With a Clear Goal, Move Forward

May, 1976.

I had just finished what I thought was my junior year at Stanislaus State College. But when I put a pencil to things, I discovered I was not 12 months away from graduation, but closer to two years. My two years of being heavily involved in student government had me paying a price once I had served my two terms in office.

A year later, I was a very proud yet exhausted owner of a college degree in Political Science, every credit legitimately earned.

When I watch a football game and the team behind comes out on top after a flurry of activity in the final minutes I wonder why the team didn’t play like that for sixty minutes.

Then I remember how I felt that sunny May morning when I walked across that stage and was handed my diploma. Teams have those furious explosions of scoring and superhuman play only when they decide to go all out for victory.

I didn’t work hard those 12 months for pleasure; I did it because I wanted something. I wanted those four years to end on a high note, having achieved something that at that time, only about 15% of adult Americans had: a four year college degree.

Brian Tracy is a favorite author of mine. In his video, “Success is a Journey” he talks about a trip he planned and took as a young man. This journey changed his life, and many others he has since influenced. At the end of his talk, he recaps seven key lessons learned.

Two of the lessons applied directly to me. The first was always forward; never backward. The second was that a goal you set should never change it, but you need to be flexible how to you go about achieving it.

After 3 years of a hand to mouth financial existence and a life of nothing but class, studying, working and sleeping, and feeling guilty about not studying when doing something else, I was tired of school.

I want to make clear it that it wasn’t living in rural Turlock (in the Central Valley) or attending “Turkey Tech” (the not so flattering nickname of Stanislaus State) that caused me to become tired or discouraged.

I had been going non stop to school since I was six and had been working part-time jobs and going to school since I was a high school freshman. Others I knew didn’t have to work and had taken trips to Hawaii or Europe. While they were having fun, I was in class, doing homework, studying, or working.

I was ready to try something new, like making money. But I wanted that degree; I wasn’t about to quit, or delay earning it. I had already sunk three years and every dollar I’d earned into the adventure.

When I assessed how I was going to reach my goal, I realized I had two choices. One way was to quit taking day classes; get a full time job and take night classes. The second choice was to stick what I had been doing for twelve more months; get the degree and then put the diploma on the wall.

My choice was similar to removing a band-aid slowly versus ripping it off quickly. I opted to stick with what I was doing and get it over with quickly.

The challenge was earning almost two years worth of units in a year. I worked creatively to secure the necessary classes. I transferred units from a junior college; went to summer school at outrageously high tuition rates; completed 17 units each semester and took a class during the month long winter term.

I did all this while working 20 hours every weekend for rent, tuition, books and gas and I also fit in a 20 hour a week internship at the Ceres, California City Hall.

I’ll be the first to admit my grades weren’t the best; you didn’t find me on the Dean’s List. But I learned the material and passed my tests, did well on the papers, and had good relations with my professors.

What happened was with the goal clearly in sight and a realistic and achievable plan I became intently focused, quickly regaining my energy and my drive. I learned that a person with goals who takes action might become discouraged but can’t be stopped.

I’ll close by asking if your business has clear goals for this year; if you have a realistic plan to achieve those goals; and if everyone in your company knows what they need to do to help your company succeed. If you cannot answer those questions affirmatively, it is not too late to take care of these key elements in order to have a very good 2014.