Let me start with a disclaimer:
This article is not for everyone.
If your goals are things like:
- To get a bit healthier
- To learn a new language
- To start reading more
This article is not for you.
Although those goals are great… they are all things that anyone can achieve with the right amount of discipline. There are guides online for achieving any of them and it’s quite straight-forward to do. Go get ‘em!
However, if you’re the type of person that has HUGE goals in life…
Goals so big they scare you…
Goals so massive that other people would think you’re crazy…
Goals so astronomical that they’ve never even been achieved by someone before…
Then this article is for you!
But, unfortunately, it’s not going to be comfortable for you to read.
I want to give you the honest, brutal truth about achieving HUGE goals. It won’t be nice — but it’s for your own good.
So if you just want some platitudes, some mindless positivity and a bit of motivation… sorry to disappoint.
But if you think you can handle the truth… grab yourself a drink, get yourself comfortable and join me as I reveal some harsh truths.
Staring into the Abyss
Throughout my career, the biggest successes I have achieved have come from financial trading.
When I tell people about trading, I have to explain that it’s not about being correct 100% of the time. In fact…
Trading is about probabilities. You WILL lose sometimes, but you just have to be certain that your wins will outweigh your losses.
Since starting a business, I can safely say that the same statement applies to any other big goals in life too. In fact, it’s often the case that when you’re working towards a goal, the losses are more important than the wins.
Now, I’m not referring to how we can ‘learn from our failures’ or any other cliched statement that people make to romanticise losing. Instead, I mean that the losses are more important because they can turn your world upside-down… and not necessarily in a good way!
We need to avoid that happening.
When I reflect on my career as a private trader and an entrepreneur, I’m aware of the losses I’ve had to endure. Painfully aware.
I’m not just talking about financial or business losses. I’m talking about the loss of friendships, loving relationships, stability and (at times) my sanity!
You see, it’s easy for us to externalise goals and look for the magic recipe or tactic that will help us to achieve them. But, in reality, goals are as much internal as they are external.
They aren’t just some target to hit. They impact our lives and can cause destruction if things aren’t kept under control.
As Elon Musk says:
“Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”
— Elon Musk
This can be true for working towards any other huge goal too.
Crossing the Canyon
I always say that achieving huge goals is like crossing a canyon.
Let me introduce you to The Canyon of Uncertainty and Broken Dreams.
Achieving a huge, life-changing goal is no easy task.
At our starting point, we have an idea of what we want to achieve.
At our finishing point, we have the reality of that goal, once it comes to fruition.
But between these two points is a canyon that is full of uncertainty and broken dreams.
The terrain is rough and unpredictable. At times, it can be so bad that only the very toughest of us can survive. It’s where you can find an answer to the old Dr Pepper slogan: “What’s the worst that can happen?”. In the Canyon, the worst can and will happen…often!
However, within the Canyon, you’ll also find some pleasant surprises.
Some areas of paradise that you didn’t expect to find. Experiences that you’ll treasure forever. Moments you would never have stumbled upon if it wasn’t for the struggle.
…But unfortunately, those are few and far between. Don’t count on them!
Instead, what we attempt to do when we’re working towards huge goals is to avoid that terrain as much as possible.
We do this by building a Bridge of Execution from our starting point to our finishing point. No easy task!
The Trio of Terror (ToT)
There are three problems we often encounter when building our Bridge of Execution. I call these ‘The Trio of Terror’:
- We don’t know how dependable our bridge will be.
- We don’t know how long it will take to cross the bridge.
- We don’t know how deep the canyon will be if our bridge fails.
Of course, you can create contingency plans to help you survive negative outcomes, but there are also consequences that are impossible to plan for. These are the elements that can severely interfere and even destroy your journey.With this level of uncertainty — it takes a special type of person with phenomenal resolve to survive the process.
The Harsh Truths
It’s just like what bodybuilding legend, Ronnie Coleman, said:
“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.”
— Ronnie Coleman
If you have life-changing goals that you desperately want to achieve, you have to understand the amount of work needed and the sacrifices you will inevitably have to make.
#1: “Sorry, I can’t today. I’m working…”
Get used to this phrase. If you’re going to achieve those goals, you’ll need to start using it.
‘Normal’ goals don’t take too much commitment…
If you want to get in better shape, you can find an hour each day to go to the gym and start eating the right things. No problem!
If you want a pay rise, you can stop getting distracted at work and start putting in that bit more effort. If you do it right, your value won’t go unnoticed. (Extra tip: it’s not about the number of hours you work, it’s about what you do during the hours — most people simply aren’t working).
However, if you want to achieve a HUGE goal, the goal has to become your priority.
When something is your priority, it means you have to make a commitment to it. This will often involve sacrificing other things. A priority is the most important thing to you… so it needs to come first!
Be prepared to work 18 hour days if the situation calls for it. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal. If not, you’re reducing your chances of success and increasing the likelihood of complacency and failure.
