You don’t have to be a math whiz to put numbers to work for you. Assigning a number to a project can help you focus and, also, give you a finish line.

Open-ended goals have a way of never reaching completion, but attach a numerical addition and getting started is much easier. Here are a few ideas to borrow.

Pick a number under ten and use it as a goal setting guide.

For me, it’s the number five. You might prefer three or six. Then instead of thinking, “I need to get more clients,” set a short term goal to get three (or whatever your favorite number is) new clients.

Of course, you can repeat this exercise as often as you like, but your chances for success increase enormously when you work with a smaller number.

Years ago, when I was floundering around trying to get my speaking  business launched,  I met a successful, but unhurried, seminar leader who told me her business plan was, “Do one, book one.”

As soon as she finished a program, she’d spend time marketing her services until she’d booked just one more. It’s been a policy I have used ever since with great success.

Stumped about your next steps?

Challenge yourself (and your subconscious mind) by asking a idea-generating question such as, “What are three ways I can grow my business right now?” Or “Who are four people I could collaborate with?”

Write a tip sheet.

Don’t forget how useful numbers are in writing tip sheets which can be turned into articles. Six Ways to Get More Exercise is an easier article to write than one called How to Get More Exercise.

Using numbers also is a reminder that when you write a tip sheet the intention isn’t to tell everything you know.

Numbers work equally well for subtracting things from your life that you no longer want.

Instead of trying to unclutter your life all at once, for example, get rid of nine things a day until the job is done. It’s far less overwhelming if you break it down into bite sized chunks.

Go through the junk drawer and throw away nine things or toss out nine magazines or find nine things in your closet you never wear and put them in a bag for the thrift store.

Assigning a number to necessary, but not necessarily pleasant, tasks can break through procrastination and get positive momentum going.

Pick a number, any number, and then pick one of the projects listed below.

*  Ways to get into the conversation

*  Books to add to my library

*  New profit centers to design

*  Things to study

*  New adventures to schedule

*  Self-bossers to invite to  breakfast

*  Fresh marketing tools to create

*  Media interviews to book

*  Nonessentials to eliminate

*  Ways to support other entrepreneurs

*  Articles to publish

Or add your own projects to the list—and then get busy making them happen

When I was heading back from a quick trip last week, I found myself behind a fertilizer truck with a sign on the back that always makes me do a doubletake. “Safety is our goal” it proclaimed.

What’s wrong with this claim?

Since a goal is something we haven’t accomplished yet, the message literally declares that the business is working on safety, but they haven’t reached it yet. That doesn’t seem like something a business should be bragging about.

In fact, I’m not sure that personal and business goals are something that should be publicly shared at all—which is not to say we should abandon setting goals in the first place.

What’s the difference between those who consistently achieve their goals and those who don’t? It’s not the concept that’s at fault; it’s the approach that has a positive or negative impact on results.

When my granddaughter Zoe was four, she and her mother flew to Las Vegas for a visit. As we were leaving the airport, a billboard caught Zoe’s eye. “What is that red bird?” she wanted to know.

I explained that it was an ad for Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. I told her it was a favorite show of mine and thought that was the end of it.

Zoe had a different idea. “Can I see it?” she asked. I told her that when she was a little bit older, I’d be delighted to share it with her.

Every time we were together for the next two years, she’d inquire about “the red bird show.” I sent her a magazine ad for the show which she promptly displayed on the wall of her room.

In July, the time had finally arrived for Zoe’s first encounter with a Cirque show. I was almost as nervous as she was. Would she like it? Had I oversold it?

On our drive to the theater, we listened to the music from Mystere to get in the mood. She seemed a little bored with the unfamiliar tunes. I wondered if I was about to witness a big disappointment.

We took our seats. The lights went down, the music came up and Zoe was spellbound for the next ninety minutes.

On our way out of the theater she asked, “Can we come back tomorrow night?” I laughed and told her that a return visit would have to wait. Nevertheless, the magic of that night lingered on.

A few days later, I was driving Zoe back to her new home in California and put on the Mystere soundtrack again. This time she not only listened, but accurately recalled what was happening during each piece of music.

Then early in August, my daughter called to say that Zoe had decided on her Halloween costume. Did I want to guess what it was? “The red bird?” I ventured.

Of course, I was correct. Little did I realize that Zoe had also decided that I would be the costume designer for this elaborate get-up.

Besides the fact that I’m a pushover for Zoe’s requests, what characteristics of  successful goal setting were operating here? More significantly, what can you do to make your goal setting more effective?

Here are four simple things:

1. Set authentic goals that make your heart sing. An authentic goal is not one that is accompanied by thoughts of “this is what I should be doing” or “this is what my parents/teachers/spouse expects me to do.” An authentic goal is aligned with your purpose and passion.

