Goal-Free Quotes

October 25, 2006

A number of years ago, in an attempt to get more students to join their humanities program, Indiana University ran an advertising campaign with some great (goal-free type) slogans like:

“Do What You Want When You Graduate or Wait Twenty Years for Your Mid-Life Crisis”

“Insurance for When the Robots Take Over All The Boring Jobs”

“Okay Then, Follow Your Dreams in Your Next Life”

And my favorite – “Yeah, Like Your Parents are So Happy”

Source: “Skeptical Inquirer” magazine, November/December 2006

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Podcast with Michael Pollock

October 24, 2006

I was recently interviewed for a podcast (after some opening comments) on Michael Pollock’s website. He specializes in helping small business owners use blogs and other new media tools to grow their business. I got some great tips from his site. Be sure to check out the podcast, and then peruse his blog.

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My Top Tech Tips

October 23, 2006

In running my business, I use a number of cool technologies — technologies to play audio and video on my websites, for blogging, for desktop productivity, and more. Today’s blog entry is a list of my favorites — many of which are free. Please leave comments with your favorite technologies (no spam, thank you). You can download this list as a pdf by clicking here.

WEB – This blog uses all three
1. Goal-Free Living Free WordPress.com blogging or WordPress.org for download (I use the download version)
2. Goal-Free Living Value Aweber for autoresponder, newsletters, webforms and more ($20/month or less and very powerful)
3. Goal-Free Living Value 1and1 for hosting – relatively cheap and reliable. Inexpensive domain registration. Free newsletter and website builder software, plus much more

4. Goal-Free Living FreeWindows Media Encoder – Converts various video formats to WMV format. Free from Microsoft.com
5. Goal-Free Living FreeRIVA FLV Encoder – Software that converts video (except WMV) to FLV (flash)
6. Goal-Free Living FreeWeb Audio Plus – converts MP3 and WAV files to flash audio with buttons for website. Free from CNET.com. This was used to create the audio message above.
7. Goal-Free Living FreeFlowplayer – Software for playing flash videos on your website
8. Goal-Free Living FreeAudacity – Audio editing software
9. Goal-Free Living FreeWindows Movie Maker – Simple video editing that comes with Windows XP
10. Goal-Free Living Value Total Recorder – Records streaming audio, microphone input, line-in input, as well as CDs and DVDs. Extremely useful! (highcriteria.com)
11. Goal-Free Living Value Yasa Video Converter – Converts videos to any format. Useful if converting unprotected DVDs (VOB) to editable video.
12. Goal-Free Living Value DBPowerAMP Music Converter – useful for converting from one audio format to another (e.g., from WAV to MP3) — $14 from DBpoweramp.com
13. Dazzle analog to digital video converter – allows easy transfer of VHS to computer for editing or DVD creation
14. Xilisoft DVD ripper – converts copyright protected DVDs to MPEG files – xilisoft.com ($35)
15. Radio Shack Phone Recorder Controller (Model: 17-855) allows you to record phone conversations on your computer or on any recording device. $27

16. Goal-Free Living Value PRLeads.com – inexpensive PR opportunities from journalists who want to interview experts
17. Goal-Free Living Value PRWeb – cheap and free press release posting which landed hundreds of newspapers hits
18. The National Publicity Summit – Landed the Oprah article here (nationalpublicitysummit.com)
19. Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing – pay per click web advertising

20. Goal-Free Living FreeSharpReader – Free RSS software for aggregating feeds from blogs and news (sharpreader.net)
21. Goal-Free Living FreeSkype – speak to friends around the world for free
22. Goal-Free Living FreeDownload Accelerator Plus – useful for quickly downloading lots of files from websites – free from speedbit.com
23. Goal-Free Living FreeLookOut email search engine for Outlook (free from http://tinyurl.com/46shl).
24. Goal-Free Living FreeGoogle Desktop – Free desktop searching engine
25. Goal-Free Living FreeTrillian – Instant Messenger integrator that is free
26. Goal-Free Living Freepdf995.com for free software to convert any document into a pdf file
27. Datadepositbox.com – remote back-up of data. Recently saved me when my hard drive crashed
28. instantpublisher.com for easy book publishing directly from Word documents

29. BlackBerry Pearl (8100) from T-Mobile (just got it and LOVE it)

30. istockphoto.com for inexpensive images
31. Goal-Free Living Freespeakeasy.net/speedtest for testing your download speeds

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Goal-Free Athletes

October 17, 2006

Sunday evening I had more fun than I have had in a long time. Let me explain.

