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“Don’t Go Directly For Your Goal”

Last week I was asked to speak at a conference as one of the speakers. When we got there and throughout the entire day, something felt really awkward to me.

The height of the awkwardness came when an internationally renowned speaker took the stage and gave a perfectly polished and smooth speech that energized the entire audience. While listening to his message I kept thinking—“Something doesn’t feel right.”

He then asked us to do an exercise where we drew a “T” on a piece of paper. On the left side we listed all the mundane things that we are just going through the motions to accomplish—things like balancing the books, doing the dishes, feeding the dog, and any other mundane tasks we face. Then for the right side he asked, “What is the ultimate thing in your life that you want to do? What is the ultimate thing that needs to be done in the next year? Write that on the right side.”

He then got the crowd ecstatic when he said, “What you have to do is ignore all the things on the left side. Stop doing them. Find a way to get someone else to do them. Hire someone else to do them. Only do the one thing on the right.”

The emotion went wild. It felt very awkward for me. You see, I believe in setting big goals—big hairy, crazy goals. But you know what?  If we only do that, we lose the most important things in our life. We have to divert around obstacles, we can’t race directly toward our goals or else we lose the most important things and miss the ultimate goal anyway.

Look at the scenario this speaker was talking about. If you have young children, for example, try not helping your spouse change the diapers. Don’t do any of the dishes. Ignore the finances in your business. Remember you don’t want to do these mundane tasks—you just want to chase that big crazy dream.

If you do this what will happen? The result will be that you are going to fail. Most of the time we just can’t afford not to do the mundane things. That is why so many small businesses fail. If you sprint directly to that big, ultimate goal then a lot of times you just end up failing.

I am a dreamer. I am a believer. We all have to be dreamers and believers. We have to set those big hairy crazy goals. But I am here to tell you that we get to the destination most effectively when we zig zag to the goal. We add meaningful rewards for achievements. We work hard. We divert around the obstacles when we can. And yes, we sometimes do things we don’t want to do, including changing diapers and other seemingly mundane tasks.

God’s plan for us is bigger than our plan. If we set the goal out there, the universe will indeed give us the opportunities. It will take hard work and it will often involve zig zagging and diverting to that goal. Go forward! Set the big goal and zig zag your way to success.

6 responses so far

  • Michael Drew


    I loved this blog post.

    You know most of the speakers I know in the business and motivational industry’s have shot straight at their goal, and hit it, but, in the process they lost their family, their wives, their children and ultimately financial success became their only success.

    A really smart man once said “No success in life can compensate for failure in the home”.

    Its been an interesting journey for me the last couple of years, but I must say, I have come to appreciate, even enjoy those mundane things in life. They make success so much more enjoyable.

    Michael R. Drew

  • Andrea Reindl

    Wow! Rich, this is so wise. I understand the ‘type’ of speaker that you are referring to and those similar type exercises…it’s interesting while that is a common preached way of thinking, I agree with your take! The other thing about some of those ‘mundane’ tasks in life is that they are the moments that can’t be planned where a little magic happens every day in those special little moments. Thanks for sharing your wisdom in such an eloquent way. It’s a deep reminder to zig and zag and learn and zag and learn and grow…and enjoy the journey!

  • Info

    before enlightenment: cut wood and draw water; after enlightenment: cut wood and draw water :: what the speaker may have been driving at was the ‘find others’ part to do those mundane things. There is nothing mundane about spending time with your own children. There is plenty mundane about doing the dishes or cooking or accounting.

    • Michael Drew

      It depends on your perspective. I’d suggest that what you define as mundane is something that most people overlook and should be treasured…

  • Sallymaynard68

    Great article. Thanks for the solid advice.

  • Rich

    Andrea, thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to seeing you next week. The simple little things in life that we do for others validate each other. Doing the dishes for my wife after she has a tough day almost means more to here than ssending a nice card of giving flowers. We have to allocate time in life to do the harder things also.