What will sustain you in pursuit of this goal when pursuing this goal gets hard?
Setting a courageous goal is an inspirational event. When we declare a new future for ourselves, we evoke something important in the formula for actually achieving our goals. It may be that January 1 declaration to lose 10 pounds, or the new CEO’s decision to stake the company turnaround on a risky strategy. Considering what will be needed to get through the tough times is a great way to ground the goal in practicality.
Somehow, we all recognize it when someone makes a courageous but empty statement. Usually, the only thing really on the line is their credibility. Kids are great at this. With the best intentions they will declare that they are going to get all A’s next term or take responsibility for a new household duty. But the reality of doing is harder to sustain than the moment of declaring. This false bravado is one thing for a kid who is learning about life. It is altogether another for the CEO who is charting a course that will impact employees, customers and stakeholders. This is a great question to help make the declaration real.
There are many tales of expeditionary leaders burning the ships that the expedition arrived in. What a great way to make the point that there is no going back. But commitments that do not consider struggle can ensure that death wins over victory. If there is no hope of survival, no contingency plan for setbacks then disabling the best hope of another attempt may be premature. If you must eliminate all choices but your own, you have not gained loyalty. One of the better documented boat burnings was by Hernando Cortes after setting out from Cuba. At least one researcher has found evidence that Cortes destroyed his ships at the request of his followers.
Seth Godin did an interesting piece of math in his blog this week, on Danny DeVito’s chances of success over those of George Clooney. But the math misses one point. If you look like Danny, you may have better odds since there is less competition. But there are also fewer slots for Danny’s than for George’s. So, if you are a Danny look alike and you feel that your true calling is to be an actor, you really have to know: “What will sustain you in pursuit of your goal when it gets hard?” Line up your resources, your allies, your marines (especially the internal attitudes that will get you through the world’s resistance to your idea). Swear them in to the cause and you will not have to burn their boats. Better yet, perhaps they will burn them for you.