Today’s goals don’t matter

It’s not achieving today’s goals that feeds my motivation, it’s the opportunity that reaching them unlocks for the future.

This idea is straight out of gameplay seen in any level-based video game. You have a set of quests you need to complete in order to unlock additional content and rewards, which in turn present you with another set of goals. A successful video game will never break from this pattern; locking you into a never-ending gameplay loop.

I’ve always known that I’m the type of person who is never satisfied with simply achieving today’s goals. That my motivation comes from achieving a goal to unlock the next one.

For what it’s worth, I’m an Enneagram Type 3 (Competitive Achiever), and one of my gifts certainly squares with this behavior pattern: “Results-Oriented: Setting goals and applying themselves to achieve these are as natural to Threes as breathing. They are focused on the end-result.”

Reach a major revenue milestone for Podia?

Onto the next goal.

Release a market-defining feature?

What’s the next thing we can ship?

Hire a fantastic new employee after months of searching?

What position do we need to fill next?

When I look back at the 20+ I’ve been a tech entrepreneur, this is the cycle I’ve observed about myself and what motivates me.

I’ve noticed this pattern in other successful entrepreneurs, too. When I meet with them for coffee, drinks, dinners, phone calls, Zooms, etc., the conversations always drift to what our future goals are (or our future future goals), rarely spending time on the goals we just achieved.

The key insight from these conversations is that driving toward hitting your present-day goals is only about being able to unlock the goal that comes next. Example: reaching a new revenue milestone means being able to hire more team members, spend more on marketing, or raise another round of financing.

While all I have is anecdotal evidence, it strikes me from the conversations I’ve had with the best founders — with valuations from tens of millions to billions — is that their focus on their immediate goals is is primarily driven by being able to unlock what comes after.

All of this is to say that as an entrepreneur, you should only be focused on today’s goals as a stepping stone to achieving tomorrow’s goals. That’s why the most successful companies prioritize long-term thinking over short-term, because today’s goals don’t matter. Today’s goals are short-term thinking and short-term thinking is the easiest way to kill your successful company.


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