When I was a child I wanted to be President of the United States and an astronaut. At the same time, if possible.
My uncle, Kev, wanted to be the first person to farm on the moon.
Growing up poor in the backwoods of Wisconsin caused us to dream of a life like that on our old black and white console television. The world looked so much more exciting on the glass teat (a term from the days when the television screen was a protruding bulb) than in our settled rural lifestyle.
Such are the dreams of youth when our imagination knew no limits.
Many children dream of growing up to be a doctor, policeman or fireman. The visible (and exciting) occupations all make the list.
Some keep the extraordinary dreams. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are modern examples of people who created a whole new world we all live in.
A hundred years ago it was Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla creating the world people lived in. Amazing how a century can turn incredible technologies into mundane necessities of life we only acknowledge when the electricity goes out or the car refuses to start.
Dreaming big is what made our modern world. It is hard to believe electric vehicles would be where they are currently without Elon Musk.
In the past few days Richard Branson is reported to be floating the idea of the first publicly traded space tourism company.
A hundred years ago industrialists gave us the airplane, automobile and a host of household conveniences. In one century we went from horses and wood stoves to space travel and computers. Space launches are becoming so common few get excited anymore when a rocket lights up unless Elon Musk has something exciting for us.
But you, like me, probably don’t have dreams quite as big as Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin). And even if you did you probably don’t have the resources, or access to the resources, to have any chance of realizing the goal.
Branson, Musk and Bezos are in a unique position of possessing the resources to realize the space dream.
For the rest of us with fewer resources, we find goals that large the equivalent to Don Quixote chasing windmills.
Goals of space travel are good to have. The space cowboys in the private sector must have had these dreams long before they could reasonably undertake their projects. Their dream of space travel, and more to the point, people living in space and permanent colonies on the moon and Mars, evolved from dream to goal. And once a dream reaches goal status it takes on a life of its own.
Most of us understand large goals are a step-by-step process. In other words, smaller goals are needed to attain the significant.
Starting a business and planning for retirement are large goals. The business doesn’t have to be a S&P 500 company to be significant. A local company is just as important as the big guys. Communities are more vibrant if there are more local businesses. A one-company town lives only as long as the board of directors thousands of miles away don’t decide to downsize or outsource. Small business does provide stability.
Retirement planning is something we can all understand. If your ultimate goal is to build a $1 million nest egg you don’t start by investing $100,000 per week until it’s done 2 1/2 months later! No, you plan. Each paycheck half goes to the retirement account. This allows tax advantages over several years so you can save even more.
A decade of investing in low-cost index funds leads to serious sized retirement accounts. Each pay period is a goal. Increasing contributions annually is a goal.
Big goals require consistent smaller goals. Early retirement is a process you start at an early age. If you decide to retire at 45 you better have taken steps before you turned 44. Unless you are already loaded or a trust baby, one year is not enough for that large a goal.
We see the same practices in massive firms attempting the near impossible. Elon Musk has a goal of putting humans on Mars. But first he needs a reliable rocket! Musk has pushed the envelope with interesting reusable rockets that land themselves. It is a sight to behold. Then he needs to figure out. . .
Ultimate endgame goals often require more time than anticipated. Musk may not get humans to Mars as soon as he wants. (He has a hard time keeping to his delivery promises at Tesla.) He will get a lot closer if he focuses on the task (goal) at hand.
Shooting for the Stars
We used to call lofty goals “shooting for the stars”. Today we are actually shooting for the stars. For real!
The advantages to society will be even greater than those provided by the Apollo program. In the 1960s the government (NASA) ran the program for the U.S. The only competition was the Soviet Union. Today many private firms are vying for a piece of the space market. More enter every year.
One of these new space ventures will succeed. Probably more than one. More competition will keep coming assuring humans will call more than Earth home.
If you share the space dream it can be disheartening. Most people reading this will not lead a company blazing a trail into space. Most will not even be lucky enough to work for such a company.
