Setting Clear Goals

I probably don’t need to say much about the concept of goal setting. This topic has been covered in thousands of posts across the web already, but I have to mention a few things that I think will help keep the dots connected.

Be careful what you wish for

It’s important to have clearly defined goals that you’ve gotten to with a wholistic approach. When I speak to people typically when I get to the point when as ask them what their goals are, they come back with vague responses. This is not only an issue for when it comes to staying motivated, but also because many people end up building things they don’t understand and equally don’t want. Let me explain…

Most of the people I come across in the startup community want to be a founder with venture backing. That’s to say that most of their hopes are linked to the idea of an investor coming on-board early on in the journey and it’s all down hill from the point that their funding is announced in TechCrunch.

Their assumptions seem to be something along the lines of; it’s obvious that their idea is great and will make millions. They just need investment. Once they have money in the bank, they will be able to pay for an amazing team. The amazing team will join on day one and work effectively until the company floats on the stock market. The amazing team will launch a class leading product on Product Hunt and hockey stick growth will start there.

At a high level, that might be what happens when all the stars align in your favour. But, how often do all of the stars align in your favour? In my experience, the reality of running a venture backed startup from being a founder looks something a little closer to:

You spend 18 months trying to raise money by going to endless meetings that come to nothing. This obviously needs to be done around your full time job and family commitments. If you are lucky to raise, you spend the next 6+ years working 14 hour days which consist of making very difficult decisions while fire-fighting. Your team are burnt out or have left. Customers said they loved the product when you demoed it but not enough to actually log in more than once, let alone pay for it. As no one is willing to pay for the software – at least not until you launch the next version of your app that has the magical new feature… you’ve got to keep raising money and diluting your shares.

The reality for most founders is, raising money opens up a Pandora’s box of drained energy and ongoing issues with their health and relationships. If you don’t believe me do some research about depression and suicide rates amongst founders. Most people have no idea about the sacrifices needed to build a successful business, these are all turned up to 100 when they are venture backed. I’m not saying this because I am against venture backed businesses. I am all for venture backed businesses, it’s just that I recommend that you’re sure it’s the journey for you.

So what should one do?

Create an Ideal Average Day

It’s obviously not for me to say what goals you should have but I have come across a useful exercise which I found to be very useful. I’m not sure where I came across the idea or, what it should be called, but I refer to it as the Ideal Average Day (IAD).

The underlying idea is not to think about achieving a one off event at some point in the future, but to think about, what your day to day lifestyle would look like if you could achieve anything.

I will break down how you might want to go about crafting your IAD in a moment but I think it’s worth pointing out why this is useful.

Having a clear understanding of your IAD means you are focused on the long term and it means you should take a more holistic approach to what you’d like to achieve. It shifts you form thinking about the first day driving your Lambo off the lot to asking, “What is it like living with a Lambo on a daily basis, as your only car when you’re a single parent with 3 children?”

At first this might seem like a minor difference in how you define your goals, but once you’ve done it and then go back to look at how you’d really like to live the differences can be profound. You might realise that you don’t want to be a millionaire in the sense of having a million dollars in the bank, because all of your bills can be paid on an a salary of $100,000 a year.


Then, create a timeline with your goals and objectives


Further reading & resources

Next: Establish Your Project Criteria