Life Hack: Write those goals down

I am hesitant to write what I am about to write because it might sound like I think I have things figured out. I am actually quite sure I don’t have much figured out. However, I like to talk about things that are important to me and what I am going to talk about today is important to me.

About 17 years ago, I was working a job I hated (software development for Delta Airlines). I had started selling some stuff on a website but was not making much money with it. I was doing very little with music at the time. I had nothing recorded and was just playing some at church. To put it mildly, doing music in a professional way or as a career was not on my radar.

I quit Delta in 2001. It is sort of humorous that to this day, the main thing I think about regarding quitting Delta was losing our ability to fly first class. We always flew for free back in those days and it was almost always first class. Since I quit Delta, I have flown even more frequently; but I have never flown first class again. Not even once. I certainly don’t pay for first class and I don’t even get upgraded to first class because I have flown a lot. (That has nothing to do with this story, but it makes me laugh.)

Anyway, at some point during 2002, I sat down and wrote a document that described how I wanted our family life to look. I still have the document. Here is a screen shot of the first section. (I added the red circle today to draw attention to one of them.)

Now at this point in our lives, these were huge goals. My new business was not making much money but I clearly had a lot of hope and confidence. I clearly did not know much about writing goals back then because many of these are not measurable. I had not read enough self-help gurus yet to know that goals should be measurable. Not all of them were good goals either. Some of them have never been achieved and some of them I no longer want to achieve.

Nevertheless, this document changed my life.

Overall, when I look at these goals, little has changed in what I value today, but I have changed some. I think the one big thing that has changed for me is I now know the beauty and fulfillment of work. No longer do I want a 3-day work week. I would really struggle emotionally if I worked only three days a week. I am not interested any more in a clear divide between my work life and personal life either. I think those particular goals were a result of just getting out of employment that I hated and having to do on-call stuff that often destroyed our family life.

Let me give you a practical example of how writing down those goals still guides us. This past week was a big week for my family because we moved our business (back) out of our house (see bullet point #4). Many of you know that I built a business that expanded to a warehouse in the period of 2005-2012. When we sold that business in 2012, my goal was to transition to music full time and we moved out of the warehouse into our basement. Over the past few years, our business has exploded and has started putting pressure on our quality of life in our house. The inventory was creeping out of the basement into the garage, a new building we built, and eventually, our first floor. It took a crew of twelve two days but we got everything moved and we will be shipping from a new location tomorrow.

Moving the business out our house was an expensive solution but important for us. It was a recognition that we had become misaligned with our goals written all the way back in 2002 and something had to change. So we changed it.

And of course, since this is a music blog, I want to talk about the circled music bullet point for a second. I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote about becoming “very proficient” on the piano; I can tell you that I still don’t consider myself very proficient on the piano. However, as imprecise as that goal was, it gave me the drive to record my first album Timeless Reflections just two years later. And then, it led me make a call to John Innes to start studying piano in earnest which in turn led to Reflections on a Journey. And on and on it went with more and more albums and eventually the TV concerts and the instructional courses.

Guys, I am no one special. I am a guy with some talent who wrote down a goal in 2002 and then went out and found some ways to make that goal happen. I did not have a plan but I did know some steps I needed to take. For me, I knew I needed the pressure that recording an album would provide (deadlines and such) and I knew I eventually needed teachers to help me learn more.

I read somewhere this week that the word “talent” is often used when the correct word is “discipline.” That is true. You don’t get very far without discipline. But discipline needs an end game; you have to know why you are working so hard. That is where goals come in. Your goals fuel your discipline which is how good things happen.

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Normally, I relax and go drink some coffee and think about how I want the next year to look. This year, because of the warehouse move, I have not had any down time. But next week, that is something I am going to do. I will write down a plan and some goals for the year.

I encourage you to do that, too. It will make a difference in your life.