Episode 9: Converting Dreams To Goals

There is profound truth in the saying, “If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true?”

But it sometimes needs to be changed to this: “If you don’t have a goal, how are you going to achieve it?”

The difference is profound.  A dream is something that floats in the air of fantasy and always in the future, a bit out of reach.  A goal can be seen, can be measured, and progress toward it can be charted. And when you reach a goal, there is the chance to celebrate that you have accomplished something important.

Equally important, having clear—and preferably big and audacious—goals is the only way one can measure achievement.  Think about the first manned space flight to the moon.  That was a Big Audacious Goal, particularly when you recall that the US started that program before we had ever even flown in space and the whole mission was accomplished using computers that were not as powerful as the smart phone in your pocket.  

The other remarkable thing about that achievement (and it is true of every successful entrepreneurial venture I know) is that most of the time that moon rocket was off course. Minute course corrections and adjustments were constantly being made.

But, those corrections would have been impossible without a very clear goal.  Unfortunately, the goals in our entrepreneurial dreams are not always that clear. But they need to be.  Otherwise, you never know if you are off course or not.  

One of the drills that every entrepreneur should do—and few actually do—is to spend a ridiculous amount of time developing a very short and simple description of what the goal of the business he or she is creating should be.  

I’m not talking about those lofty and vague “Mission Statements” that the textbooks on entrepreneurship often tell you to write.  If you can’t describe in one or two sentences what your business is designed to do, you probably haven’t given it enough thought.  Think about the statement, “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.  No one with any exposure to TV or radio advertising will fail to recognize that as the tag line for a BMW auto product.  But is also one of the finest descriptions of a business goal I have ever heard.  A million things have to come together actually to build that automobile, but asking, “Will this help create the Ultimate Driving Machine?” can be the test of every decision that is made.  Is what we are about to do getting closer or farther away from that goal?” That kind of clarity has real power.

I’m not arguing that BMW has achieved their goal, but could anyone in that company possible not know what the goal is?  If you can articulate what your business is designed to achieve that clearly—even if it takes a few more words—you will be well on the way to achieving that goal.

It all starts with clear goals.  Without them, you will never know if you have succeeded or failed.

Episode 16: Zero Sum Games

Dream Toolbox - Zero Sum Game.jpg

Welcome back. We need now to talk a bit about one of the most important concepts you can ever learn about building wealth and financial freedom. It is actually quite simple and can be summed up in one phrase: “Success is not a zero sum game.”

What does that mean? Think about any sports contest. Whether it is baseball, football, or any other competition, there is only one winner. Second place is only the first loser. But financial success is not like that. Think about Apple Computer, the most valuable company in the world as I am writing this. One of the reasons that Apple is so successful is that it has created platforms for apps on which independent developers can produce and distribute apps that
can make their creators very wealthy very fast.

But consider this: everytime one of those app developers creates a successful app, Apple computer gets richer. But this is an important distinction. Apple does not get rich by making the app producer poorer. It gets rich by making the app producer richer. This is the exact opposite of a zero sum game. It is a game in which success by one party increases the success and wealth of the other. That is how business in a free society works at its best.

Are there exceptions? Sure, in some rare cases there is competition in which there is only a winner and a loser. I own interest in a company that frequently bids on US and foreign contracts. These can result in revenues of 10’s of millions of dollars. In those bids, there is only one winner. But notice something even here. In order to increase our chances of success, we often form partnerships with companies who have skills our people lack. That increases our chances of winning the contract. But it also means we have to share the income from the contract if we win.

Is that bad? No, quite the opposite. By sharing the wealth and the skills of two companies, we increase our chances of winning more contracts. Thus, even where there is a clear winner and loser, the players who share skills and profits are more likely to be successful than those who do not.

Let me give you another personal example. Many years ago I was part of a team that was helping and owner decide which of several bidders was going to acquire some real estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars. One investor was the clear favorite, but he made a crucial mistake. He tried to drive such a hard bargain that no one else could benefit. My clients heard his pitch and walked away from the negotiations. In business you often hear the saying, “you have to leave something on the table for the other guy”. This bidder did not understand that. He wanted it all. What he got was nothing and another bidder, who offered some attractive benefits to the seller, my client, won the contract. He gave up something in the beginning but ended up one of the richest men in the world as a result. He understood that Life (and business) is not a zero sum game.

If you can apply that principal in life and business, always looking for ways to make those around you wealthier as well and looking for ways to make the result of your efforts greater by cooperating instead of wanting everything for yourself, you have taken a giant first step toward success.

Success in business is not a Zero Sum Game. If you try to make it one, you are almost guaranteed to lose. Help others succeed and you will help yourself.