2. Use visual reminders. It’s a noisy, distracting world we live in. Having visual reminders (i.e. Zoe’s Mystere poster) keep our important goals front and center. Create a vision board, carry a talisman, practice creative visualization.

3. Seek help from people who can help. Zoe didn’t waste time asking her parents, other grandparents or friends to take her to the show. I was her Las Vegas connection and she didn’t let me forget it.

4. Celebrate. After weeks of searching for a new home, I finally found my next World Headquarters. When I told my daughter and sister (who had shared the ups and downs of this quest), they both reacted the same way: “How do you want to celebrate?”

The best way to regularly accomplish your goals is to give yourself credit for the things you have already done successfully. Success really does breed success—but only if you notice.

Years ago when I first learned about goal setting, one of the first written goals I set for myself was to never have two years that were exactly the same. I suspect that goal was inspired by my realization that my teaching job seemed to produce years that were nearly a carbon copy (you do remember carbon copies, don’t you?) of one another.

That goal popped into my mind again a couple of weeks ago when I sat down to shred the papers and receipts from 2002. As I discovered, it was a year quite unlike 2010, which has also been a remarkable year, but in very different ways.

As I looked through the travel documents, I wondered if I had spent any time at home that year. There were trips to Seattle, Toronto, Boston and many spots in between. My passport also had a bit of a workout on two trips to London and another to Italy with my sister and daughter.

This was a year of some unique experiences and firsts. A few days ago, I wrote about the explosion at my daughter’s apartment building that happened that year. Most of the big highlights of 2002 were less dramatic.

Memories of that year were lurking in the checks I was shredding. I noticed it was one I’d written for the down payment on my Saturn, the first brand new card I’d ever purchased. I smiled remembering the day that I surprised myself by buying that car without so much as a test drive.

Then there was that birthday party I threw for myself in Las Vegas. That little celebration, almost planned as a joke, led to several surprising adventures, not the least of which was changing my notions about this city.

As I was reviewing 2002 via my paperwork, I thought of the advice I once heard (and frequently quote) about the simple, but foolproof, test you can use to see if your life is in alignment with your priorities.

That advice? Look at your calendar and checkbook. You can quickly see if you are spending your time and money in ways that support the things that matter to you.

Sadly, for many people there’s a big discrepancy between what they know they want to do and have and what they actually are spending their time and money on.

I’ve recently finished Chris Guillebeau’s wonderful new book The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris set a big goal for himself to visit every country in the world before he turns 35. He’s well on his way, as his legion of followers can attest.

Chris writes eloquently about the importance of determining your own values and then creating a life that lives up to those values. Of course, he also encounters many people who tell him they’d just love to do what he’s doing, but, of course there are abundant reasons and excuses why that’s simply not possible.

Ah, excuses. Seems to me that you can have excuses or you can have your dreams, but you can’t have both.

Those faulty explanations that attempt to explain our disappointments do not create extraordinary years. You certainly can’t experience the rewards of the joyfully jobless life, either, if excuses are running the show.

I’m already thinking about several new adventures that I plan to use to weave 2011. It’s not just a change of address that’s going to make it a different year for me.

And I’m starting that plan with this bit of advice from Chris Guillebeau: “I propose welcoming in a life of abundance, filled to the brim with things you enjoy doing and that leave a legacy.”

Of course, I’m the only one who can determine what that means for me and that’s just fine. My calendar and checkbook are going to make sure that I stay on track so when it is time to shred 2011 I’ll remember it as a year that was filled to the brim.

In the six years that Zoe has been in our lives, she’s added plenty of fun, enthusiasm and amusement. Always up for a new adventure, last year she and her cousin Jade were treated to their first fishing outing with their grandfather.

When I asked her about it, she said, “We didn’t catch anything, but it still was exciting.”  What  Zoe had uncovered  is the secret of serendipity, even if she doesn’t know that big word.

While the common definition of serendipity is unexpected good fortune or a surprise, I learned several years ago that it goes much farther than that. We go back to an old Persian fairy tale about The Princes of Serendip to see what they discovered to find the true meaning of the word.

These three young noblemen traveled the world, but rarely found the treasures they were looking for. Instead they ran into other treasures equally great or even greater than the ones they were looking for. 

In looking for one thing, they found something else and it dawned on them that this was one of life’s sly and wonderful tricks. When they realized this they got an entirely new slant on life and every day resulted in new and thrilling experiences.

Even though their goals repeatedly eluded them, they were more than rewarded by their wayside discoveries.

Therein lies the key to serendipity. It does not occur when we are passively waiting for something to happen. We must be actively engaged in the pursuit of some goal and, yet, be willing for it to turn out differently than we imagined.