“OK”, you’re thinking, “I can do that! This goal is really important to me”.
But guess what, here’s the plot twist…
It isn’t necessarily important to everyone else in your life.
Sooner or later, you may have to face the reality that important people in your life may not be happy with the sacrifices you’re making.
Trust me — I’ve been there!
I’ve lost many friends as a result of the sacrifices I’ve made while achieving my goals. Even some very close friends who I expected to stand by me during the difficult times. However, on the plus side, I’ve also had the opportunity to find out who my real friends were (and there weren’t so many of them after all!).
Unfortunately, the expression: “out of sight, out of mind” is true in most cases. When you don’t have enough time to spend with people, you’ll be forgotten by a lot of them.
For some people, rather than realising that you have something you’re desperately trying to achieve, they will just see it as a rejection. They want to see you, but you don’t want to see them — and so, you will be forgotten.
Take this issue in your stride. Yes, it’s upsetting, but it’s better to find out which people in your life are genuine — even if the truth hurts.
It’s so easy for us to slip into playing the ultimate balancing act: trying to keep everyone happy, while simultaneously trying to achieve something great. This approach is destined to fail.
Aiming to be a people-pleaser all the time is not a virtue, it’s a vice. You will never be able to make everyone happy. Instead, focus on your goal, make your sacrifices and you’ll soon find out who is genuine and important enough to invest your time in.
#2: The Del-Boy Syndrome
If you’re aiming high with your goals, it’s because you believe you can achieve them. This tells me that you’re likely to be an ambitious and optimistic person — this may become your Achilles heel!
By deciding to pursue these huge goals, you’ve already sold yourself ‘the dream’. Inevitably, the next step is to also sell ‘the dream’ to the people closest to you.
I call this “The Del-Boy Syndrome”…
It’s the famous line from the TV show ‘Only Fools and Horses’:
“This time next year, we’ll be millionaires”.
But let me remind you about one of the points from the Trio of Terror that I mentioned earlier:
We don’t know how long it will take to cross the bridge.
We may make predictions about when our goals will be achieved, but it’s in our nature to be over-optimistic about this. It’s more likely to take longer than we initially think.
You may just think of this as being optimistic and a positive-thinker — things that may help you keep grinding towards your goals. But, it can actually be harmful to your relationships.
If you’ve sold ‘the dream’ to a loved one and told them it will happen by a particular date, they will believe in you. If you miss this deadline, they may begin to feel disappointed or lied to.
I’ve seen this situation countless times with other people and I have been through it myself.
Let’s break it down…
When you’re working towards a goal, the Del-Boy Syndrome can be extremely harmful. Firstly, it heightens the expectations of people around you (cue disappointment!).
Secondly, it can actually reduce the amount of effort you put into achieving your goal since it satisfies your ‘identity symbols’ by talking about it rather than by taking action (as proven by psychologist, Peter Gollwitzer).
I remember when I was first setting up my investment company. I had already tasted the success that this company could bring into my life, so I had no intention of dropping the ball. I worked night and day, tirelessly trying to progress things to the next level.
I had a girlfriend at that time and cracks started to appear in our relationship the more I worked on the company.
The problem wasn’t necessarily with the amount of work I was doing (and therefore, how little time I had for anything else). Rather, the issue was with me mismanaging her expectations and making promises about things I had no control over.
At the time, this didn’t seem to be much of a problem. Each time my circumstances changed, I knew it was just part of setting up a business. For example, when I promised we would go on holiday, but then had to delay it due to work — I knew it was to be expected. I was needed by the company.
I reverted to the Del-Boy Syndrome in situations like this… “Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time for holidays next year once processes are all set up and things can run without me for a few weeks.”
By the next year, my time constraints had got worse, not better.
In my eyes, it was all to be expected. That’s the reality of owning a start-up company — you have to put it ahead of everything else in order to succeed and you never know what issue is around the corner.
However, as I soon came to understand, that was not how she saw it at all.
From her point of view, every time things didn’t go to plan, it was my fault for breaking a promise to her.
If I had managed her expectations realistically rather than optimistically, the relationship may have survived longer…
But it didn’t.
That was a big loss for me at the time (fortunately not anymore!) and a very important lesson.
You see, when we’re talking about small goals, it somehow seems acceptable to moan about them and to admit they’re not going to plan.
However, when we talk about huge goals, for some reason the protocol seems to be that we always have to be positive about them. When someone asks how our trading or our business is going, we always have to reply that “it’s going really well!”.
I don’t know whether it’s pride or just social norms — but we don’t allow ourselves to deal with the realistic view that perhaps things aren’t always going according to plan.
…And that is a problem!
#3: Feeling Stable When Everything Around You Is Not
Trying to achieve a huge goal is a bit like trying to herd cats… things can get a bit chaotic.
Not everyone feels comfortable with that.
Luckily, I fall into the category of people that thrive in situations of high pressure and chaos. I hope you are too.
