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Archive for the ‘Self-improvement’ Category

Why you should live in No Mans Land

Thu ,12/05/2011

No Mans Land – an area between two opposing forces that neither side wishes to occupy. This is the ground between two armies that must be crossed to reach the enemy but means coming under fire. It’s the cratered mud, snaked with twisted barbed wire between the trenches of each side in the first world war for example. It’s dangerous and uncomfortable territory that neither side wishes to occupy. Much better to stay in the relative safety of the trenches on you own side than move even slightly towards the enemy.

It’s also the name of a theory that has been crystallizing for me over the last few months.

The No Man’s Land Theory states that when there are two completely opposite views on a matter that the true answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

In many ways it’s nothing new. Really it’s just saying that there are exceptions to every rule. Or the sage advice that there’s always two sides to every story. Or it’s not black or white it’s grey.

Call it what you like, the power comes in adding this as a tool to your belt. The No Man’s Land Theory has proven a useful tool for me to recognize when two options or opinions are put forward that usually the right answer is neither and both at the same time. There’s truth on both sides and it’s about finding the balance, the tension in the middle where things are just right.

A simple example: When it comes to investing, a common showdown is “Shares or real estate? Which is better?” Shares advocates argue that real estate is not liquid enough, the initial outlay to enter the market is too high, blah, blah… while real estate buffs will say that shares are too risky and you can’t go wrong with bricks and mortar, no-one is creating more land, and so on. So which is better, shares or real estate? Of course the answer is “both” or “it depends”.  Both have different pros and cons so depending on who you are, what your financial state is, what your future plans are, how close you are to retirement, etc you may have all shares, all real estate or more likely, a combination of both as the pros and cons of each compliment each other.

Take away thoughts:
1. What “No Man’s Land” scenarios have you encountered recently?
2. Over the next few days, be on the lookout for No Mans Land scenarios that you encounter and spend some time out in No Mans Land, searching for the sweet spot.

SMART Goals Part 2 – Measurable Goals

Tue ,23/03/2010

This is the second part of the 5 part series on how to set SMART goals – that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Measurable – how will you know you’ve met your goal?

When someone says that you need to set measurable goals, it’s easy to think “sure, seems obvious”. Yet it amazes me that it’s so easy to miss. Goals can sound great, but be missing this vital ingredient. To make matters worse, some things are inherently tough to measure.

Some poor examples of measurable goals:

“I want to increase traffic to my website.”

“I want my business to make a real difference in people’s lives when we perform service x”

“I want to be good at doing push ups”

“I want a high level of quality in our space travel technology”

Some of these are fairly specific but are not measurable. How will you know when you’ve made a real difference to people or are good at push ups or have an acceptable level of quality? How much extra website traffic defines success?

Some of the above examples are easier to make measurable than others eg

“I want to increase traffic to my website to an average of 10,000 page views per day”

“I want to be able to do 50 push ups in a row”

However, how do you measure the more “fluffy” things like “making a difference in people’s lives” or increasing quality?

Some things are difficult to quantify which means that it’s hard to prove that you’ve actually
succeeded. This can be a very tough aspect of goal setting to get right.

When you can’t think of an obvious way to measure success, the temptation is to simply say “I’ll know it when I see it”. That’s WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! You have to try harder! How will you know it? What will you look for to know that you’ve achieved your goal?

Back to the examples… How do we know if our business has made “a real difference in people’s lives when we perform service x”? What can we measure to know that we’re making a difference? We could measure number of compliments or customer testimonials that are offered. We could ask at least some customers to complete a short survey. Depending on what service x was, we might expect a high percentage of customers to return for more if they valued what was provided. The point here is that there may not be a single perfect metric but we can probably think of some that are close or even a couple of different metrics that would indicate the goal has been achieved.

So the goal may be “I want my business to make a real difference in people’s lives when we perform service x” “I want to my business to achieve an average of 8 out of 10 or higher on customers surveyed about service x and have 50% of customers return for more service x”

What about the quality of our space program. Quality is another thing that is hard to measure. I recommend focusing on what the outcome of good quality will be rather than trying to define detailed parts of quality. Eg rather than arbitrarily demanding that less than 1 out of 20 parts is rejected due to quality issues, define the desired outcome:

“I want a high level of quality in our space travel technology” could become “I want to put a man on the moon and return him safely”. Can’t do that if the quality’s not there!

What are some of your goals? How can you make them measurable? Have you got any tough ones that are hard to measure?

Do you set SMART goals? Part 1

Sun ,07/03/2010

Who invented the Winter Olympics? What a crazy concept! A bunch of people turn up on a snow covered mountain, strap various pieces of equipment to their bodies and then proceed to hurtle down the side of the mountain, often with no way to stop. And because that’s not interesting enough, they usually throw in some sharp corners, a series of flag poles or a giant jump or two. I suppose the clever ones stick to the flat ice rink. Yes, I love the Winter Olympics!

The Winter Olympics are all about skill, courage and achievement. Athletes have trained for 4, 8, 12 or more years to perform often for just a few crucial seconds in an event. And when the event is over, we often see the raw emotion poured out – whether there was success or not. After years of training, did the athlete achieve their “dream”?

And by dream of course we mean goal. We are goal driven creatures. Really I mean that. Stop and think about it. Without goals we drift, we wander from idea to idea, interest to interest and never muster enough dedication to finalise anything. Goals give us a way to focus, to channel our energy, our time, our resources and convert them into achievement. Goals make us amazing creatures. Creatures that have changed the world! The Winter Olymics oozes goals.

So what makes a good goal? Goals need to be SMART. SMART is a mnemonic that stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Whenever you set a goal, you should make sure it hits each of those points. Or put another way, if you set a goal that fails to meet even one of the SMART characteristics, then that goal is going to cause you trouble!

Today, let’s look at setting Specific goals.

Specific – be precise not vague. What is it that you want to achieve?

For example, the goals like “to run a business that is a leader in it’s field”, “to get fit” or “to prove that our country has superior space exploration technology” are not very specific which means that they will be hard to achieve without breaking them down. They are more “visions” which in turn need to be broken down into specific goals.

Goals like “to feature on xyz innovation TV show for our work in the field of blah”, “to be able to run 5kms in half an hour” or “to put a man on the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade” are much more specific.

Over the next few posts I’m going go into detail on each of the other SMART attributes.

What are some goals that you’re working towards at the moment? Are they specific?