Momentum Podcast: 31

Why Entrepreneurs Suck At Goals (And You Don't Have To)

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

It may surprise the rest of the world to know that entrepreneurs are terrible at setting and achieving goals.The vast majority of us don't even set them. Those that do have a hard time tracking or achieving them in any consistent way.

Unfortunately for a lot of us this is a learned behavior, we have been conditioned to set goals in a way that prevents them from getting accomplished.There is a better way to set your goals and consistently overachieve and stay in momentum, but it may be counterintuitive.

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Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen, and this is the Momentum podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, world makers, shot takers, and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and obsess about creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, and rewrite them around our own will.

We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because the only way you lose is if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings to the status quo, we are the minority, the few, who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be.

Welcome to Episode 21 ... Ha, 21. Welcome to Episode 31: Why Entrepreneurs Suck at Goals and You Don't Have to. In my career, this has been one of those things that comes up over and over again, goal-setting and setting objectives and achievements and how should we go about this as entrepreneurs. What should we do so that when we go out to set a goal we can actually achieve it and make it happen? Well let me just share some facts with you. Less than 4% of the population actually writes down goals and tracks them, and the fact is we know that most people do it once a year right around New Year's. And when do they look at their goals again? Right around New Year's.

But these days I think there's a bigger challenge and a more endemic, more maybe even inbred is the right word, challenge to entrepreneurs trying to set goals. I'll share with you an anecdote. These days I go out and I speak to a lot of entrepreneurs at all levels of experience. However, when I ask what is your one-year goal for your business, I often get the exact same answer regardless of what someone's done, regardless of where they've been, and the answer I get most often is "One million dollars a year." And understand, 90% of the business in the United States make less than $100,000 year. Only 3% of [inaudible 00:02:42] businesses ever eclipse one million dollars in gross revenue. But that's the answer that most entrepreneurs give me, whether they're start-ups, they've never made a penny, they have this goal, "One year I'm gonna make a million dollars." And here I'll share with you the second-most often answer these days. If I don't hear one million, I hear 10 million. Only four out of 1000 businesses will ever eclipse 10 million dollars in gross revenue.

So when someone who's never made money before tells me they're either gonna be at a million in the 3% or at 10 million in the .04%, I always wonder where that comes from, and I think I know. One of the biggest challenges today for entrepreneurs is that every one of us has been to that crazy goal-setting seminar, and I think you know what I'm talking about. It's the one that goes something like this: write down the biggest, most audacious, most crazy goal you've ever had! That is one-year goal, but before we leave, I want you to cross it out and double it, and that is going to be your goal!

You know what? I've been to enough seminars and to enough events. I've spoken at enough of them that I've heard that guy or gal, whoever it is, speak hundreds of times, and these days when I hear that I literally walk out of the room. Because here's what I know we do not need as entrepreneurs: we don't need empty motivation. We don't need all that pumping you up like rhetoric, because the fact is that that's not how we should set and achieve goals. And I'm gonna present to you a different view of this.

See, I have a different view of goal achievement for entrepreneurs because I've been a professional consultant for over 20 years. I've coached hundreds of entrepreneurs. I've worked with thousands of entrepreneur through our products. I've helped friends of mine create billions of dollars in wealth, and I've created tens of millions of dollars in wealth for my family. And that's not how you set or achieve goals.

In fact, as a consultant who had to stick around as the person who was in the room helping the goal actually being achieved, as the person who is with the team helping the entrepreneur grow, helping them actually build the business, whenever one of my clients goes to a seminar like that I cringe, because setting those empty goals do nothing more than create a massive whipping stick we can take and throttle ourselves with. Because the fact is, if you've never made money before, if you're under $100,000 a year, a million dollars might be a good achievement, might be a good vision, might be something to put off on the horizon. Even 10 million is something to think about, and I never want you to give up on those objectives. However, if you're going to track and achieve goals, I have a completely different take.

And in order to share with you where this comes from, I wanna share with you a life experience that I had that is completely different than business, and it's completely outside the realm of coaching entrepreneurs and coaching businesses. It actually has to do with some time that I've spent with a friend of mine in the special forces.

Ever since I was in my 20s I've volunteered with the military a lot. I just got back from Fort Hood a few weeks ago, where I got to spend a day, morning, training, transitioning military officers that were leaving the service of our country and going on to what they were going to do next. And for my whole career I've spent time coaching and volunteering with the military. I was never in the military, but I believe that anyone who's served our country deserves at the very minimum our unconditional respect and regard, and I do what I can to help. And I think the person who's benefited most from me working with the military is me. They are some of the most talented, most amazing, most compelling, most committed human beings on the planet.

And one of the groups that I love spending time around, and it looks like I'm gonna get a big opportunity to fly up to Fort Bragg and train, is special operations. When you get to spend time around a Navy Seal or a ranger or someone who's in the special forces, these are operators of the highest order in life, not just in the military. They are elite athletes. Most of them, when you sit down and talk to them, it'd be hard to deny they have a genius-level IQ. They can do things with their mind and body that most human beings couldn't even think of, and they way that conduct themselves, hold themselves, walk down a hallway, just leaves me impressed.

