one goal

You should have one goal in life that takes more than a lifetime to achieve. ~ Unknown


Goals are important. They help us accomplish the outcomes we want by giving us clarity, direction, purpose, something to move toward. Without goals we tend to wander adrift, moving but often in circles, getting bounced around instead of advancing forward. Goals are important on the personal level and on the professional level.

The nice thing about goals is you have them, whether you think you do or not. Even if you’re unclear on what you do want, pretty much everyone knows what they don’t want.  Writing goals down in highly visualized detail complete with action steps, etc. can be truly helpful, but it’s all far from necessary. The goals you are most likely to achieve are the ones you give consistent, persistent thought and attention to. As Earl Nightingale noted: “You become what you think about most of the time.

So that’s all good. Figure out what you want, keep your focus on it, and your chances of accomplishing it go way up. Simple enough. Then I came across the quote at the top and I’m stuck on this idea of having one goal that takes more than a lifetime to achieve. We could easily rephrase it as: If you can accomplish your biggest goal in your lifetime, you are thinking too small. Yikes! That creates a radical change in how we think about things.

It doesn’t mean choose something so big you don’t bother trying. It means choose something so big that you care about so deeply, you’ll get started rightnowtoday. So big you can’t let a day go by without trying to make some progress. So big you’ll start seeking out others to help and begin planning and organizing and seeking resources. And you’ll be amazed. Bill Gates (and others) have noted: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” If that’s true, imagine how much we underestimate what we can accomplish in 40 years.

Forget realistic. What do you care about? Go do that.


will it have mattered?

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.” ~ Richard Bach


Will it have mattered that I was here? Mattered in my life, my work, in my family, in the world? When I move on to whatever’s next, will anyone notice? Have I made full use of talents given? Have I developed other talents? Is the world better for my being here; am I better for having been in the world?

Have I loved, been loved, created more love in the world than was here when I arrived? Were my relationships strong or just people I knew and “liked” (thumbs up)? Did the people in my life know just how important they were to me? How far did I influence and how strong was my presence and what difference did it have?

Did I move humanity and humanness forward or hold it back? Have my thoughts and actions enlightened or darkened? Did I live with purpose or just get through another day? Did I contract or expand? Was every day a fuller day of life or just one day closer to death?

Did it matter? Did I matter? Have I eased pain and suffering, created ways for others to do better, helped at all? Was it all about me or all about them or all about us? If I had to account for privilege of living and show my results and justify the blessings given, could I? Did I care? Did anyone care?

Have I made excuses and justifications or owned every decision and action? Are the outcomes in my life mine or did I give those choices to others? Did I anchor myself to my limitations or set off to find new boundaries? Will others look past my life or will they find inspiration and possibility and hope for their own?

The clock ticks, the second hand moves, the days slide past. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day and forget to live; so easy to get it done while neglecting to make it matter.

Will I pass with the satisfaction of giving it all or the agony of wondering if it were a mistake? Will it have mattered?

what’s the purpose of a business?

A philosophical question for you this morning: what’s the purpose of a business? The business school answer is simply to make as much money as possible for the shareholders. I’m not convinced.

The concept of a “business” is fairly new in terms of human history. For most of our time on this planet we survived with the very simple job title of “hunter/gatherer”. I imagine the division of labor was pretty simple – “you stab stuff, I’ll try to find plants, we’ll get back together tonight and see if we get to eat.” Organizations existed at the tribe level and the mission statement was: “Trying to live for one more day.”

Then, 10,000 years ago (give or take a weekend) agriculture was invented. People could stay in one place and a more stable food supply allowed people specialize in a craft. Occupations arose and business was born. People moved past daily survival and were able to amass a cushion of resources that allowed them to prosper (long-term survival). Then we spent the next 10 millennia taking a very simple concept (survival) and turning it into something really, stupidly complicated (business).

We tend to think of organizations as something sterile and separate from their founders. We forget that the people who started the business, started that specific business for a very particular reason. When we look at the biggest businesses today, chances are very high that their founders started them NOT because they thought it would be the highest return on their money but because they were hoping to make money (survive and prosper) doing something they found interesting. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Michael Dell, Edison, etc., etc. started in garages and dorm rooms building cool stuff. Or at least stuff they thought was cool. There was sweat, emotion, passion, and wonder as they figured out how to make money doing the things they were fascinated by.

Think of your own career. Why do you do what you do? Chances are you didn’t choose a field based solely on annual salary. You may not even be in a field that you started in or even knew about when you were deciding what to do when you grew up. When you decided on (or stumbled into) a career it was probably based on many things in addition money. Face it, if we were ONLY about the bucks, we’d all be hedge fund managers, drug lords, or working on oil rigs in North Dakota.

If the ONLY purpose of a business was to make money for the owners, no one would be in low margin / low profit businesses. No one would stay in dying industries. The problem is, as the business ages, as the owners retire or sell, we forget that the purpose of the business was originally to make money in a way the owner found interesting. We forget purpose and reason and treat it like a commodity rather than a legacy with a heritage. We lose sight of being interesting and compelling and begin playing the utterly moronic Maximize-Profits-This-Quarter-By-Cutting-Our-Throats game that gets played daily in corporations around the world.

How would that change business – our businesses – if we kept in sight the idea that we’re in hotels or banking or telecommunications or auto manufacturing or farming or whatever because it was once a way to make money (hopefully, good money) that was more interesting and compelling than all the other ways the founder could have made money? If we kept in mind that there was something about this business, this field, this industry that jazzed people?

I’m all for profit. But profit for the sake of profit is a snooze. Profit in pursuit of doing something cool, interesting, challenging, and amazing? That’s where the fun is. That’s where the purpose of a business lies.

