Setting Goals Like the Wealthy



You may never be as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, but setting goals like the wealthy is just as important for you as it is for them!


Importance of setting goals


I’m sure you’ve already heard people preach on the importance of setting goals. ‘Make your goals specific, easily visualized, and attainable,’ they often say. That’s important advice for people to hear. But it’s not really enough to be helpful.

As Mr. CBB recently posted , planning ahead is a critical part of financial success. But it is just as critical to plan ahead when setting your career goals!


Planning ahead


When I was growing up, my parents constantly told me to plan. The problem is that when I tried to do that, things usually didn’t work out anywhere near the way I expected them to. It didn’t take long to figure out that my efforts to ‘plan ahead’ were useless. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to waste my time on useless endeavors!

I can hear you thinking, That’s an odd story to tell when you just said that planning ahead is critical to success! And you’re right. But I think that the notion of “planning ahead” should be explained a bit better.

Life is too unpredictable to plan the way things will go; there are countless factors that contribute to any complex system. Look at the stock market for an example of this.

Tens of thousands of very intelligent people have spent many, many years trying to understand and predict the stock market. And while some people have had runs of success over the course of a few months, or even a couple of years, their efforts inevitably fail. The market is too complex, and subject to too many factors, to predict accurately over a long-span of time.

If you try to plan anything this way—that is, by trying to understand a system and predict its next turn—you will fail. Don’t believe me? Try this experiment: predict your next conversation with a good friend, a sibling, a long-time co-worker, or a spouse.

Pick someone you know very, very well. Write down how you anticipate the conversation will go. Then start that conversation with the opener you had planned (for example, “Did you hear that we’re supposed to get a foot of snow tomorrow?”) and see how accurate your predicted exchange was.

Feel free to try this several different times, with the same person, and see if the conversation goes the same way each time. Feel free to try this with several different people, as well, to see if you’re better at predicting someone else’s conversation.

I think the outcome is obvious: your predictions may hold up for a couple of exchanges, at best. My point here is that you will never be able to predict the future, at least not for anything interesting, like a conversation—or your life. This makes it hard to plan ahead, right?


What ‘planning ahead’ really means


So I’ll offer a more practical approach: Don’t try to plan what’s going to happen. Instead, anticipate failure.

Before you begin a new undertaking, like starting a business (or expanding an existing one), take a moment to evaluate what problems you’re likely to encounter. For example: suppose you’re starting a website to deliver some sort of service.

What happens if your computer dies, or your hard drive crashes and you lose all your data? Or what if your server goes down? Catastrophe can be avoided if you put backup plans in place before you launch your website!

There are other potential issues, too, such as how you plan to get traffic to your website, or how much you’ll charge for your service. Actively look for things that can go wrong, because you can bet that at some point, they will. And when that happens, you’ll be glad that you already have a contingency plan!

While life is far too complex to predict, you do have the power to be ready for adversity. Adversity hits everyone; the difference between success and failure lies in preparation.

One of the critical traits of the wealthy is that they prepare for the unexpected. The habit of anticipating problems enables successful entrepreneurs to deal with obstacles as they arise, or to avoid them altogether!

To use a familiar example from personal finance: if you put all your money into real estate in 2006, you probably weren’t too happy in 2008!

This is exactly why any decent financial advisor preaches diversification, and why successful moguls like Donald Trump and Mark Cuban are always trying to get into different industries. If the wealthy are constantly anticipating problems, it’s probably a good idea for you, too!


Anticipating failure in an interview


If you’re on a career search, failure is the last thing you want to think about. But think you need to think about it anyway! Careers at the most employee-friendly companies are typically hard to come by.

Google, for example, is well-known for creating a relaxed, creative working environment for its employees. Because of that reputation, competition for jobs there is pretty fierce. It is a mathematical reality that most people who apply to work for Google, however capable, will not be hired.

Whether or not you’re a software engineer, the same is probably true in your field: the best job openings are highly competitive. While I will never dissuade somebody from setting lofty goals, it’s wise to keep an eye on some less competitive positions, so that your options consist of more than just “top-tier job” and “unemployed.” No matter how good you are, there remains a distinct possibility that you will not achieve your goal on the first try.

Most people, even entrepreneurs and athletes who are famous for being successful, fail on their first try. Sometimes, they fail again and again until they get it right (as in Michael Jordan’s well-known quote:

I’ve missed over 9000 shots in my career…I’ve failed over and over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed).

After a failure, the successful don’t abandon their goals: they learn how to improve. Never forget that failure isn’t final.

If you’re convinced that you’re one of the best in your field, and you have a portfolio to prove it, then by all means, go for the top-tier job!

You know you’ll have to bring your A-game just to get an interview, so take on that challenge with gusto! Expect the hiring manager to look for errors in your résumé, or a lack of accomplishments or creativity. Put in the extra effort to wow them!

