Coach: “Let’s set some SMART goals for you to reach in the next 90 days. What Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals would you like to set?”
Business Owner: “Measurable?… Specific?”
Coach: “Since you are in the business of selling jewelry, you need to set a goal about how much jewelry you want to sell by the end of 30 days. For the next second lot of 30 days, you need to double that amount, and by the end of 90 days, you will triple your sales. So, how much business will you have made in the next quarter? Huge! And by the end of 12 months, you should plan on opening another jewelry branch in another city.”
Business Owner: Dabbing a kerchief over his forehead, “Would I be able to do so much in such a short period?”
Coach: “Remember that there is no room for excuses. You need to get cracking. The moment you make excuses, you won’t accomplish anything. So, get started, no matter what it takes. Be goal-driven but in the SMART way.”
Now, that’s an action-taking step right there, or is it? Is this how we want leaders to run their business? With a hunter and a leash hitting hard at their own bodies and minds until they perform the task correctly. But do they perform it correctly?
“By the end of July 2025, I will transform the lives of 10 million people worldwide to fulfill their dreams.”
Wow, that’s a long shot with an over-the-top ambition. This goal better have the right resources to pull it off.
When you have a goal, your mind starts to work towards it. It even enters your cycle of thoughts when you’re trying to have a peaceful dinner or catch up on some sleep. It’s because you’re constantly on the move to think of what’s next.
“So, what do I do next to transform 10 million lives of people by July 2025 through my new business model? I have approximately 21 months left to make a difference in so many lives. How will I be able to prove that I can make a difference?
I need to make a list, I need to profile them, filter them, etc. I will have to record testimonials from all these people. Then maybe later, check on their progress over the years. I am going to need a huge team to perform various tasks, put things into perspective, and get things rolling. I also have to manage their salaries.
Oh, I’ve got a lot to do. I almost forgot I have to meet my daughter’s school teacher today, he wanted to talk about an assignment she needs help with.
I’ve already set up meetings with numerous investors. I have to keep fine-tuning my business pitch proposal. What else can I add to it? Should I just create a mind map on my whiteboard tonight? I’ve sacrificed a lot of sleep but in the long run, it will all be worth it”
The above example though being just an anecdote is very close to a real case that I observed closely. The stress created due to such over-stretching goals in the name of motivation has destroyed many businesses and leaders due to high stress and anxiety.
Now, let me clear things out.
There is nothing wrong with making SMART goals. It’s clearly an intelligent way to get things done. But that’s also like playing with fire that can burn your life to nothingness, including the lives of those working with you.
Therefore, pun intended; an impractically designed, output-focus-oriented, and quantifiable goal is not SMART at all. And yet, this pattern of thinking is being pushed all across, especially by unscrupulous business coaches. Such an immature approach ends up unwittingly creating a thief-police scenario for the business owner. The police are your thoughts chasing after the objectives like the big multipliers (say 100X) that act as the thief constantly eluding you.
Why are the objectives always out of your reach? Because they’ve been set at such high standards which at the moment does not render you capable of achieving them.
Well, here’s the deal with this thief-police chase. It turns into a toxic hunter-leash relationship. In such a relationship, one is no longer the owner of their business but rather the slave to their fear-driven ambitions.
The fear of not achieving things at that tight and impractical deadline you gave yourself starts to feel like a leash around the neck. The hunter in you begins to self-punish for not achieving things the way you imagined.
The sad thing about it all lies in the hardest and the worst parts of this journey.
The Hardest Part – The hardest part is that you lose your sense of serenity, your direction of right and wrong, your core, and your sense of control.
The Worst Part – And then comes the worst part which is a realization of life slipping by, littered with unfulfilled promises and broken hearts.
Not being able to reach that finish line on time led you to believe that running your business was the wrong decision to make in the first place. Not True! You started out right but used a misplaced approach.
That dream business no longer feels like something to be excited about but rather a means to question one’s ability to achieve them. People then start to think whether the city life is making it worse and whether they should re-route their life and own a farm in a village instead.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.
The Vending Machine Concept of Control
“Control has two sides to one coin. One side of the coin is the input and the other side is the output.”
Consider a vending machine where you put a coin of a certain amount because you want the orange soda to come rolling out. A blackcurrant soda lying next to the orange one was more expensive but you decided to buy that too. This time you insert a coin of a higher denominator, and there you have it, you got the blackcurrant soda as well.
What did you do here? You controlled the input, not the output. You inserted the coin, which means you performed the act of investing your Time, Energy, and Effort into something that you could control. Your input influenced the output.
Now, the vending machine runs on the probability of technical efficiency and breakdown.
Suppose, the vending machine has not been serviced. So, you feed your best coin into it but the orange soda doesn’t come out. You try again, and again. You’ve lost a lot of coins because the output isn’t materializing as you wanted it to. So, what are you going to do now? Simple, you’ll ram your foot into the machine. Kick it! Nothing, no soda, no nothing. Kick it again.
You’re frustrated because you lost coins, investment, and control of the situation. All because you went from CONTROLLING THE INPUT to CONTROLLING THE OUTPUT.
“Life is to be lived, not controlled and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.”
So, what’s the solution? Simple. Realize it’s only the Input that is in your control. Hence, focus on the input, that is, invest your time, energy, and effort into the business tasks. To worry and try to control the outcome is just like cheating on the system of how things work, and of course, cheating on yourself. Remember that the way to do this is by setting a value system in place, one that represents accountability and ethical ways.
Because when one stoops to controlling the outcome, the lines that one should not cross to achieve them get blurred.
For instance, the Coach in the example of the jewelry business owner pushed him to sell a certain amount of jewelry in the first month, double it in the next, and then triple it. What such a goal does to the mind is put it in the emergency auto-pilot mode. No matter what, you need to get there. This ‘no matter what’ part is something that blurs the lines for you and creates a rift in your value system.
And it is in this realization that you, as a leader, can achieve the right values by enhancing your SiQ. In the process, you can know who you are and what you are meant to be. You know the values set in place, and you dissolve the hunter-leash attitude.
When you have control over the input, do not let the worries of the output enslave you. Just ask yourself one thing – “Did I do my best?”.
- No – If the answer is yes, have a good night’s sleep.
- Yes – If the answer is no then you know where you should be headed – in doing your best.
At the end of the day, trying to control the output just reminds me of the song “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. It literally speaks out of the mouths of leaders frustrated with trying to control the outcome.
Wish we could turn back time (oh)
To the good old days (oh)
When our mama sang us to sleep
But now we’re stressed out
Used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space, but now they’re laughing at our face saying
“Wake up, you need to make money”