For most people, “thriving under pressure” is just something they write on their resume. You’ll soon realise that when the chips are down, 99% of people go crazy without a sense of stability.
Of course, you can have contingency plans to help maintain a sense of stability: money, back-up alternatives, favours…prayers!
But, remember the third point of the ToT: we don’t know how deep the canyon will be if our bridge fails. The lows can often be deeper than we expect.
Before you start working towards your huge goal, you need to accept that you’re likely to be in a situation of instability at some point. If that doesn’t end up being the case, you should see that as a bonus.
In other words… don’t count on a stable situation — it’s likely to not happen.
When the shit hits the fan, a lot of people will just abandon you. This can cause some bitterness. You might start thinking: “Oh! so they’re happy to be around me during the good times, but can’t support me during the bad times.”
Deal with it!
Trying to achieve a huge goal is a very selfish thing to do. Even if you’re trying to achieve something for the good of other people (e.g. to support your family), you have to accept that it’s YOUR choice to start the endeavour. It’s THEIR choice whether they decide to stick around for the undesirable times.
If you let this affect you in the first instance, it will have a domino effect that can wreak havoc in your life.
If you have any dependents before you start working on a goal, you MUST consider their stability before you start. It doesn’t matter how much you believe in yourself and what you are doing — you never know what could happen. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from working towards scarily big goals, it’s that if there is a possibility of something going wrong, it probably will.
Forget The Secret. Forget The Law of Attraction. I’m talking about the real world now… Yes, I do believe that we need to avoid negative self-talk, but that shouldn’t be replaced with blind optimism disguised as ‘positive thinking’. Be optimistic, but be realistic and don’t take unnecessary risks — especially when it involves other people’s lives too.
…And that’s coming from someone who takes calculated risks for a living!
#4: Health is Wealth
Let’s face it — achieving your ambitions can be stressful.
Depending on what you’re working towards, it can be more stressful than anything you’re likely to have faced before. I’m talking about stomach-churning anxiety, soul-destroying lows, sleep-annihilating stress and blood-boiling pressure.
In fact, some people experience all that just from the fear of being an underachiever, let alone the negative consequences of actual failure.
It’s important to be proactive with your health. As the saying goes: if you don’t make time to look after your health now, you will literally be forced to make time in the future. Once again, believe me — I’ve been there!
When I first started making 6-figure sums from trading, I immediately became very ill. I displayed some very strange symptoms and was bed-bound for a while. I was completely out of the game — I had over-worked myself to an extreme.
A year later, I had learned my lesson in some areas regarding how I was working, but not in others. As a result of this, I ended up with high blood pressure — far above what someone should have in their early 20’s. I was putting my health at serious risk.
These health problems didn’t just affect me though — they also became a worry for my family and close friends (the ones that were left!) and my business partner. I wasn’t being responsible to myself, the people who care about me or my company.
Following this, I started to take my health more seriously. I spent a lot more time in the gym and made sure I ate and drank healthier than I was doing before. I also rediscovered the magic ‘S’ word… Sleep.
It’s now become a no-brainer for me — no matter how busy you are, always make time to keep your body and mind in top-notch condition.
Is It All Worth It?
I did warn you that I’d be telling you about the harsh truths, so you can excuse the negative tone of this article.
I wanted to be brutally honest with you about some of the painful aspects because social media is so full of people glamourising the positive aspects. If we only focus on the positive side of chasing our dreams and working towards our goals, we won’t be well enough prepared for the potential problems we may face.
So, after everything I’ve discussed above… is working towards a HUGE goal actually worth it?
Without a doubt, YES!
As I said earlier, we have to make sure that our wins outweigh our losses. If we get that right, it’s one of the greatest feelings possible.
Rather than coasting along, achieving goals that are well within our reach, sometimes we need to dare to be great — and take some elements of calculated risk to try and achieve that.
But, let’s not bury our heads in the sand and only focus on the positive side of things. We need to prepare ourselves for the bad sides too.
When things go wrong, even if it’s not your fault, you will inevitably get the blame — and that’s fine! If you’re willing to take the praise for success, you also need to shoulder the burden of failures too.
With all that being said, the solution is to prepare yourself AND prepare the people you care about. Remember, whatever your motivation is for undertaking this, it’s still a selfish endeavour — it’s your priority.
We need to manage people’s expectations up front:
“Sorry, but for the next year I’m going to be working towards XYZ. I have to be a bit selfish during this time and I hope you understand. I might not seem like myself at times if I’m under pressure or over-worked and I may not have as much time to do things. I hope as my [_____] (friend/partner/sister/brother) you will understand this and stand by me as much as possible.”
Sell the dream, by all means… But also sell reality!
Be open about the potential risks.
Be candid about the negative side-effects.
Don’t be the used car salesmen, dressing up a Ford as a Ferrari. Be realistic.
…And then work your ass off!
If you want to hear more about my experiences, check out the video below: