Mediocre New Year!

Education & Training with Big Phish Partners

Perhaps you missed it. My local newspaper only gave it one sentence in a sidebar. But it jumped off the page as if it were on fire. According to the United Kingdom's National Association of Mental Health, New Year's resolutions are now "bad for your mental health" because they focus on poor self image and unrealistic goals. In other words, the same "let's not keep score so we'll all feel like winners" philosophy that permeated little league has now become a major league doctrine. All I can say is: God, help us. Because the NAMH certainly won't.

If there's one thing a lifetime in business has taught me, it's that a life with goals is no life at all. The idea that "If I don't try, I can't fail" may offer some comfort to the insecure, but it ultimately leads to more insecurity. Without goals, without measurement, we're forever at sea and flounder like a rudderless ship. And the sad truth is that if "we're all winners" then, technically, none of us really are. Goals provide direction, direction helps define purpose, and that sense of purpose is what builds self esteem.

As the parents of two boys, my wife and I have always encouraged them to participate in a wide variety of sports and other games. Not because we're hoping they'll earn a scholarship or pro contract, but because, in addition to all the lessons they teach about teamwork and sportsmanship, sports are one of the few venues available to our youth that provide tangible rewards for commitment and perseverance. The self esteem that comes from incremental improvement - from being able to do something you couldn't do last month - is a level of self esteem you'll never get from ignoring the score or avoiding the game. But it begins by first recognizing your limitations and then developing new skills to work around them.

Self esteem aside, what bothers me most about the NAMH hypothesis is that it's a direct contradiction of successful business practice. In his first book, "Built to Last," Jim Collins and his partner, Jerry Porras, studied a variety of category-leading companies that had managed to maintain that position for at least 50 years. The ultimate objective was to identify the principles and practices that allowed these companies to do so well for so long. So, what do you think they found? You guessed it. Among a few other common denominators, every one of these companies routinely established what the author called "BHAGs" (or Big Hairy Audacious Goals), around which employees could rally and derive their collective purpose.

So, what kind of goal have you set for the New Year? What's your BHAG? If you're like most, it probably isn't all that big or hairy or audacious, is it? If you're like many, you've looked at the forecasts and listened to the newscasts and scaled back on your aspirations for 2009. Well, don't. As a goal oriented guy, I've always liked the beginning of a new year and the chance to resolve myself to changing something that could everything. Most years, I settle on just one thing. This year, I've picked 12. Twelve things I'm going to start doing or stop doing or keep on doing - while everyone else sits back and waits for things to happen.

C'mon. Let's resolve to blow through the projections and blow off the pundits. (The bar has been set so low we could trip over it and still win the race). Let's resolve to set some new goals, try some new things, and make 2009 the most important year of our careers.
And I'll resolve to make my next blog a little shorter.

Comments (0)