A while back I stumbled across a wonderful company that does gift bags for VIP events like the Oscars. Goal-Free Living has been included in several gift bags over the past year. The most recent gift bag was for Billie Jean King’s Women’s Sports Foundation. One hundred female athletes and other VIPs were invited to a black tie event held last night (Monday) at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City. On Sunday evening, an informal “swag room” was put together – a room where the dozen gift bag contributors could show there goodies and meet the athletes. The other tables had handmade jewelry, cool t-shirts, and high-end cosmetics. And they were giving away their goodies. I was there with my books. At first, I was concerned that no one would visit my table.

Here was my set-up.

Goal-Free Living Table

As you can see, in the back, I had a pink teddy bear wearing a pink “Goals Suck” T-shirt. This was my sister’s idea. A pink teddy bear? Ok, I’m man enough to do that. But I wasn’t sure how the athletes would respond to such a T-shirt; I assumed that most had goals to get to the Olympics, to win the LPGA tournament, or to be victorious at Wimbledon. I even joked with my dad that the hockey team would surely dislike the Goals Suck mantra.

At 8PM, the athletes started to flow in. The first ones to visit me? The US Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. And the first one to sign the bear? The goalie! She was thrilled when I gave her a Goals Suck T-Shirt. Here are some hockey players signing the teddy bear.

Goal-Free Goalie

As the night progressed, I met so many amazing people like:

- “Grandma Luge,” Anne Abernathy, who is in the Guinness World Book of Records as the oldest woman ever to compete in the Winter Olympics Games (she’s over 50) and is the first woman to participate in 6 Winter Games.

- Jean Discroll, the only person to win the Boston Marathon 8 times…in a wheelchair…and she still holds the course record.

- Mary Ellen Clark, who won two Olympic bronze medals diving.

And SO many more from every imaginable sport. I was inspired. I was in awe. And in the end, I had a teddy bear with 50 signatures from some of the most amazing people I ever met.

Goals Suck Bear

I was truly goal-free when I went. I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I was a bit hesitant. How could a book on not having goals compete with free jewelry and cosmetics? In the end, I found that people were intrigued by the goal-free concept. And that MANY of these top athletes said that there success came in unexpected ways. For me, it was an incredible night where I met many incredible people.

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Goal-Free Golfing

October 13, 2006

I recently went golfing with my dad. I’m not the greatest of golfers, but I always have a wonderful time with him. He ALWAYS wins (easily), even when he handicaps me one stroke a hole.

Golfing is a great metaphor for Goal-Free Living. Although you want to align your feet and body with the destination (the pin), once set, you must focus on the present (the ball). If you lift your head while swinging to look at where the ball is going, you are certain to miss the mark.

Golf is a great test of one’s ability to stay present. As a rookie I tend to over think my swing. I have this annoying monologue going on in my head every time I approach the ball. It goes something like this: “Are my legs planted properly? My knees are a bit achy from walking all day. I wish we took a cart instead of walking. Are my arms extended just right? I think my left arm is not straight enough. Tighten it up. Ok, now relax the right arm. No, that’s too relaxed. Come on Steve, pay attention. Look at the pin. Yup. I’ve got a long way to go. Oh shoot, there is a huge water hazard on the left. Please don’t go in the water. Ok, now look at the ball. Is the club head straight? I think so. A minor adjustment can’t hurt. Please keep your eye on the ball. You always lift your head. Ok, I think I’m ready. Please don’t go in the water!” Of course, the ball always goes in the water.

These conversations flow through my head every swing. That’s nearly 100 long, annoying conversations over the course of 18 holes.

The last time I was golfing with my dad, I decided to avoid trying so hard. I silenced the conversation. When I got to the tee, I would simply align my body (my compass), and then I would then close my eyes and totally relax for about 5 seconds. I did not worry about my swing. I just took a deep breath. Then, I would then open my eyes and swing, without thinking about what I was doing. That day, without a doubt, was my best round of golf. My swing was effortless. My balls went straight. And my distance was incredible. Tiger Woods would be jealous. And if you are wondering, no, I still did not beat my dad. Lost by one stroke.

