Something about setting goals

After watching Jobs, the movie about Steve Jobs, I was left inspired. Despite all the negative criticism, there was still something to get out of it. Documentaries about civil right activists or people who made it against all odds also give me the same kind of feeling. So right after watching, I re-evaluate my own life and start setting goals. I want to make a difference, I want to be successful, I want to inspire the world. With all the excitement, I write down these resolutions. No doubt in mind, I will reach them all. The days go by, the excitement tones down, and I stumble upon this notebook where my life changing goals were jotted down. I realize that there is no way I can accomplish all this. I have simply created another to-do list that I will never get to.

The thing about setting up your alarm to 4am is that you will wake up at 6am and not even remember that you woke up earlier and turned it off.

I am not suggesting that we shouldn't set very high goals. Great things have come out this. But the defeated feeling you get from not accomplishing it can have a toll on you. I get a little depressed when I read stories like the one of Nick D'Aloisio, the 17 year old who sold his company to yahoo for $30 million. I look back at my life and see that I am way past 17 and I have nothing of the like to brag about. But I try not to spend too much time thinking about it because negative motivation is very poor at driving creative work.

Nick D'Aloisio Summly

Nick D'Aloisio maker of Summly App.

There was a statement that was going around a lot in the early days of stackoverflow. A lot of people believed that it was a fad and will disappear in no time:

StackOverflow sucks! I can build a better one over the weekend.

And the weekend came, and people went on to build clones, and lots of them they did. If you search for them today you will notice they have disappeared; most if not all. I am sure through the excitement of starting new project people jumped right into coding. Along the way they realized it is not such a small task. There are lots of little details they overlooked. Stackoverflow seems like it does just two things: let you post questions and help you find answers. But this is also the same thing that most forum softwares did. The difference is that stackoverflow not only did those two things very well, it also created a community of people that are nothing less than adamant about helping their fellow programmers. Now creating such an organism over the weekend is what I will call an unrealistic goal.


Eat your own dog food.

When you have an idea for a website, don't worry about whether people will visit it or not. Build it for yourself and use it. There is nothing like eating your own dog food. You will get to see if it sucks or not as a user not the owner. If you want to start a blog, you may have a goal of writing one post a day. This can be very difficult for a few reasons. First, try to ask yourself how important blogging is to you, why do you want to do it? Because you will need a lot of motivation to keep going. Second is the technology that powers it. If you are planing on rolling out your own blogging system or customizing an existing one, this can make you give up blogging all together. You will find your self fighting the technology instead of writing. But If you are still motivated, don't kill yourself the platform. Your goal is to write. Install wordpress and get started. Once you have a few posts you can start worrying about what's the best platform for blogging or roll your own. At least if you get bored with the coding part you can still keep writing.

When you are setting goals, don't forget to take into consideration the little details. These are the things that will stop you. Creating a social network is exciting. But worrying about character encoding, not so much. There was once this website called July 2015: Wikipedia deleted the article), you probably heard of it. They decided to take on facebook and Google plus. Needless to say that the site doesn't exist anymore. Their slogan was that unlike facebook your data is private: it's FU Time!

Perfect example of unrealistic goal setting

The tone of their message was very negative. I'm sure they were very good at deleting your data when you request it, but they didn't plan for receiving 100,000 sign-ups on their first day. The experience was confusing, it was almost impossible to navigate through the website. At some point the log in system wasn't even working, and because I am a developer I checked the browser error log only to find out some very basic syntax errors that where preventing the code for running. I gave up on it and eventually I heard the website has been shutdown. Again I repeat, "negative motivation is very poor at driving creative work".

So when you are excited about something try to start small. There is no rush. Use other people success story as an inspiration, they have a different life with different circumstances. We can't all succeed the same way. Don't beat yourself up over age. Getting into the game at 35 or 50 is still getting into the game. Let's end this with a positive note:

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

Kurt Vonnegut .Letters of note.


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