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high-fiveDo you set goals at the end of every year? Not cliched, forgettable “I need to lose 5 pounds” goals. But real, tangible, goals?  Do you write them down? And do they matter? Let’s find out.

This week I did things a little differently. Rather than interview a guest, and rather than meticulously write out a blog post, I ranted for a bit unscripted. And I liked it.  So until I post the full transcript, the best way to hear this week’s topic is to listen to the podcast:

Download the podcast from iTunes, or play it below:


In the meantime, I’ll expand just a bit on the outline that I followed:

1) How to get your dream job


Damn, it’s almost painful when I just calculated that my intern is 17 years my junior. We have a funny ongoing meme, where I’ll be trying to impart some worldly knowledge (or pop culture reference), and the theme becomes “This is how it USED to be.”

Examples include how we didn’t have cell phones in college, tales of printing out COBOL programming code on the green and white striped dot matrix printer paper, how I had an MP3 player NOT made by Apple.

Case in point: describing just about everything from the movie Singles… the grunge movement, living in Seattle, Cameron Crowe, Kyra Sedgwick (before The Closer), Matt Dillon (brother of the guy on Entourage). Can I blame her? The movie came out in 1992, when she was SIX.

So speaking of Seattle, I realize that I often tell the story of “How I got a dream job in sports.” It was one of the turning points in my life, as I set a goal, moved 3,000 miles away from home, and got a gig at ESPN.com.

But it hit me… that was now ELEVEN years ago. You can’t live in the past. You can’t keep telling the same old story. And that’s why it’s more important than ever to keep setting NEW goals. And that’s what this podcast is about.

But… I realized something else I could do. Instead of just waxing poetic and being generic and saying “When I was younger I set a goal and went after my dream job,” what would be truly valuable, would not be to FORGET the story, but rather, to detail the exact steps I took to make it happen.

To outline a rough (old man) tutorial on what specific steps someone starting their career could use to find something they truly enjoy. So that’s what I cover in the podcast as a personal study.

Here is the outline I followed:

The Process
Plan ahead (CD-ROM vs. Internet)
Find your passion
Research your target (Where do I want to work)
Find a connection (Friend of a friend of a friend)
Demonstrate skill (Especially if global and new)
Persistence (Follow up)
Keep learning (New skill = reason to follow up)
Don’t listen to naysayers
Push your limits and take risks (‘I’ll actually be IN Seattle’)
Crush it (Prepare so that there’s no way you won’t succeed)

The Interview
1.    Impress (suit vs. casual)
2.    Adapt (No manager)
3.    Be the demo (Griffey game)
4.    Solve the puzzle (Interview question)
5.    Don’t be TOO convincing (Pageant)
6.    Make it so they CAN’T refuse

Then I take a minute to tie this scenario back to marketing and business goals.

What made everything above possible? Setting Goals.

2) Is goal-setting a myth, or a legend?

I recently set up a year-end lunch with my intern, and gave her ‘homework’ to prepare. I asked her to create a presentation (speaking skills are one of the most valuable business skills you can have) discussing the following:

– What are 5 things she wants to learn at the beginning of next year
– Where does she want to be in terms of title, salary, and responsibility in the next 6 months
– What are 5 personal goals she wants to achieve (take a class, learn a language, travel more, etc)
– Where does she want to be in terms of title, salary, and responsibility in the next 5 years
– What have I done well as a manager and what can I improve upon
– What are some ideas for Wired for 2010


I started to tell my intern about the popular Harvard study about goal-setting. It goes as follows:

[Credit: Summary was taken from Lifemastering.com]

In the book What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack tells a study conducted on students in the 1979 Harvard MBA program. In that year, the students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and a whopping 84 percent had no specific goals at all.

Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings, while somewhat predictable, were nonetheless astonishing. The 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. And what about the three percent who had clear, written goals? They were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

I had definitely heard the study quoted several times, although sometimes it is told with Yale as the school.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

I came across the blog of Sid Savara.

Fact or Fiction? The Truth About The Harvard Written Goal Study

It turns out that he had written a similar post as the one I’m doing right now, but in his research, he discovered no evidence that this famous study ever happened!

He couldn’t find any definitive sources, but what he did find was a Fast Company article called “If Your Goal Is Success, Don’t Consult These Gurus” that interviewed members of the Yale 1953 class and were unable to find evidence to substantiate the story.  He also found an official stance from Yale:  There was no relevant record, nor did anyone recall the purported study of the Class of 1953, or any other class.

So where does this leave us?

To me, as we end the year, let’s just say it’s a little like Santa Claus. Sometimes having definitive PROOF isn’t always the most important thing … it’s whether or not you BELIEVE.  So take a few minutes, write down those plans for 2010, and enjoy the holidays.

And remember, please take the Hopkinson Report survey.


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