What thinks you?

my first triathlon: getting out of my own way

I was going back over some old writing and came across something that holds true even after six years. It’s a bit long, but a significant part of my journey. Perhaps you can relate to the idea of getting out of your own way:


I recently entered and finished my first triathlon. It was a short distance event so I was confident that I could finish as long as I didn’t push myself too hard early on, but I had no way to judge how well I would do. An hour thirty-nine minutes and some seconds later I finished a strong third in my age group, only two seconds out of second place and three or so minutes from first. I’m not sure I can convey in words how pleased I was with my finish or how pleased I was that I was pleased. You see, in the past I would have had a much different attitude about the event and about my results.


There are several lessons I take from my success in this event that have strong parallels in success in the rest of my life.


  1. I entered. This may sound minor, but was a huge step. I am a semi-reformed perfectionist and would not have entered a triathlon even a short time ago. The philosophy of “if you are going to do something, do it right” was often distorted in my mind to “if you can’t do something right, don’t do it.” I had not swam in 20 years and was not good at it way back when. To enter this event I had to let go of my perfectionist ideals, accept where my skills were, and take responsibility for developing my skills.
  2. I gave myself time to prepare. Once I make a decision I typically want to follow through on it RIGHT THEN. Instead, I selected an event that was several months out to give myself time to properly prepare.
  3. I did not over-train. In the months between deciding to do a triathlon and the actual event I did a lot of traveling and working and was quite ill for a couple of weeks. In the past I would have compensated for this by pushing myself to the point of exhaustion and injury. This time, I created a flexible plan and stuck to that plan as well as I could and accepted when I couldn’t.
  4. I allowed time to taper and recover. “Tapering” is reducing the amount of exercise before an event to allow the body to rest and recover. A comment by a former world-class triathlete resonated for me: It’s better to be 10% under-trained than 1% over-trained. Instead of fretting and trying to get one more workout in, I took almost a week off before the event and then took off another week after to allow time to rest and recover. Previously, I would have exercised right up to and immediately after a race.
  5. I had no expectations – I focused on purpose, not outcome. Having never entered a triathlon meant that I had zero expectations for outcomes beyond doing my best and learning what I could.
  6. I enjoyed my results and did not get caught up in the misery of the perfectionist trap of “if only” and “I could/should have done better.” This learning is a fantastic milestone for my personal development. This is one of the first big events of my life that I did not dismiss, downplay, or even beat myself up because I could have done it better. Because anything can always be done better I have deprived myself of much joy and celebration over the years and it would have been very easy to kick myself over the two seconds between myself and second place. Instead I chose to look at the long-term learning rather than defining my life by one instance. Long-term, I gained some great knowledge that will serve me well in every triathlon from here on out.
  7. I compared myself to no one but myself. This is a big one because not too long ago I would have brooded over not being able to set the same time as the experts, nevermind other people in my age group. This time I was able to let go of all of that and enjoy the knowledge that I did my absolute best for the knowledge, ability, and experience that I currently have.


Connections to facilitation:

If you replace “triathlon” with “facilitation” (or almost anything that I’ve done) you get a pretty good snapshot of where I was as a facilitator even a year ago and where I am headed. I tended to:

  • Demand instant results from myself. There is a huge difference between setting challenging goals and expecting to meet those goals immediately without allowing time for growth, development, and learning.
  • Drive myself to frustration and exhaustion by over-preparing. While it is critical to be prepared and confident, I often undermined my confidence with 11th hour preparation and would enter the session feeling frazzled and off a roll.
  • Be very focused on outcome instead of purpose. I typically set artificial measures for myself and would forget about why I’m a facilitator, would neglect the joy of the experience, forget that it is a process and abuse myself when every participant didn’t have massive and immediate shifts. In being focused on outcomes I would see myself in degrees of weakness and get very frustrated that I was not immediately at the level of my mentors, nevermind their greater knowledge, ability, and experience.
  • Push myself in mind, body, and spirit by arriving at sessions weary from travel and over-preparation, giving it my all, and then arriving home exhausted and strung out on sugar and caffeine from trying to stay awake while traveling. I would then get about three hours of sleep and expect to immediately be in top form the next day.


In retrospect, it is easy to see how I was limiting myself, but the painful irony is that I got results. My perfectionism and drive created success, but several times in my life I’ve hit plateaus or even gone into decline because after reaching a certain point of success, the harder I push the more I limit myself and the worse I do so I compensate by pushing harder, which leads to stalling out and then a downward spiral. In other words, what made me successful at one level actually prevented future development and success.


I have been improving over time with letting go of my perfectionism and focus on outcome and my progress is really underscored for me with this triathlon. Going forward I’ll be focusing even more on:

  • My purpose and doing my best. By removing artificial measures and expectations I am much more likely to relax, have fun, and be at my best than if I stress over outcomes. Ironically, this will lead to much greater outcomes.
  • Having a specific plan and purpose for my development whenever I’m practicing rather than putting in time and practicing just to practice. Exercising (and resting and recovering) with focus and purpose creates much faster and more sustainable results and it stands to reason that the same is true with facilitation.
  • Having a specific plan and purpose for my development in each session.
  • Looking to my long-term results and development.
  • Treating each session like an athletic event by allowing time to taper and recover. I want to enter each session fresh and rested in mind, body, and spirit and then allow myself time to recover once I’m home again. Recovery may be a day off or could just be acknowledging that I won’t be at my best. After all, I might go for a bike ride the day after a triathlon but would not expect to break any personal records so why should I expect different from my ability to work?


One thing I know for sure is that I have not fully appreciated the depth of these realizations. Although I am excited about applying this learning I know that these are key lessons that I will continue to get at deeper and deeper levels. I welcome any insights about the shifts that you are experiencing as you become better and better in your own life.