Some people are lucky enough to take advantage of other people’s machines.

A machine simplifies a process and makes success self-perpetuating. It provides a road map to the future and provides the tools to get there faster. This is what makes Success Making Machine special. It’s not merely a few helpful tips, it’s something you can build on.

Enjoy It

Even when I’m old and grey, I won’t be able to play it, but I’ll still love the game.
Michael Jordan

I’ve always told people that to be successful you have to enjoy what you’re doing and right now I really enjoy what I’m doing. I’m having too much fun with my life. Why would I want to do something else? Why would I want to run for governor?
Donald Trump

Enjoy your work and you’ll never work a day in your life. If you asked Trump or Jordan to do what they do for free, they would. With dedication like that it’s no wonder they overcame the obstacles in their way.

You can build your machine to eliminate the tasks you don’t like. Machines can do the heavy lifting. I’m sure Trump isn’t interested in the nitty gritty of making his deal more tax effective, but people in his machine take care of that for him. Always enjoy the journey.

The Right Way to Build a Machine
Building a machine is a conscious decision to create a quality focused, automated system for the long term for something you enjoy. Using these principles helps you realize your efforts today can have huge long term ramifications that can improve your life. Once your machine is built you can just live on the interest- without really trying.

What kind of machine do you want to build?


Next step

Think about your goals. How can you make a quality machine that self-perpetuating built for the long term?

Now, look at the principles to building your machine.

Photo by: Coda