Clinging to what we have is a surefire way to prevent serendipity from entering our lives. I was reminded of this when I got a call one day from a woman who crowed, “I had the best time today being joyfully jobless.”

A year and a half earlier, this same woman was feeling hurt when she was dismissed from her job at a large corporation. Would this enthusiastic conversation have happened if she were still punching a time clock?

But there’s even more to this serendipity business. While it means finding joy and meaning in discoveries on the way to a stated goal, the secret is to look upon incidental goals as substantial and upon accidental happenings as purposeful.

At the same time, it’s necessary to seek the good when the unexpected knocks us off our feet. Uncovering the hidden treasure in adverse situations requires that we be wide awake and looking.

Art Linkletter summed it up nicely when he said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”  Quite possibly what we call failure is actually serendipity trying to happen.

So go after your goals with gusto, but celebrate all the unexpected rewards along the way. Even if you don’t catch any fish, it can be exciting.

Some people become giddy when working with numbers. I am not one of them. However, that doesn’t mean I ignore them.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to put numbers to work for you. Assigning a number to a project can help you focus and, also, give you a finish line. Open-ended goals have a way of never reaching completion. Here are a few ways to make numbers part of your tool kit.

 Pick a number under ten and use it as a goal setting guide. For me, it’s the number five. You might prefer three or six. Then instead of thinking, “I need to get more clients,” set a short term goal to get three (or whatever your favorite number is) new clients. Of course, you can repeat this exercise as often as you like, but your chances for success increase enormously when you work with a smaller number.

 Bird by bird. Small is manageable. I learned this years ago when I was floundering around trying to get my speaking business launched without much success. Then I met a successful, but unhurried, seminar leader who told me that her business plan was, “Do one, book one.” As soon as she finished a program, she’d spend time marketing her services until she’d booked just one more. It kept her business flowing without overwhelming her. It’s been a policy I have used ever since with great success.

 Challenge your imagination. Stumped about your next steps? Challenge yourself (and your subconscious mind) by asking an idea-generating question such as, “What are three ways I can grow my business right now?” Or “Who are four people I could collaborate with?”

Numbers work equally well for subtracting things from your life you no longer want. Instead of trying to unclutter your life all at once, for example, get rid of nine things a day until the job is done.

 Pick a number, any number, and then pick one of the projects listed below. 

 * Ways to get into the conversation

* Books to add to your library

* New profit centers to design

* Things to study

* New adventures to schedule

* Self-bossers to invite to breakfast

* Fresh marketing tools to create

* Media interviews to book

* Non-essentials to eliminate

* Ways to support other entrepreneurs

* Articles to publish

 Add your own projects to the list—and  then get busy making them happen.

 

When thirteen-year-old Summer Riley lost the iPod she’d received as a birthday gift in May, she was devastated. After she stopped scolding herself, she decided to earn the money to replace it and set up shop selling lemonade. In July, in Las Vegas, with temperatures topping 110. Selling for 75¢/cup, Summer brought in $10-$12 a day. Her entrepreneurial spirit caught the attention of a local reporter, which is how I learned her story.

 

Summer’s enterprising approach to getting something she wanted struck me because I read her story shortly after receiving yet another e-mail saying, “Someday I’d like to attend one of your seminars.” I hear that all the time. I also know that the folks who are wistfully thinking about participating in such an event will probably never show up. 

 

Sadly, they’re missing a critical portion of an entrepreneur’s mindset. It’s so basic that I spend a fair amount of time talking about it in Making a Living Without a Job seminars. It’s not difficult, but it requires some conscious practice. Simply put, people who accomplish their goals, who lead rich, fascinating lives focus on What they want to achieve and then explore options for How they’re going to do so.

 

This seems to be a totally foreign concept to those who have been conditioned to operate with a fixed income mentality. On the other hand, the entrepreneur decides on the destination and then creates the project that will get them there. It’s just another exercise in creative problem-solving. 

 

The good news is that it can also be learned. Use this simple three-step process:

 

√ Decide on what you want to accomplish.

√ Brainstorm possibilities.

√ Get busy.

 

Start with a small goal and find a new way to make it happen. Then do it again and again. It’s how we grow a business, it’s how we invent an interesting life. The only equipment that’s needed is imagination and a willingness to put it to work. As Summer’s father told the newspaper, “If she wants something, she finds a way to afford it.” Smart dad, smart daughter.

 

Speaking of smart parents, bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard wrote a wonderful essay on Why Passion Matters. It’s one of my favorite discoveries of the week.

 

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By the way, we still have two spots left in our upcoming Follow Through Camp. If you want to move a project ahead, revive a neglected idea or improve your goal-setting skills, find a way to join us on September 11 & 12 in Chaska, MN. It’s going to rock.



