I’d say I bat about 500. For every 1,000 goals I’ve set for myself, if I am truly honest, I’ve hit maybe 500 of them. I wanted to write a book … and I wrote a book. I wanted to build a successful investment fund … well, that’s still a work in progress. I married the woman of my dreams but I don’t (yet) have the six-pack abs of my dreams.
If you sat back and cataloged all of the goals you have set for yourself, formally or informally, across all the domains of your life, from career to health to finances to family to spirituality, what percent of your goals would say you achieved?
Now, what would your life look like now if you halved your failure rate?
For example, if, like me, you hit 500 of every 1,000 goals, you miss 500 as well. What would happen if you only missed 250? What if I had my six-pack abs and my investment fund working? My life, as much as I love it now, would be radically better.
If you are reading this blog you probably know yourself as successful. You probably have a higher success rate than the average person. But even Michael Jordon, when he was on top of his game, kept trying to improve. So let’s take a look at how we can improve our chances of hitting our goals and getting what we want out of life.
This week I read through the first two sections of Ray Dalio’s “Principles,” which you can download for free here.
Now I know a few people who have worked at Bridgewater Associates, Dalio’s global investment management firm and, to be honest, more than one have said they didn’t love the experience. But regardless of what you think of his firm, you have to admit, he knows something about hitting goals. He grew up in Queens, New York. His parents were a jazz musician and a stay-at-home mom. And today he runs one of the largest hedge funds in the world and is ranked as one of the 400 richest people in the world.
He breaks down his approach to getting what he wants cleanly and succinctly. Here are the principles:
- You set a goal: Whatever game you are playing, you set a goal. If you playing basketball your goal might be measured in baskets or wins. If you are building a business, maybe it’s revenue or value. For your career, you might be after salary or the size of organization you lead.
- Your machine produces an outcome: You or your company or team produce some kind of result – baskets, wins, revenue, value, salary, size of organization, whatever you choose to
- You hit your goal or there is a problem: If your machine does not produce your goal, then you have a problem. Most people fail because they are not willing to admit there is a problem. I find, when I am honest with myself, that I overlook problems often. I miss a revenue target and think, “It’s I’ll get it next time.”
- You diagnose the problem: While most people try to avoid the uncomfortable step of diagnosing the reason why their machine failed to hit their goal, if you want to win, you need to stop and dissect what went wrong. What were the root causes?
- There are two types of root causes: People or structure. Either there is some weakness in the people (yourself, your team, the consultant you hired) or there is something wrong with the structure of how those people operate (habits, culture, processes, etc.). You must identify what the causes are. We often fail to deal with root causes because isolating them feels uncomfortable. We usually have to admit to ourselves or tell someone else that their skills/character is not aligned with achieving the goal. You have to be able to admit that you are not detail-oriented enough or you are not good at seeing the big picture.
- Decide if you want to keep your goal: You now have a You can either address the problem by removing the root cause or you can change your goal. If you decide that you are just not the kind of person who is detail-oriented and you are resigned to that belief, then just change your goal and set a lower goal, one that can be achieved with a flawed machine. But if you are really committed to your goal, then change the system. Learn to become more detail-oriented, replace yourself with someone who is, etc.
- Track: Then let the machine run again and see what the results are. If you start hitting your goal, you’ve fixed the machine. If not, repeat from step 4.
It worked for Dalio. It seems to be working for me. I bet if you are willing to be clear about what you really want out of life, courageous enough to look honestly and objectively where you are failing and the root causes of that failure, it will work for you as well.