November 12, 2004
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As I write, Spaceship One has won the X Prize,
traveling to non-orbital space twice within two weeks. As I watched the
news coverage, my thoughts went beyond the immediate accomplishment and
onto the lesson that we can all take away from this successful mission.
A clearly defined goal could be the most important part of any high-tech
career. Without it, we can become timid, only proceeding slowly and incrementally
instead of striving to do our very best. If you don’t have some
compelling goals in your life and your career, you should sit down, today,
and do some concentrated thinking.
To each his or her own
Of course, all of us can’t go out and try to conquer space travel
every day, but your own goals, within the realm of your work and life,
are just as important. While “install 40 PCs in 3 different locations
in 2 days” might not seem as dramatic as the X Prize, it is just
as important to you and your company. Setting and accomplishing goals
should occupy most of each business day. Without them, you often find
yourself wandering from crisis to crisis wondering, “What’s
it all about?” Don’t worry about “changing the world.”
If you can change yourself, by accomplishing your goals, the world will
Goals come in all shapes and sizes and you should have a diverse collection.
Some goals have an outlook of one day, while others will encompass projects
that you may never see to completion. This mix prevents you from becoming
bogged down in the minutiae of your daily work. Sometimes you have to
raise your nose from the grindstone in order to move ahead. In many cases,
the larger goals help to address problems at lower levels. Sometimes you
can be fighting with problems at the desktop level that can be solved
by a new system higher up. Don’t fall into the trap of “I’m
too busy to worry about goals.” In fact, you are probably so busy
because you failed to think about your goals in the first place.
Work and Home
While we most often associate goal-setting with our work and career, your
own personal goals have a large effect on your work-related goals. It
seems obvious that if your personal goal is to become a world-class marathon
runner, your work-related goals will, and should, take second place. It
doesn’t make sense to spend time working your way up the company
ladder in one location, if your own personal goal has you moving to the
woods and painting landscapes. Your goals, large and small, home and work,
should have some sort of compatibility. Ignoring one for the other leads
to major conflicts, confusion and reduced effectiveness. This doesn’t
mean you ignore your work-related goals, only that you prioritize them
properly. It can take some time , but organizing your goals according
to your own personal priorities helps to reduce any conflict between them
and can help to clarify the importance of the goals in your own mind.
Do it anyway
Sometimes we can shy away from goals that seem too large or too impossible
to ever accomplish. Don’t let fears about the future reduce your
sense of vision. We should all reach a little higher. The truth is, we
are all capable of more than we might think. These lofty goals, along
with the smaller goals along the way, help us find direction in our life
and work. Goals shouldn’t be easy to accomplish. They should be
seen as personal challenges to build a better life and career.
What big goals would you set yourself if you let your mind roam? Do you
want to travel around the world? Design a new best-selling product? Be
a rock star? What small step can you take down that path today? You might
be surprised how much progress you can make on your goals, merely by writing
them down and thinking about them on a daily basis. Life has a way of
focusing our attention on the smallest, and often, least important parts.
Raise your gaze up and start thinking about what you really want to accomplish
in your life and your high-tech career.
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