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2008 Goals: Scare Yourself

Setting our direction

We just finished our business retreat and I am pontificating our one year goals. Last year was a huge year for us as we transitioned from two professional technicians to budding entrepreneurs. A little time in the woods, some long walks on the coast and we come out of seclusion with a strong vision and some big goals. All right, let’s do this:

In 2008, we are going to gross a million dollars and still have a life.

Now, if I laid that statement at the feet of most contractors, some might say “that’s cool” and offer a generic smile while others would certainly laugh at me. After all, we are a pretty long (long, long) way from making a million this year.

Retreat in throught

I can hear the voice now. I knew that guy in high school. There is nooo waaaaay he can make a million dollars. And the voice is right. There is no way that we could pull that off. But what they don’t know, and maybe you don’t know, is that we are not afraid to change. We will change and grow and become the leaders and team it takes to achieve the goals we are setting.

The first step, as esteemed personal growth and change expert Steve Pavlina would coach you to do, is to clearly define the intention and announce it off the top of the hills (mountains, if you got ’em).

Using Fear to Pick your Goal

The fact is that most of us are filled with fear every time we approach something new. There is nothing wrong with that. It is the normal, healthy response of a sane human being. Personally, it has been a great companion in the adventure that is my life. Like a road map.


I’ve found my fear to be pretty useful in a weird business context. Peter hates this, but the way I pick goals for our company (being the CEO I get the prerogative) is to keep pushing the bar mentally until I feel myself getting unconformable, then nervous then afraid. That when I stop and mark the goal. I’ve always felt that a goal that does not make you stretch is not a goal at all, it’s a task. Should all goals make you stretch? Yes, I personally think so. What are you just a little afraid of? We are afraid of a million. So we decided to demystify it.

I’ve been afraid of a lot of things. I was afraid of going independent and crashing and burning. I was afraid of owning a home and having a $3400/month mortgage. I was afraid of living with Julie. I was afraid to travel through the Middle East. I was afraid of college. I was afraid to surf 15-foot waves. I’m afraid to speak in public. I’m totally scared about being a good father. And yet, all of these are the highlights of my life.

Announce the Goal

To a Million and Beyond.

I start by announcing it to myself. Since I became independent, I’ve been saying that some day I will gross a million, then earn a million. And from a financial perspective, our crew has not missed a goal by more than a few thousand dollars in five years. We have a habit of setting financial goals that scare us and then achieving success. That habit and our history gives me confidence. We are ready for this challenge.

If we are going to pull this off, we are going to need a bunch of positive affirmations. To be clear though, making a million for me isn’t about the actual dollars, it’s about the lives we touch. Peter & I believe we can gross a million, because we believe we can build a team that can gross a million. Today, we support 6 families with our business and provide periodic money for a few others. That fact makes me feel completely alive. The idea that we could support 15 families fills me with fire. I don’t know about the details of how we will gross that million, but I do know how we will build the team to do it.

So I started by IMing a few people around midnight. I think Tea’s answer was my favorite:

Shane: so we are going to make a million next year
Shane: just letting you know
Tea: lol thanks
Tea: i can sleep now aha

She then shared her goals (she can share them herself, ahem – ahem, i she wants). I can’t wait to be part of helping them come true. She’s got the two cutest kids (Jules just turned 2) and I honestly believe Perth will give her the key to their city some day.

You got to tell everyone, especially your team. Anyone who thinks they will make a million all by themselves is in for a tough ride. After all, if we gross a million, who do you think will get most of it (hint: not Shane and Peter).

I’ve been reading Robert’s book ‘Flying Solo‘ and though I’m half way through it and am pretty jazzed on the book, the title turns me off. No one truly flies solo. It is thanks to the support of our friends, family, mentors, business team, industry compatriots and more that we succeed.

Why do you announce?

I proclaim our goal for two reason.

First, I keep noticing that whatever I really focus on and mention out loud over and over and over tends to eventually come true. I think it has something to do with our level of awareness of opportunities. I remember when I first bought Deucer, my Ford Focus (aren’t you all impressed?). The next day I was driving around thinking, “Jeez, how many people went out yesterday and bought a red Focus? This is ridiculous, I’ve never seen so many of them in my life.”

Ford Focus gets married

Between you and me, do you really think the number of red Ford Focuses on the road actually changed? Or did my awareness level change?

It’s the same thing with opportunities. I remember impulsively looking for a wedding ring for Julie (it started impulsively) for a full 9 months and getting frustrated that everything I found in my price range ($400) looked really chintzy. I wanted something really special. We had been living together almost 5 years and we were engaged to be engaged. So I started to tell everyone who would listen about it, asking for ideas. One evening, Mom was teasing me about the eternal hunt and I sarcastically asked if she had any 1 carat diamonds lying around which she could use to just put me out of my misery.

[long pause]

Turns our she did. So Julie got great, great, great grandma’s old diamond (pretty neat). Guess sometimes you just got to ask. But if I hadn’t been so focused on it, I would never have ended up with one of the most beautiful wedding rings to give my wife. We designed the setting ourselves.

Shane & Julie

Now I doubt someone will just hand our crew a million, but you bet your ass I’ll be out there asking anyone and everyone if they want our cookie.

The second reason. When things get tough, it’s easy to compromise with yourself. I don’t really feel like making that sales call (my personal demon), I’ll just do it tomorrow. Or perhaps come August we’ll have only grossed $370k, and the urge to ease up and just shoot for $600k rears it’s ugly head. That would still be a world class year for us. I find it’s a lot harder to look into people’s eyes and tell them you gave up. There is no dishonor in failure. It’s how you learn.

But if you are going to stand in front of the people you lead and trust, and build their hopes, then you have to keep going until the last minute. Thats why I am telling everyone. Accountability.

And so next February, when the whole crew gets together for the annual retreat (looking like El Salvador this year), we will put our heads together and figure out as a team, how we can come together to gross a million and still have a life.

Scare Yourself: Big Goals with Small Steps

I hear way too often, set something realistic. In some ways that is correct. After all, both success and failure are learned habits. Your small goals should always be realistic. But, if you don’t have a big goal that drives you to your knees and forces you to grow and change, then you are stealing from yourself and the world. People follow leaders and leaders are those who are willing to leave their comfort zone to achieve something greater than themselves. We are looking for leaders. I will follow a man on his knees fighting to make a difference any day. Pick a huge goal, something that scares you (like a million gross scares us) and then fill the vacuum with small steps. Each of those steps should be finite and attainable. Have tons of them, because checking things off your list feels good.

Our steps:

Back to school for S&P: on December 3rd we’re signing up through Berkeley for a Software Project Management course which should hopefully provide us some insights into the issues we face as we move our core team into the double digits.

Fill the Gaps: We turn away about 50% of the projects that come to us. Some because they’re not good projects. Other because we just don’t have the resources (it absolutely killed me to tell GM we couldn’t work on their prototype for their new onboard computer, just because we didn’t have the availability). So, if you are killer at design, flash, flex, php, witango, click the join us link and send a link to your portfolio along with a bit about yourself and why we will love you. We may have a project with your name on it.

PM system: Continue to tune our current PM system while searching for an ideal fit for our business style or building one ourselves to satisfy our need for flexibility.

So What is it Going to be?


I’m throwing you all a bit of a challenge.

Join us and scare yourself just a little. Take a leap of faith. Pick a goal you think might be possible, just maybe, but not necessarily probable. Write it down. Put it up on your fridge. On your computer screen saver. And on a comment below. Then start working on how you will personally need to change for that improbability to become likely.

We want to cheer you on. While scary is good, the right group of people make it possible.