I decided to try the same approach at a recent competition. I was speaking at a convention with about 1,000 people. On the convention floor was a very complicated miniature golf hole. Everyone was given a chance to putt. If you got a hole in one, you were entered into a raffle to win a trip. By the time it was my turn, several hundred people had already tried…and failed. I decided to use some goal-free golf. Instead of trying and thinking, I just relaxed and swung. You guessed it. I got a hole in one. The first one of the day. By the end of the event, only 3 people got a hole in one. And if you are wondering, no, I did not win the trip.

When you try too hard, you create stress. Imagine the last time you were driving down the highway in the middle of winter. The road seems clear. You are relaxed. Then, without warning, you hit a patch of ice. You immediately tense up to try and control the car. You grab the steering wheel with both hands, white knuckled. Unfortunately, in doing this, you inadvertently become a worse driver. Your muscles tighten up. If your car crashes, this rigidity is more likely to cause your body harm as you are not resilient.

When you find yourself trying too hard at any endeavor, relax. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes if necessary (unless you are driving, of course). And stop over analyzing everything. Although it is not always easy, the more you can be present and in the flow, the better your performance, whether it is at work, on the golf course, or in times of crisis.

You can find related articles on sports, school exams, falling down, and dating.

Do you have a story of a situation when you were more “successful” with less effort? A time when you were truly present without overthinking? If so, please share your story as a comment.

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How to Develop a Compass-Driven Strategic Plan

October 4, 2006

Last week I gave a presentation on “goal-free” Strategic Planning to a group of professional speakers, all of whom are sole practitioners. Over the course of 90 minutes, I discussed many concepts, including the one I write about here: Compass-Driven Strategic Planning.

Fundamental Business Activities

All businesses, no matter what size or industry, have four fundamental sets of activities (also known as “processes” or “capabilities”):
- Develop Products and Services: Research & development, intellectual property creation, product design and development, etc
- Generate Demand: Marketing, sales, customer acquisition, customer service, etc
- Fulfill Demand: Manufacturing, distribution, inventory management, service delivery, etc
- Plan and Manage the Business: Strategy, finance, technology, etc

As a starting point for your business, generate a list of all activities that fall within these four fundamental processes. Click here to view a sample one page list for a professional speaker.

In order to create a sustainable business, proficiency in all four areas is necessary. Sole practitioners tend to focus their attention on only one or two of these processes, exposing their company to great risk. Here are some of the most common pitfalls:

- Excessive focus on the delivery of product or services (fulfilling demand) leaving limited time to create and maintain a pipeline of work (generate demand).
- Mismanagement and neglect of finances due to a lack of immediate priority.
- Reliance on one product or service with insufficient time for the development of new products. One sure way to end up out of business is to rely on one product indefinitely.

Why are sole practitioners so susceptible to these pitfalls? As with most companies, but more notably with small organizations, resources are at a premium; time being one of the most precious commodities. The challenge is that there is never enough time to directly manage every piece of the business. One solution is to focus on differentiators and outsource the rest. However, the real solution, especially for a small business, is a bit more complex.


In the Goal-Free Living secret, “Use a Compass, Not a Map,” I discuss the concept of finding your compass: This is the intersecting point between passion (what you love to do), skills (what you are good at), and value (what creates value – for you and others). These three attributes should drive your planning strategies.

We will start with the two dimensions that are more personal in nature, passion and skills, then overlay the value dimension later.

Create a 2 x 2 matrix. One axis is passion—from high to low. High passion implies this is an activity you love to do; low passion is something you would rather not do. The other axis is skills—from high to low. High skills are the activities where you have the necessary skills; low skills are those where you do not.
Now, that you have this 2 x 2, plot your previously listed fundamental activities onto the matrix.

Then, let’s look at the resultant quadrants.

Targeting Matrix

Low passion/low skill: Outsource: If you don’t like doing something and you don’t do it well, then the best solution is to “outsource” this work. Find someone else who enjoys this task and has the skill set to execute it at a higher degree. This can be done through bartering, hiring employees, using contractors (I use elance.com), summonsing friends and family, revenue sharing, or any other creative collaborative strategy. In short, get someone else to do these low passion, low skill activities.

Low passion/high skills: Minimize. If you don’t want your job to become work, you probably want to outsource these capabilities as well. However, if you are starting out and finances are an issue, you may want to continue doing these activities for now. To keep yourself motivated, try to find a way of getting yourself excited about these activities. One way may be to turn them into a game. In general, you want to “minimize” the amount of time you spend on these tasks.