But there are lessons we can all learn from these modern pioneers. Life on earth has never been so grand. Steven Pinker has done the research. We live longer and better than at any time in history. There is even less war. Check the data. Fewer of us die of violence than ever in history! And by all accounts it looks to be getting even better!
Small goals can motivate for a short time. A goal to visit Spain next spring is a good goal. If you had to plan for 30 years for that one trip and everything else was sacrificed, you might not hold interest in said goal for long.
Large goals hold our imagination. Financial freedom and retirement occupies the majority of adult thinking. It never gets old dreaming of retirement, or planning accordingly once retired, so we can continue enjoying the life of luxury.
Goals that Motivate
Like my uncle, Kev, you might have extreme goals like farming on the moon. These massive goals will change mankind forever (when achieved) and have the ability to motivate, especially if you can take steps (smaller goals) toward achieving the large goal today.
However, life is a series of smaller goals. We want to pay off the mortgage, building a plan (goal) to do so. Starting a business is a serious undertaking many want to explore. And retirement is always looming (time keeps counting).
Yet, before we can pay off the mortgage we must save a down payment and buy the house!
This illustrates today’s message. People waste time thinking about paying off the mortgage when they should be thinking about saving as large a down payment as possible. You need a mortgage (or will have one soon) before you can plan to pay it off. Or as we say on the farm: putting the cart before the horse.
Retirement is the same. Too many spend time thinking of all the awesome things they will do in retirement and forget to actually plan to have a retirement. (Saving and investing.)
As an accountant I have several examples of clients who died shortly after retiring. In the last year a business-owner client died three days after retiring. He wasn’t that much older than your dearly, not yet departed, friendly accountant. My staff has reminded me of this with my recent personal health scare (not yet resolved).
Goals should help you live better. Yes, grand goals of jet-setting around the galaxy with Captain Kirk is fine as long as you don’t forget to live while still walking God’s green earth.
Musk and all the others are working to make space quotidian. They are also making the world a better place now in our everyday life with electric cars and with new ways to buy and sell goods and services.
Goal is a Four-Letter Word
The word goal has taken on dreaded status. Over the decades I’ve attended several informational and motivational seminars. Whenever the topic of goals comes up, heads duck. It shouldn’t be that way.
I think people dread goals because they feel obligated once they are on paper. There is also some fear of stating your goals because they entail your deepest desires.
The thing is, goals should change. Not every goal deserves consideration. It would be nice to skydive. Sure it would. But after careful consideration other goals might interest you more. More family time might be the goal you wish to pursue instead and the rewards (in your mind) might be better than falling from 10,000 feet.
Goals can take on a life of their own, taking you where you don’t want to go. A wise person will notice the subtle course change and review their direction to ascertain they are heading where they want to go.
For a decade now I’ve worked hard on a course change for my tax practice. I dived head first into the DIY tax preparation opportunity. The first foray was a disaster costing me nearly $80,000 in loses. (Tax deductible, I should add.)
My second attempt was rebuffed and fundamentally changed the normal part of my practice. What was a quiet tax office turning a reasonable profit erupted into a madhouse ending with burnout and health issues.
My goal took a different direction and I felt obligated to more people than I really was. The goal turned into a four-letter word. And a goal should never be treated as such.
Goals are guidelines you set up so you stay focused. When the telescope is moved you need to reevaluate.
Sometimes the best thing that can happen is for someone to throw sand in the gears. You can get comfortable (I got comfortable). Then things can go really wrong which causes bitterness and loss of direction.
Yeah, you might have fewer clients and less income, but you will have a more satisfying life; you might have to work one year longer before retirement , but you can slow to a reasonable pace instead of trying to beat the record earliest retirement among your friends. Always, quality over quantity.
When used properly, goals are the most powerful force on earth. They can take us to the moon and make electric cars mainstream.
Goals should help you manage dreams and help you live a better life. Maybe all the way to the stars.
And sometimes a quality goal is to quietly read a good book (or blog). To slowly absorb the story.
Take the time to live, kind readers. We only get one go at this. May as well enjoy the journey.
Remember, I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together. (Red Green)
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