Every week, we had spaghetti. It was ritual, my mentor JC Vachon would drive an hour north from his home to my business, we’d meet and work trhough the accounting, and then we’d go out for spaghetti. The restaurant next to my office had amazing spaghetti and meat sauce at the time, and spaghetti and coffee was our time to talk about real things.
Somehow JC knew what I needed way before I did, he’d show up and I would imagine that during the drive up to my office he’d been thinking about what I was doing and what we should talk about because I always felt there was some sort of plan in every meeting.
One of the earliest I recall was when he started out lunch with —“so what are you main goals?”
Um… “well I want to make some money in business, retire young, I like to create software,… what kind of goals are you talking about?”, I asked.
“Well, I think that most people can deal with about 5 goals in their life - goals are like targets that you aim for. You might not always hit them, but your brain needs to know what they are,. Once you know your goals, your brain will start to see opportunities for hitting them. Without them, you’re like a boat on the ocean bobbing in all directions, never finding the shore. Without goals, you can’t plan” - and then he chuckled — “And you know what they say, ‘Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!’.
“I see, so what are your goals?”
Well I have 5 main goals, I write them on a piece of paper and every day I take it out of my desk and read them. That way your brain is continuously focused on what they are and ideas for their achievement will float into your consciousness, every day”
One of my goals is “Stay Married”.
“Huh? That’s a goal?”
“You bet. I’ve been married to the same women for 50 years.At the beginning, for many years I was a salesman on the road. When I met my wife, she was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer in my town. She was beautiful, charismatic, headstrong and tough as nails…she was my match, and I knew she was the girl for me. We fell in love, married and had children, but my job at the time was as an on-the-road salesman. In my day the husband worked and the wife ran the home — I travelled all across Canada for Petrofina helping setup gas stations and then for Procor and Gamble.
Spending that much time away from home as a salesman coud have been hard on a marriage, she was left raising the kids, I was totally not there. My headstrong wife could easily have left me or I could have drifted into other relationships on the road.
But, I made a decision early on to never let that happen. It would go against my moral and spiritual values. It would have caused pain and grief to myself, my wife, my family. So “Stay Married” has always been a key goal.
To achieve that, I did a few simple things, — I called my wife every night wherever I was to discuss the day, and that wasn’t cheap in those days. I came home everyweekend and my rule was — for those 2 days, I’d do anything my wife wanted to do. See a show? Go to a restaurant? Anything, I was hers for those two days. She wanted to have her hair done twice a week to chat with the local ladies, I made sure that that always was available to her. She likes to play piano, I made sure she’d have a good piano. She loves listening to opera - that always made gift giving simple - opera tickets, records and CDs.
She knows I always have her back, and because of that goal, I have a happy marriage, both of us are happy, we’ve raised kids, shared everything about ourselves, our lives together..
So what are your 5 main goals?
I thought about it that week and the next, and the next, and realized that Health had to be #1 otherwise nothing else was possible. I’d watched my mother fight with Type 1 diabetes all her life and knew that chronic health problems must be managed or kept away for as long as possible in one’s life.
The other goals changed from time to time, from life situation to life situation, sometimes business was a priority, especially as the number of employees increased and I felt responsible towards their families, sometimes it was my own family or friends, sometimes it was specific financial targets.
The goals shifted over time, but I realized their value.
I met another fellow who was an expert in “Clipper Ships” and he mentioned that a CEO was like the captain of a ship who needed to keep that ship aimed towards a port, a mission. Storms, mutinies, scurvy and pirates could push your mission way off course, but as captain your job was to keep that ship pointed at that port no matter which way it strayed.
Goals are a lot like that, write down 5, look at them every day, and let your experience, your intuition and your mind question every day — what could I do to get closer to that goal?
I’ve heard of SMART goals where you measure them, assure they’re achievable, etc… but honestlly it’s too much work for me. I don’t personally need to track my goals, I just need to know where to aim the boat.
Objectives is a term that is sort of like a “waypoint” towards a goal, something you’d like to see happen that indicates you’re going in the right direction. For example it might be to achieve a sale, or make a painting or practice piano for an hour… those are all useful in identifying “wants”, but goals are a little different, they are longer term, they are more general.
“Vibrant Health” is a goal. Eating healthy food this week is an objective.
When you plan your days and weeks after looking at your 5 goals, you’ll find that knowing what your focus is makes the objectives easier to find, easier to achieve, and you can be confident knowing that your objectives are helping your goal.
JC eventually taught me a method for thinking that builds on this, which I’ll soon share.