Saturday, October 17, 2009

Your Ultimate Goal

By Preston Squire

Failure - Why You Want it in Your Life

Yes, you are reading that right.   Your ultimate goal in life should be the very thing most of you are trying desperately to avoid.

Why on earth would you want to seek failure?  Because if you're not failing, it means you are not pushing yourself hard enough.  You are not reaching for your true potential.  You are staying within your comfort zone, maybe pushing the edges of it but certainly not exceeding it.

The Mistake We All Make

My good friend and fitness guru Cathy Morenzie was telling me that the mistake most people make when trying to gain muscle mass is that they don't use heavy enough weights.  They will use the weight that allows them to succeed.  Struggle a little maybe but ultimately succeed.   However, their goal should be to fail.  To use a weight where they are pushing themselves as hard as they can and still can't quite accomplish the set.  That's when they are forcing their muscles to expand, when the bar has been set at a level beyond what they are currently capable of.

Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

The same holds true for all other areas of our lives.  We tend to set our goals low enough that we expect to be able to achieve them.   Setting goals is good.  Achieving them is even better.  But are you limiting yourself with your own subconscious beliefs of what is and isn't possible?   Aim for a goal that seems impossible to achieve.  Aim to fail.   You may not succeed but you will surpass your 'realistic' goals.

Climb High, Climb Far
Your Goal the Sky, Your Aim the Star.

Possibly the best example of this are the Olympic Games.   It seems every single time the games roll around you can count on multiple world records being broken.   How is that possible?   Partly it is because of better training, better techniques and yes, better drugs.  Partly it's because the concept of what is possible keeps changing.

When the high jump first started being recorded the record stood at 5'6".   That's impressive.   I doubt there's many people alive today that could manage that height.  If you asked me to do it, I'd say that was unrealistic.  If you asked me if an Olympic athlete could do it, I'd say that was very realistic.  Why?   Because it's been done. 

However, since that time, that record has been broken, time and time again.   Better jumping techniques were developed, to be replaced by other even better techniques.   The record current is a hair over 8'.    Eight feet!!   Back in the days when the greatest high jumper in the world couldn't even manage six feet anyone and everyone would have laughed at you if you said eight feet was a realistic goal.   Now that it's been done, it is and you can bet that's the goal every single Olympic high jumper is commanding their body to beat.   Most will fail, someone will do it.   They will all far surpass the 'realistic' goal of 5'6".  Easily.   That's child's play now.

Something is only impossible until it someone does it.  Let's look at the high jumper again.   What if we took today's record holder into the past?   In that day 5'6" is the record and people consider that extremely hard to beat.   They go for that goal, with the firm belief that maybe, if they train hard enough, one day they could possibly beat that record, or at least come close to it.    Then suddenly here comes someone jumping heights of eight feet.   What happens?   Everyone's expectations are shattered.   The athletes of that time either admit complete defeat sticking to their old concepts of what's possible or they'd embrace this new reality, study what he's doing differently and try to improve upon it.  Suddenly eight feet is now realistic.

But what if they just went for that goal in the first place?  They would fail.  Why?  Because it would be too far beyond 'common knowledge' for them to embrace it's reality.   Their subconscious minds would betray them.  However, if they envisioned that goal, and could see themselves doing it, long enough and hard enough, they would likely still fail but they would fail in spectacular style, only making jumps of over 6'.  Far short of their goal, yes, but also an impressive world record.   No one calls that failure, except maybe the athlete himself and frankly that's the type of failure (s)he can live with.   Aim for the impossible!

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” - George Bernard Shaw

One of my first jobs was telemarketing long distance plans.   I was a good telemarketer but there were better people than me.   I set a goal for myself to become the best.  I envisioned it, I believed it.  I tried to improve my game, and did but continued to fail at my goal.  It occurred to me that those people getting better results were probably cheating.  Not giving people the whole truth and if I was to beat them I'd have to play that game, otherwise it would be 'impossible'.   I rejected that notion.  Then one day an idea popped into my head.  I took the script we were using and rewrote it.  I changed it from 'Would you like to try this free service that saves you money?' to 'I am giving you this free service that will save you money, if you want'.

