How to Achieve Your Dreams

Smart goal setting colorful letters on grungy blackboardI recently watched a special on NATGEO on the life of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In case you didn’t know, he went from an immigrant who could barely speak English to a bodybuilding champion, actor, and governor, all in the span of about three decades.  People who know him well note that each year, he sets 5 goals for himself, then goes about achieving them.

Arnold’s story is impressive and inspiring.  It also shows that the one-two punch of goal setting and persistence can work for all of us.  As we go into the home stretch of this year, maybe it’s time we start setting up this pattern for ourselves.


I think we all know the importance of setting goals.  A goal gives us a target and the motivation to hit it.  There are several ways to do this, but one of the most common is the SMART format:

S:  Specific

  • I’m going to grow my business this year

M: Measurable

  • I will sign 5 new clients per month
  • I will speak at 4 conferences this year
  • I will deliver 2 lunch and learns per month

A: Aligned?

  • Yes (part of my strategic plan)

R: Realistic?

  • Yes (if I get off my lazy ass)

T: Time-bound?

  • Yes.  Progress will be tracked each month

By using a methodology like SMART, you take a nebulas idea and develop a path for action.


Here is where it becomes difficult.  Persistence is your ability to follow through on these goals.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  In the case of growing a business, it means dealing with cold calls, speaking in public, rejection, marketing expenses, and general discomfort.  The good news is, if you’re persistent, your inability to accept “no” for an answer will get you the breakthroughs that others won’t be willing to work for.

Arnold Schwarzenegger succeeded not because he had a great physique and a whole lot of luck but because he refused to quit.  He didn’t allow the opinions of others and naysayers influence his choices. Because he did it, so can we.   All of us have equal opportunity for success next year because we can set goals and be persistent.

What will you achieve next year?

Bitter, Thankful, or Grateful?

It’s that time of year where families sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and tell each other what they’re thankful for.

Being thankful is a good thing.  Being grateful is a great thing!  Being bitter, well, that’s a terrible thing.  What’s the difference?  Here’s my thoughts.

In 1983, I joined the Navy in order to attend dental laboratory technology school.  I had a certificate from a civilian school but needed experience to get a job.  The Navy recruiter promised me dental lab school, but first I had to attend dental assisting school.  Dental assisting was awful.  I was ok though since I knew I had lab school to look forward to and then a short career in the Navy, away from patient care.   Except that the convening dates for the lab school didn’t match my assisting school graduation.  I was instead sentenced to 5 years as a chairside dental assistant at an overseas command.  I was bitter.

I was more bitter when I reenlisted to at least get back to the U.S. and was again assigned chairside.  That ultimately meant 8 years chairside when most dental techs did 18 months. I reenlisted yet again and pushed myself to get BS and MA degrees in order to apply for the Medical Service Corps Inservice Procurement Program.  I was turned down 3 years in a row.  Some of those who were selected barely had a BS degree.  I was bitter.  I was bitter that I served under a succession of emotionally unintelligent bosses.  I was bitter that my Navy career was the complete opposite of what I expected.

So I took my bitter self out of the Navy at the 15 year mark.

And I was thankful.  So thankful that on my last afternoon in the Navy I tossed my uniforms in the dumpster in full view of the staff of Naval Dental Center Northwest, scraped my DoD base access sticker off my windshield with an ice scraper, and gave everyone a two handed, one-finger salute before screeching out of the parking lot.

I was thankful that I was free.  Thankful that I could dress like I wanted and say what I wanted and could freely disagree with anyone I wanted.  Life was good.  Or so it seemed.

Until I realized that being thankful was just the feeling of not being bitter anymore.  It wasn’t really all that satisfying.  And while I wasn’t bitter in name, in spirit I still was.

Then I realized that to be truly happy, I needed to reset my goals.  I focused my attention on what I could do, not on what I didn’t get.  I built my business and it grew.  My bitter, that turned to thankful, was now grateful.  Grateful for what I had, not for what I had not.  And ironically, once I made that shift, I was able to return back to my military roots and serve, really serve by teaching transition classes, coach and mentor transitioning sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines, and shift into a semblance of gratefulness for my Navy career.

Yes, this is a long story and it’s not one you hear from military veterans.  But it’s a good lesson on what to focus on.  So, this Thanksgiving, learn to separate the terms:

Bitter:  I’m pissed at the world and all the terrible things that have been done to me (victim).  “Everyone is out to get me.”  “I’m always on the outside looking in.”  “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”

Thankful:  I’m glad I’m not miserable anymore. “Be thankful you have a job” or “be thankful you have Brussel sprouts to eat…after all, there are starving kids in Africa who would love to have those right now.”  (still kind of a victim…sort of)

Grateful:  “My career is everything I’ve always wanted.”  “My relationships are SOOOO fulfilling.”  “My pet goldfish gives me great joy!”

Grateful comes from seeking what you really want.  Thankful comes from not having what you hated.  Bitter just acknowledges misery.  All three are choices.  This year, sort these out for yourselves and choose wisely. I’ve done enough of the first two.  I’ll be going for grateful.  I hope you’ll join me.

Happy GratesGiving!

How to Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

career-map“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s the easiest question to answer before the age of 12.  After that it starts getting difficult.  High schoolers are pressured to answer it before picking a college.  College grads often wrestle with it after graduating.  Adults at midlife are plagued by it.  Old people become reflective about it.

As I’m preparing to deliver a career planning workshop at my daughter’s high school, I know that many of those graduating seniors are dealing with this.  Their parents are pushing them to decide and frankly many of them haven’t a clue.

If you know my story, you know that I couldn’t answer that question until October 11, 1996. Life before that was a series of false starts and dead ends.  It was endless weeks of dreading Monday and living for Friday and vacation days.   On that day however, life changed.  That was the day I nearly took a swing at my boss while in the Navy.  That moment brought a sense of clarity that has guided me ever since.  I had to wait until age 33 to get the answer. If you’re younger than that, let me save you some time.  If you’re older than that, there’s still time.  Here is the formula:

Figure Out Your Life Mission, Purpose, or Passion.  For me, I realized it after wisely opting to let my moronic boss keep his front teeth (and keeping me out of jail).  I knew at that point my mission in life was to develop the next great generation of managers.

Find the Career that Supports Your life Mission, Purpose, or Passion.  In my case, I knew I’d have to finish up my graduate degree in Organizational Leadership (a degree I selected simply because it had no math in it).  Then, to be able to influence on a grand scale, I’d have to start my own consulting company.  To do that, I’d first have to start by getting out of the Navy and get a job.

Find the Job, in the Career that Supports Your Life Mission, Purpose, or Passion.  This meant starting out working as an internal consultant and trainer in a couple of HR departments.  I spent nearly 4 years doing this before starting my business.

That’s the formula that I used and it works.  Having a sense of clarity makes life’s often arduous journey very rewarding.  It’s what I want for you.

How do you begin?

Figure out the goal.  If you have a passion for ending world hunger, that’s great.  Now let’s figure out the path.

Find the Career.  You can either raise money to buy food (meaning that you need a career that will net you lots of cash a la Bill Gates and Microsoft) or figure out a way to mass produce food (meaning a career in food science, agriculture, etc.)

Find the Job that Supports the Career.  This might mean interning at a large company, taking a lower position in a company, finding a mentor that’s a tech mogul, or simply enrolling in the right college program.

The three steps are pretty simple but they require great focus and dogged determination.  There is no easy path to a truly grand vision.  I’ve been at it pretty hard now for nearly 20 years and while I am creating lots of great managers, I’ve barely made a dent.  I’m not giving up however.  Neither should you!




How to Handle Your Post-Election Hangover

I voted sticker2It’s almost over.

After over a year of debates, controversies, attack ads, memes, posts, and commentary, the election cycle of 2016 comes down to the final vote on Tuesday. Nobody knows what Wednesday will bring. Speculation runs from the candidates contesting the results all the way to the losing candidate calling to congratulate the winner. No matter what happens, each of us will have to go about our business on Wednesday morning and function regardless of how we feel.

The earliest election I can remember being interested in was between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. My parents broke rank with their traditional Republican leanings and voted for Carter. The morning after the election, I remember as a 6th grader how my mom gleefully told me I should put a peanut on the desks of my classmates all of whom seemed to pull for Ford (Carter was a peanut farmer in Georgia) as a way to rub it in their faces. I didn’t. It just didn’t seem like the right thing to do.

People say this cycle has divided America but I think it’s always been divided, we just have social media to make our points known to more people. It’s certainly been the case this cycle.

Which brings us to what should happen on Wednesday.

It’s possible you’ve been quiet politically and if so, Wednesday just means you have the choice to just continue on quietly. But if you’ve been vocal, you WILL have some choices to make. May I suggest the following?

Your Side Lost. If your candidate lost, remember it was THEM that lost, not YOU. By coming to work pissed off, letting everyone know about it, and dragging your ass around all day in a funk, your credibility will instantly be impacted. Your boss doesn’t care that you’re mad, they want you to get your job done. Your customers don’t care that you’re mad, they want to be taken care of. Your candidate doesn’t care that you’re mad, they have their own future to worry about. Bottom line: Nobody cares that your candidate lost so don’t make it your business to make everyone miserable. Be professional and get back to work.

Your Side Won. If your candidate won, remember it was THEM that won, not YOU. By coming to work dancing for joy and spiking the football in everyone’s face, your credibility will be instantly impacted. The victory dance belongs to the winning candidate and the voters who voted them in, but doesn’t mean you need to bring it into work. Any disruption that causes friction between co-workers earns you the evil eye from the boss and probably your customers too. Bottom line: Be professional and get back to work.

If you’re reading this now, you still have some time to set up post-election Wednesday for a win. You might need to.

A few years ago, my mom, an avid Baltimore Ravens fan came over with my dad to watch the Superbowl game. My dad and I were 49rs fans from way back in the 1980s but my mom loved the Ravens, to the point of obsession, to the point of taunting her officemates on how the Ravens would smash the 49rs. For three quarters she annoyed the hell out of us. Then the 49rs came alive scoring 17 unanswered third-quarter points to cut the Ravens’ lead, 28–23, and continued to chip away in the fourth quarter. My mom quickly grew silent knowing what she’s face Monday at her office. When the Ravens managed to pull away with a 34-31 victory, she was ecstatic. I would have loved to see the office dynamic if the 49rs won.

If you’ve been busy running your mouth this entire election season, take the next couple of days to tone it down. Trust me, if your side loses, you’ll face a lot less ribbing. And if they win, you can be the bigger person by just keeping quiet.

As for me, I’ll look forward to having the political ads over with and maybe some semblance of peace for a while. Because I keep my politics to myself, I’ll have nothing to be nervous about on Wednesday. What about you?