If you’ve gotten an interview, the same deal goes: it’s your duty to put in the extra effort to impress your interviewer! Research the company’s past: how did they become an industry leader? What challenges did they overcome, and how did they succeed at overcoming those challenges?

Don’t just concentrate on the past, though. It’s more relevant to your interview to know what company leaders are planning to do in the future—and how you can help them get there!

It will take some research to find this out, and if the company website is unclear on this and the leaders are shy about conducting interviews, you may have to ask people who already work for the company. (A good target to contact would be a public relations specialist.)

Get up extra early on the day of the interview, so you can spend extra time to dress nicely, shower and groom yourself—it’ll help you look and feel your best. Everything you do on the day of the interview should build your confidence!

The typical reaction is to try to squeeze in a little extra preparation before the interview, but don’t fall into that trap. If you haven’t prepared as well as possible up to this point, you probably won’t get the job.

You’ll be anxious about the interview anyway, there’s no sense in putting extra pressure on yourself. Just relax to the best of your ability: enjoy your favorite breakfast, listen to an upbeat song, and do things you generally enjoy.

Make your morning as pleasant as you possibly can, because people—including interviewers—tend to gravitate toward those who are relaxed and confident.

It’s also wise to know precisely where you’re going ahead of time. Another good tip to keep your stress level low before the interview is to leave 20 minutes earlier than you think you need to—again, anticipating problems and building in time for unexpected delays.

Especially if you’re interviewing with a company that has a big campus with multiple buildings, it’s just a good idea to expect that your trip will take longer than you think.

By doing everything you can to minimize your stress on the day of the interview, you’ll be putting yourself in position to succeed—that’s the benefit of anticipating failure!


Career goals


Earlier, I claimed that planning ahead is critical to vocational success. Now that I’ve defined specifically what planning ahead entails, let’s examine how to set career goals like the wealthy!

Successful people generally understand that the keys to success are passion and persistence. This knowledge should guide you when you’re looking for a career—and the earlier you start that, the better!

With this in mind, it simply makes sense to build a skill set that will help you establish a career that you will be passionate about. If you’re passionate about what you do for a living, that should make you more likely to be persistent at achieving success in that field. And who doesn’t want to be successful?!

If you’re not sure what your career path should be, and you haven’t yet gotten professional training (for example, if you’re still in high school), or if you’re in college but have yet to declare a major, then this is probably a pretty important issue for you.

I’d advise you to ask yourself: “What do I enjoy more than anything else?” If you love cars, and you spend more time thinking about cars more than anything else, then you may have a career as a mechanic, or automotive engineer or designer. If fashion is your favorite thing, maybe your future lies in design, marketing, or fashion journalism.

I argue that you’re better off combining things you love, because if you love your work, it won’t feel like work! You’ll be more likely to learn everything you can about the field, and the combination of your knowledge, enthusiasm, and effort will lead to greater achievement (as compared to spending 40 hours a week at a job you don’t like). Why waste your life doing something you can’t stand, while making someone else rich?

People like Bill Gates, Queen Latifah, Mark Cuban, and Michael Jordan didn’t get to their heights of wealth and fame by doing something they hated. If you want to add your name to that list, you can do it by setting goals like the wealthy!

How do you prepare for the unexpected?

Post Contribution: The Froogal Stoodent is a blog geared especially toward students and young people in their teens and twenties, who want useful and practical advice on how to save money and succeed in life! Find out more about what the wealthy understand  at The Froogal Stoodent: What Billionaires Know


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  1. Thanks for your comments, everyone! I’m glad people liked this post 🙂

    Setting smart goals, as a couple commenters mentioned, is an important part of achievement. But that’s not the whole story, as I tried to point out here. I also agree with Jayson, that dedication and commitment are crucial to success as well! I made a post relaying some research about how “grit” underlies success, which you can see on my homepage.

  2. I always try to plan ahead when it comes to anything. Whether it be grocery shopping, my workout plans, anything, the best way to prepare is to plan ahead.

  3. This post reminds me of a saying my dad used to say “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” I am a big fan of using SMART goals to prepare my personal and work related goals as it requires a real through analysis of your goal to answer all of the questions required.

    Mr. Captain Cash

  4. For me, smart goals are really effective. Making it every detail specific is more doable, when combined, it goes towards the main goal. I believe dedication and commitment are really important and what wealthy people value, so we might as well do so.

  5. A very good article!! Around here hubby tends to just jump into something with both feet. Not always successfully. I tend to stay back and think things over to figure out what to do when he gets into trouble. Past experience says he will get into trouble at some point. So I need to figure out how to get him out of whatever problem he has ahead of time. He doesn’t listen very well until he has to. So I stay back watching and thinking ahead, keeping the truck keys and/or the phone handy to get him to Emergency when needed.

  6. Planning for failure is the best way to create a safety net.

    Before starting a new venture, do take a moment (or a lot of moments) to figure out if it’s the right move and how to deal with the road blocks you’re bound to come across.

    Nice guest post!

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