Low skills/high passion: Learn. If you love doing these activities, then you may wish to acquire the necessary skills. This can be done through a variety of means including training, mentoring, or researching. If you anticipate a steep learning curve, you may wish to find a partner during the learning process who possesses these talents. This will help to ensure that your business keeps moving forward while you gain the necessary skills.

High skills/high passion: Target: This is the sweet spot of your business. “Target” these areas. If you love the work, are good at it, AND it adds value to your market, put most of your energies here. If this is your core business, then you have chosen wisely. If not, maybe it is time to re-evaluate the business you are in.

These last two quadrants should reflect your business priorities, with an emphasis on the high skills/high passion work. By combining passion with skills, you are likely to be more effective, efficient, and satisfied in your work.


Once we are clear where our skills and passion lie, to ensure success, we must now overlay one additional dimension: value.

The final test is to validate your priorities against the “value” equation. Just because you love to do something, does not mean it is vital to your business. Conversely, some less than desirable activities may be critical to your business success.

Although there are many dimensions of value (e.g., value you create for customers, revenue you generate for your business, etc), for our purposes here, we will focus on “strategic” importance. Strategic activities are those that define the organization’s special nature, differentiate them from the competition and are fundamental to the direction of the business. We will define activities that are not strategic as being “tactical.” Tactical activities support the business, but are not THE business.

Unfortunately, determining whether an activity is strategic or tactical is not necessarily black or white as there is a range of “strategicness”. For example, if you are Apple Computers, financial work would most likely be tactical. It adds value, but it is not strategic. Although Apple’s ability to manufacture high quality iPods is of great importance, their ability to design innovative products is most important. Therefore, design is clearly strategic and manufacturing falls somewhere in between the two ends of the spectrum.

If we add in “value” to our matrix and plot our tactical activities, we end up with some new strategies that look something like this:

tactical matrix

high passion/high skill: Extend. If you are passionate and skilled in a particular area and it is not currently strategic, consider how you might “extend” that capability. Ask yourself, “How can I make this a strategic part of my business? How can I create extraordinary value for customers by leveraging this expertise?” Perhaps one way is to offer this service to others who are in a similar business. For example, professional speaking is my core business. However something that I am both skilled and passionate about is securing business with large corporations. Therefore, I could potentially offer this as a service to other professional speakers as a source of additional revenue.

high passion/low skill: Apprentice. If you are passionate, but not skilled in a tactical area, these activities will become a distraction to the business if you invest too much energy in learning. One alternative is to use the apprentice model, whereby you hire someone to perform this activity, while you learn from them. In the future, you may choose to do this activity yourself.

If we add in “value” to our matrix and plot our strategic activities, we end up with some new strategies that look something like this:

strategic targeting matrix

For strategic activities with low passion: Rethink or Partner. If you find that the predominance of your strategic activities involves work that is not of interest to you, you may need to “rethink” the business you are in – especially if you lack the necessary skills. Although it is difficult to be successful in business where you are neither skilled nor passionate, this does not mean you are fated for failure. Maybe you hate sales, yet the sales function is critical to the success of your business. In this case you may wish to “partner” with someone who enjoys this work and excels in this area. In this sense, we are moving beyond the traditional outsourcing model where activities are transactional in nature, such as: hiring someone to build your website, do your taxes, or create marketing materials. Here, the partnerships are more extensive and deeper in that your collaborator becomes part of your business. Their role is strategic. Bottom line: build a strong relationship with a compatible business partner, and your business – and your partner’s business – will thrive.

[NOTE: I discuss targeting and levels of value in depth in Chapter 7 of my book, 24/7 Innovation.]


By focusing your energies on those areas that matter most, you create a greater opportunity for success. When you leverage your personal skills and interests, you not only become more productive, motivated, and creative, your work becomes less stressful. This, in turn, will give you more energy and perhaps boost your desire to “work” longer hours. When you are focused on what you love, work is miraculously transformed into fun. By surrounding yourself with capable people who are committed to your success, you end up with a repertoire of skills and talents to compliment your own. In doing this, you create a more flexible business with the ability to respond quicker to changing market conditions and evolving personal needs. This means that you need fewer plans and can operate from a more “experiential” perspective. You become more successful with less effort. Isn’t this what everyone wants? This is Goal-Free Living.

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