I’ll start with the bad news: to feel good about yourself, to have a sense of accomplishment, you have to set the bar high. The good news is that no matter how high you set the bar, you define success. For example, if you set a goal to reach the level of president in your company, a difficult goal, but only make it to vice president, you can decide whether you were successful or not.

This is a concept that is explored in my latest obsession called “Failure Club” a web TV show with Morgan Spurlock. The idea of failure club is to push yourself so hard that it’s almost impossible to succeed. An example from the show is Liz who wants to start a high-end handyman business and have 10,000 clients in one year. This is a lofty goal and if she only makes it to 5,000 clients she’ll have failed, or will she? The answer to that question is up to her.

By pushing ourselves, and setting difficult goals we really understand our limitations, our strengths and weaknesses. We define the line between perfection and imperfection. I thought about this after seeing this tweet from Greg (@StrategicMonk) during the #Inspirechat tweetchat.

Imperfection Tweet

Race FinishSurviving imperfection is what we all do on a regular basis and that’s good because it means we’re challenging ourselves as we strive for perfection. Think of an athlete missing first place by a small margin – that’s surviving imperfection because it was a learning experience.

The other part of Greg’s tweet is trusting yourself and confidence is a big part of that. Confidence in your ability and confidence that while you didn’t reach you initial goal you still succeeded. Here’s my story, a story only friends and family know, until now.

The Longest Day

After becoming an avid cyclist I set a goal of doing a ride called the longest day. The ride was so named because it was usually held on the weekend closest to June 21, the summer solstice. Oh and because it was a 200 mile one day bike ride from the northernmost part of NJ to the southernmost part of NJ (see my crude drawing of the route).LongestDay

I trained long and hard for the ride (it wasn’t a race) putting in over 1200 miles in the months prior to the Longest Day. I was ready and I was confident. The night before the ride we all met at the hotel we’d sleep at so we could start at 4:30 the next morning. I was on a team with three others and we had one support vehicle following us. My wife would join us half way with a second support vehicle.

It was cold as we started riding at 5am but at least it wasn’t raining yet. By the time the sun came up the rain started and we rode mile after mile in some very heavy rain. There were some breaks including a glorious two hours of bright sunlight and heat. Then the thunderstorms came. We tried waiting them out but made the decision to finish the ride. That’s when my teammates made a decision I wasn’t comfortable with.


In cycling, the practice of drafting is riding very closely behind the rider in front of you making your ride easier because there is less wind resistance. If you can ride behind something bigger, say a truck, then it will be even easier. My teammates decided to draft one of our support vehicles, I refused. The roads were wet, the rain was torrential, and riding that closely behind a truck just wasn’t safe in my eyes, not to mention the fact that it felt a lot like cheating. Since it wasn’t a race I felt I’d be cheating myself out of the effort I knew I trained for.

I watched as my teammates sped away in the distance and I kept rolling on. Because of all the delays the hour was getting late and it was getting dark. My wife kept her truck behind me to block me from speeding cars. Annoyed that she was driving slow the cars would swerve around her getting much too close to me for her comfort.

The End

Finally at 8:30pm Julie pulls along side me and asks, “How do you feel?”

“I feel fine. Why”

“Can you finish” she asked.

“Of course, it’s just five more miles!” That’s when she dropped the bomb.

“Then get in the truck. You proved you can do it but one of these cars is going to hit you and I’m really worried.” We argued a bit but I could see the concern on her face so at 195 miles into a 200 mile bike ride I stopped. My teammates made it to the finish line but I feel I completed the task while they failed.

What do you think?

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The Unbearable Lightness of Goals

Don’t think of goals as just a few key plans for the future. There’s more to goals than that, they are more versatile than that.

DartboardThere isn’t just one kind of goal, or two, or three, there is an unlimited range of goals. Some goals are short term while others are long term, some can be modified some can’t, some may be discarded entirely, some are more wish than goal. The goals you thought were rigid sometimes turn out to be quite pliable and visa versa. You get the point.

The key is flexibility, the willingness to modify one goal to achieve another more important one. As new information is learned what you never imagined before suddenly becomes a requirement. That’s life, that’s what asking What Next is all about, the search for adventure through exploration and discovery.

Career goals intersect with life goals, without one can there be the other? I write about this in the book What Next as I chronicle my attempt to change my career from television news to financial planning. This is an example of a pliable goal. I wanted to go into financial planning but I wanted to do it on my terms, and if that wasn’t possible, then I knew I would continue in my current career.

Writing the book is similar. I didn’t write the book to make money. On the contrary, I can afford to spend money to write the book, that’s why I wrote it, to demonstrate the options success gives you. I was able to pursue a creative outlet without worrying how I would pay for it or if it could sustain itself. For me it was writing a book, for someone else it might be painting or woodwork. 

Flexibility and options are integral parts of What Next. The choices you make will either expand your options or limit them, it’s up to you.

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I’m not a religious person but I like to learn from and understand religions. I find the things that make sense, that I like, and I leave the rest. Obviously I’m most familiar with Christian beliefs since I have some experience with them and most my friends and family are Christians.

Two related concepts that are appropriate this time of year are the ideas of renewal and forgiveness. As you look back on 2011 forgive yourself for not doing the things you wanted to do. As you look forward to 2012 renew yourself by setting goals for the coming year.

The idea of Jesus’ crucifixion is that he died for our sins, absolving us of our past transgressions. You can do the same for yourself (without the dying part) by accepting your mistakes while also learning from them. But this wasn’t a onetime thing. The practice of confession in the Catholic Church is another means of renewal much like resolutions each year.

The idea of renewal can be sped up to occur more than once every few thousand years (God’s only son) or once a week (confession) and could be a daily occurrence. I call this my New Day resolution. the song Breathe by U2 captures this idea in the context of religion (Jesus’ death and resurrection or maybe reincarnation): “Every day I die again, and again I’m reborn.”

The notion of reincarnation is also about renewal, rejuvenation. Why wait a whole lifetime when you can become new every day. It was funny that shortly after writing the first draft of this post I saw this tweet from Motivational Tweets:

Buddha Quote

The cliché that every day is a chance at a new life is true if you believe it and if you are willing to try.

Are you?

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