My sells jumped.  I was so successful, that my superiors demanded to know what I was doing, fearing I was 'slamming' sales.  I wasn't, I was providing all the pertinent information, it was all in the presentation.   They loved my approach and it became the standard, which ironically lifted everyone's sales and bumped me back to only above average.  I ultimately failed at my goal but not before achieving the 'impossible'.

At another job, I was managing cafeterias.  I had done well enough that they considered me something of a 'rising star' and they dropped me into one of their biggest problem accounts.  Metro Toronto Police Headquarters.    The account was a mess.  The account had lost money for the last four years.  Staff didn't talk to each other - they didn't even know each other's names!  They hadn't had a raise in two years and we were now in the recession of the early 90's and no one expected any.  Food costs were out of whack.  And the Police Services Board which were our main client for catering had complained about the last two managers and were considered totally unrealistic.  Their was no chef, due to the poor sales performance.  The contract was coming up and the outlook was bleak.

I gathered the staff and sold them on the idea that if every one of them could improve in their respective jobs just a mere 1% each day, the compound effect would be huge.   And if we all did it consistently, it would be so huge that we could turn the account around and earn them a 4% raise.  The thought of earning a raise, when wages were frozen across the entire company seemed impossible but no one could argue that a 1% increase was impossible.   They knew they weren't performing well so it was quite possible and if they did get a raise out of it so much the better.  They bit into it.

The more they did, little by little, the more the customers noticed and business increased.  Within four months, we went from being a losing account to becoming the most profitable account in Ontario.  We became the star account and every prospective client was toured through our cafeteria.  The staff formed a new sense of camaraderie from having a common purpose.  A chef was hired.  I even received a commendation from the 'troublesome' Police Services Board.  Against all odds, the staff received a raise.  Of two percent.  I had failed to deliver my promise but I had achieved what everyone had considered impossible just mere months before.

Dare to Dream


Don't merely accept failure.  Anyone can do that and most do.  Dare to dream the impossible.   Set your goal so high that failure seems assured then proceed like success is guaranteed.  If you actually start to achieve your goal, set a higher one.   An even more impossible goal.

Now, I finally get to use one of my passions as an example.   Back in 2006 a new generation of video game systems were coming out.   Microsoft was out early with their Xbox 360 and Sony was expected to dominate the industry once again with the PS3.   Nintendo, the granddaddy of video game companies was expected to go out of business.   Ask any pundit of the time and they would point to how after the initial huge success of the NES system, each Nintendo system had sold progressively less and less with the last system, the Gamecube having come in last in the then current generation of systems with a mere 1/6th of the PS2 sales. Any further sales erosion would result in disaster for Nintendo.


If you said Nintendo would win the upcoming sales race, and I did on industry forums, people would laugh at you, call you crazy and tell you passionately why that was utterly impossible.

But Nintendo dared to dream big.  They decided they couldn't compete effectively for the 'core' gamer against the powerhouses of Sony and MS but they reasoned, 'core gamers' were only a small part of a much bigger pie.   In November of 2006 Nintendo introduced the Wii with it's accessible motion controls and family friendly games.   It became the fastest selling game system in history leaving the expected champion, the PS3 far, far behind in it's dust.    The Wii sold to people who normally would never even consider buying a game system before.  The underpowered and female friendly Wii could have been a complete disaster but Nintendo was not afraid to fail (everyone else assumed they would anyway).  They changed their approach, reshaped an industry and achieved results considered 'impossible'.   What did they do then?  Raised the bar for themselves and set unprecedented sales targets for this fiscal.   To be honest, it's not looking likely they'll achieve them.   But even in failure, their results will be far greater than anyone would have possibly guessed just a few years back.

Accept failure as a necessary part of life.  Failure is like food, you can't grow without it.  Seek to find that limit that you just can't quite reach.  Don't be afraid to fail.  When you do, change your Plan, change your approach and keep trying until you make it.   Then set another goal.   It's the journey that counts, not the final destination.   Where ever you ultimately end up when you finally go to the great beyond, you'll go knowing you give it your all, you accomplished all you could possibly accomplish and you had surpassed results that you once considered impossible.

©Preston Squire

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