And in my 20s I decided to buy a gun and learn how to shoot, and I had the privilege of being trained by a friend of mine who was a Navy Seal. And I remember going to the store to buy a gun. I lived in Florida. And I went into a gun store, which if anyone hasn't been to a gun store it's a rather uncomfortable experience. You walk in and you're literally surrounded by an arsenal. In this gun store, like in most gun stores, the person working behind the counter was actually wearing a gun on his hip, so it's kind of like walking into the wild, wild West.

And I remember the experience of buying the gun. I bought a 9mm, and I remember holding it in the store and my hands were a little shaky. I remember thinking, "Can I even do this? Should I buy a gun and learn how to shoot?" I'm from California, where you're not even allowed to have guns, I'm pretty sure. You're allowed to have them, but it kind of a joke in California. You have to have it locked in your trunk, disassembled, the bullets have to be in a different place. You really can't have a gun with you. And I remember the nerves that I had in buying the gun.

And I took it home. My first lesson was in a couple of days, and my friend was coming over. I figured he was coming over, he'd pick me up, we'd go to a shooting range. I was gonna get to finally fire the gun. And I was nervous buying it, but I was excited to see what it would do. And here's what happened: he came over to my house, and our first lesson was in my garage. We never left my house. We handled the gun. I took it apart and put it back together about five times. I knew how to describe every piece of it. And I never shot anything. And he said, "Well, that was your first lesson. You now understand a little bit of gun safety, but you understand enough so that the next time we'll go to the range." And I'll get to how this is about achieving goals in just a second.

Because, you see, what happened was we went to the range the next lesson. And I remember walking in and being somewhat excited, but in all candor I was a little nervous. Not a little, I was a lot nervous. I was about to handle a deadly weapon. It was gonna be loaded. I was gonna fire it. I was remembering everything he told me about where to point it, how to hold it, how to load it, how to clear it if it got jammed, how to put the clip in, how to do everything that he had said, and I remember it all running through my mind as I walked up to the range. And I walked in, and somebody at the end of the range was shooting what sounded like a 50 caliber, and every time it was like a cannon going off. So I had nerves, I had adrenaline going, and I was thinking, "Can I really do this?" again.

And then the beginning of the lesson started in the most peculiar way. He looked at me, took a target, put it on the clip. And, you know, in a gun range there's a little switch that you use to move the target back and back towards you, and you shoot it, you send it down range so you can shoot, and then you flip the switch and it comes back to you on a pulley system. And he put the target on the clip, moved it backwards about two feet, and then he looked at me. We both had big cans on our ears, so we kind of had to yell. He said, "Load the gun and clear it through the middle." And I was like, "What?" And he said, "Load the gun and empty it through the middle of that target." And I was like ... Navy Seal tells you to do something, you do it. You either do it or he's gonna compel you to do it. Either way I was finally gonna shoot a gun.

So feeling kind of awkward and weird, I picked up the gun and I emptied 15 shots right through the center of the target that was literally two feet away. Had I reached out I could've touched it, but instead I just shot at it. And the pattern that I made was about one inch around. I actually was putting the bullets through the original hole at the beginning. And he looked at me and he said, "Great, now you know you can shoot a gun. Take out the clip, reload it, and let's do it again."

So I took out the clip, I started loading it, and as I loaded it he moved the target back another two feet. He said, "Do it again." And so I did. I emptied another clip through the center of a target that was now four feet away from me. Again, I felt like if I had leaned over the range, I could've touched it, but instead I shot it, and I shot directly through the middle.

We did this for about an hour. The target was never more than about 10 feet away from me. He'd move it back, and then if I missed in any way, if I got out of the very center of the target he'd move it back towards me. So my first lesson on a range I probably emptied the clip 30 times, but the target was never more than 10 feet away.

I remember leaving with him that day, and I said, "So, is that what we're gonna do every time?" And he said, "Yeah, we're gonna do that until we get back to 50 feet and you still have a tight pattern that I approve of." And I remember thinking how easy it was to shoot that day and how excited I was about the next lesson.

Over the course of a few months, I probably took eight, maybe 10 lessons from him. In the fourth or fifth one, the target was back at about 25 feet. I was still maintaining a very consistent pattern, and I loved shooting. It was confidence-inspiring. It was exciting. I thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever done. I felt like I really was good at it. But here's why: the target was always close enough that I never lost confidence. In fact, in the 10 lessons, eight or 10 lessons I had with him, in the thousands of rounds that we shot, I never missed. Let that sink: I learned how to shoot a gun in a way that I never missed. In every lesson, I never missed.