There’s a character in Nick Hornby’s delightful novel High Fidelity who constantly challenges his friends to create on-the-spot Top Five Lists. “Name your top five Dustin Hoffman movies,” he demands. The story is peppered with Top Five Lists covering all sorts of pop culture topics. It’s not a bad exercise. 

When I began experimenting with ideas about setting goals, I started breaking down my year-long aims into 90-Day Projects. Again, the number five seemed to be operating. For instance, one of my writing goals was to sell five magazine articles every 90 days. It was an easy number to work with and I repeatedly used it in setting goals.

You, of course, may have a different favorite number that repeats itself in your life. Use whatever number you like to help you focus. Start by incorporating it into your lifetime goal list. Here are some idea-starters:

* Travel to five continents

* Create five strong and dependable profit centers

* Have five books published

* Meet five people I deeply admire

* Have five great outfits in my closet at all times

* Have five causes I support financially

* Eat five fruits and vegetables every day

* Become fluent in five languages

* Have five people with whom I collaborate every year

* Discover five pastimes that I’m passionate about

* Have five entrepreneurial friends with whom I meet on a regular basis

* Coach five proteges

You’ll notice that this list includes the whimsical as well as the serious. Start your own list and then pick one or two items to start working on. Your life will be richer if you do.

Life is full and overflowing with the new. But it is necessary to empty out the old to make room for the new to enter. ~ Eileen Caddy

It happens every time I announce a new special event. Almost immediately, I begin getting messages that say, “Someday I’d love to attend your Storytelling seminar.” Or “When will you be doing your Storytelling event in Alaska?” These questions suggest that many people haven’t learned one of the basics of successful self-bossing.

Several years ago when Valerie Young announced our upcoming Making Dreams Happen event, she was deluged with e-mails from people saying they’d like to attend but couldn’t afford the enrollment fee. She called me to see if I had any  ideas about how to handle this onslaught. I pointed out that since this event was about bringing dreams into reality, getting there was the first exercise. The ever-creative Valerie issued a challenge to her readers asking them to share what they were doing to fund the conference. We got wonderful stories about the creative ways that participants found to be involved. 

A year earlier, two friends and I decided we wanted to take a little vacation. My cash flow was good so I had the funds; they’d both spent the previous months working on writing projects that had yet to pay off so their cash flow was squeaky. Once we set the goal for the trip, however, they both swung into action. They  had each built a nice little portfolio of cash flow options that included things like selling on eBay, doing market research, spending a Sunday as a flea marketing vendor. In less than two weeks, they both had the money  they  needed for the trip.

Last year, another entrepreneurial friend was experiencing a cash flow slowdown and decided to get creative. She wanted something that wouldn’t distract too much from other projects she was working on, so she put an ad on her local Craigslist offering her services as a pet sitter in her home. Not long after, I  was talking to her and she proudly announced, “I just passed the $1000 mark with petsitting.” 

So the order of making things happen is this: goal first, funding second. What successful goalsetters know is that the process goes something like this: focus on a goal, brainstorm obvious and crazy ways to make it happen, start taking action. Keep going until the goal is met. Set another goal and repeat.

You can do anything you want to do. I mean it. Blunder ahead. ~ Robert Henri

 

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I heard a terrific story on public radio’s Weekend Edition today about a school in the Chicago area called Ag High which teaches agricultural and entrepreneurial subjects along with academics. The school’s director had some insightful things to say about the value of this broad curriculum. I urge you to check it out for yourself.

One of the leading characteristics of entrepreneurial thinkers shows up in their approach to goal-setting. I was reminded of that this morning when I was talking to Lisa Tarrant, who spent the weekend holding her first tag sale. She said it had been a success and she was getting ready to list a couple of unsold items on Craigslist. “We’re using the money from the sale to redecorate our living room,” she added.

“Oh, how entrepreneurial!” I replied. She agreed and told me about their decorating plans.

Did you catch what’s happening here? I’ll give you another hint. Every time I announce a 3-day seminar, I start hearing from people who say, “Someday I’d like to attend one of your Las Vegas events.” The implication is, of course, “if I ever have the money.”

That’s fixed income mentality at work. The entrepreneurial approach is quite different. Successful goal-setters decide first WHAT they want to do and then get busy figuring out HOW to make it happen. In fact, this proactive approach may not even include the word “how” since that little word can be a sabotaging dreambasher. Instead, the entrepreneurial thinker begins contemplating questions like, “What’s the best way to make this happen? Is there something hiding in plain sight that can help me get there?” 

Figuring out how is where the creative process kicks in. Alas, too many people mistake it for a red light.

Keep on starting and the finishing will take care of itself. — Neil Fiore