Here's the outcome: today I'm a relatively good shot. I don't practice a lot, or I could be better. But I was up at Fort Hood a few months ago, maybe a year ago, and I was doing a speaking event with American Dream, which is the group I was with recently. We were hanging out with some special forces guys who were training for the Best Ranger competition. There was four of us. We did some prone shooting, laying on our stomachs and shooting at a target that was about 50 feet away. It was just a paper plate on a stick. And there were four of us, me and three special forces guys, and my pattern was tighter than one of them. Now, two of them definitely beat me out, but I shot as well as one of the special forces rangers who was going into the Best Ranger competition. Why? I believe it's because I learned how to shoot in a way that I never missed.

When you look at the way that most entrepreneurs set goals today, we crush ourselves before we start. When you think of that million dollar or 10 million dollar goal that a lot of beginner entrepreneurs have, the fact is it would be like walking into a shooting range and putting the target down at 500 yards and trying to become a marksman, or putting it at the very end of the range and trying to hit it. And the fact is, anyone who's ever done that knows that if you walk in cold to a shooting range and put the target all the way back at the end you don't even know if you're hitting it or not. The problem with the rah-rah empty motivation way of setting goals that we hear today is that it's just like putting the target at the end of the range, and we don't even know if we're hitting it or not.

So the way to crush your goals is this: think of what would make you feel like you have moved forward by the end of the year. Think of ... And this is how I coach every one of my private clients, who, by the way, grow multi-million-dollar companies at a rate much faster than the average entrepreneur does and achieve rates of wealth and income that most people never dream of in their lifetimes. I coach them in this way. We say at the end of the year, what would let you know you had a great year? Not a phenomenal year, not an amazing, but what would let you know that you had a great year? We're moving that target closer.

They let me know, and then I ask a simple question: if everything went right, could you achieve this by June, halfway through the year? And I get some funny looks, and people say, "What do you mean could I achieve it by noon? It's a year goal." And I say, "Yeah, but the pressure test for this goal, the way the we know if it's the right one, is I wanna know that if everything went right, which it rarely does, but if everything went right, could you achieve it by June?" And when somebody's willing to say yes and they're congruent and they look like they mean it, then I know we have the right goal. See, here's the big difference between me and the motivational speakers that tell you to cross it out and double it. I've always been a person-to-person consultant. I've always been there with the client through the achievement process, not just through the goal-setting process. If all you have to do is get somebody excited to set a goal, then it's easy to jump up on stage, cheer and rah-rah and get people all excited and use empty motivation to get someone to write down a big number. You know why? They'll probably buy something from you. But if you're not there with them every step of the way, you don't see the fallout of setting unrealistic, unattainable goals that don't make sense in the present situation. If you've never made $100,000 in year, setting the goal at a million is the same as not setting a goal. If you've never had a million dollars in revenue, trying to set a $10 million goal is so ambiguous and difficult to understand that it just doesn't make sense.

So if you as an entrepreneur want to crush your goals, here's an easy way to do it, and here's way that every year you set your goals, you can track towards, you can crush them, and just like I did learn how to set your goals in a way where you don't have to miss, learn how to set your goals in a way where your confidence goes up, and learn how to set your goals in a way that you're excited to achieve on a daily basis. So one, you need a clear outcome that you understand, that you can see, that you can rationalize, that you know you can get to hopefully by June. You set a one-year goal, let's make it so that if everything goes right you can get there in six months. Do you know what happens if you achieve your goal in six months? You get to set another one. You get in the habit of achieving and winning and setting new goals. That's a habit I want you to have.

You need a clear scoreboard so you're tracking your progress along the way. If you've never made money before, try tracking your progress towards a million dollars. It will only both and frustrate you.

And the third thing you need is clear accountability so that you can get there. You know what you're doing and you know who's doing what.

So when it comes to achieving a goal as an entrepreneur, here's my suggestion to you: move the target closer. Increase your confidence level. Crush your goals. Don't let them crush you. Because as entrepreneurs, when we set goals that we can't achieve, it just becomes something else we don't wanna pay attention to. But when we set a goal that we can move towards, we can measure our progress towards, we can achieve and we can crush in less than the time we thought was could, we build the habit of setting and achieving goals, not the habit of setting outcomes that we'll never get to and just being frustrated with ourselves.

I know that you can do this. Move the target closer and you'll become an expert marksman at achieving your goal just like I did at actually shooting a gun, which is one of the most nerve-wracking things people do. For me, it's now a confidence-inspiring thing. I want you to feel the same way about setting a goal and knocking it down.

Join me again on Episode 32, where we talk about how to get out of negative loops and spirals. If you heard that episode and you feel like you may be stuck in a negative loop or spiral with unintentional consumption, I wanna help you out of it, and in the next episode we will.

And do me a favor: if you haven't yet, subscribe to this podcast, leave me a review, let us know how we're doing. And if you wanna know more about Momentum and our entrepreneurial personality type, go to and download my book, share it with others. It may tell you more about yourself than anyone ever has. Thanks for being with me.

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