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It’s all about the damn goals(oh fuck I’m contradicting myself)

As I sit down to review the half year gone by, I realize that I actually work better with goals. I know I’m contradicting myself. But hear me out -

So at the end of last year I wrote a reflection post titled - No Goals, No Resolutions, No Fucking KPIs.
I was just coming off a 11 year corporate career and the relief I was feeling of not having any goals was unparalleled.
In that post I theorized that humans don’t perform well when they chase goals.
Our brain is wired to “live in the moment” and that’s when we feel the most joy.
When I read that post again I feel a sense of cringe as well as a sense of pride at the same time 😅
In the 6 months since that post I’ve done a bunch of things, worked on many projects and observed my workflow closely.
As I sit down to review the half year gone by, I realize that I actually work better with goals.
I know I’m contradicting myself.
But hear me out -

Outcome Goals vs Output Goals

I’m not going to go into each project and discuss how good or bad it was, that’s not very interesting. Rather, I’ll talk about the general lessons I learned in the process of working on those projects.
So right at start of the year I formally announced my ghostwriting service.
And soon realized that writing for other people, on a platform like Twitter can be very lucrative. I made good money, honed my skills as a writer and worked with some amazing people.
I learned 2 things about goals here:
  1. Output goals are essential: To achieve anything in life, you need to strategize, plan and set output goals for yourself - stuff you will get done in a certain period of time.
    1. Example - I will write X tweets and Y threads in Z days.
  1. Outcome goals are a bitch: They depend on factors beyond your control so you have no way of predicting if you will reach them or not. You can only hope and pray that you will make it one day!
    1. But you can use outcome goals to set output goals for yourself.
      Example - I will reach 1000 followers in 30 days. That’s an outcome goal you have no control over. The best you can do is set output goals that you think can make it happen.
      So you can plan to write 60 tweets and 5 threads on a topic in 30 days.
It’s like an experiment, you have a hypothesis about how something can be achieved, you do the work necessary to test the hypothesis, and see if it works or not.
If it works out, good for you, if it doesn’t, you have to be okay with it.
In a world laden with randomness, looking for guaranteed success is setting yourself up for disappointment.
I’ve been a software engineer for more than a decade, so this is hard for me to get my head around.
When I write code, I get a particular result. There is a guarantee that when I write the same code again, I will get the same result again.
Same actions leads to same result.
But in real life there are just so many random variables impacting results that there’s no way of guaranteeing same results.
I found this in my ghostwriting service. Where the same processes worked well for some clients, and not so well on other clients.
Outcome goals in a random world are a recipe for disaster.

The Realization

I saw that output goals are great when I want to get shit done.
This I also realized when serving ghostwriting clients, that if I have a specific target for an output then I get a boost of motivation to achieve it.
This became even more clear when I launched my writing course back in March.
I pre-sold the course, and set a target of 4 weeks to finish it.
People bought it 🤩
And guess what, I was actually able to pull it off in that short time span. I produced and delivered the course within 4 weeks.
Something which I could have never imagined of doing otherwise.
In general, I learned this about myself -
Things that work for me:
  • Output goals.
  • External accountability.
  • Stuff I can control.
Things that don’t work for me (and generate a lot of stress):
  • Outcome goals.
  • follower counts, subscriber counts, revenue targets etc.
  • Stuff that I cannot control 🤷

So am I ditching all outcome goals?

These lessons lead me to the only logical conclusion possible:
I needed more output goals, and fewer outcome goals.
In fact, even if I have outcome goals, there is no point in obsessing over them.
Instead I should form a theory of how I can achieve those goals, and set output goals to test the theory.
And then learn and iterate based on the results that I get.
But wait, why do I even need outcome goals?
After all, it seems like they only spell doom and gloom in my life.
Well, that’s partially true.
Here’s the only good thing about outcome goals - They help you set the direction for the next phase of your life.
They are a great tool to become more intentional about how you spend your day to day life.
How you achieve focus on the work you’re doing right now.
And most of all, how you find meaning in your otherwise chaotic existence.
There has to be a larger purpose to what we’re doing in this moment, otherwise what’s the point of anything, right?
That’s where outcome goals are so useful.
Example - Walking 10,000 steps a day is an output goal that is devoid of any meaning. I do it just for the sake of doing it.
But if I want to lose 10 KGs over the next 3 months, then suddenly there’s a lot more meaning to the 10,000 steps I walk every day.
They are serving a larger purpose.
Right, that makes sense.

The Crazy Challenge

So what outcome goals do I have? and what am I doing to achieve them?
My broader outcome goal is to live a life of freedom and fulfillment.
Practically, and in terms of “entrepreneurship success”, this means that if I’m able to make $2500 a month without feeling like shit, and working 30-40 hours a week that I would be happy.
My expenses are extremely low, and I have savings to last me almost 2 years without revenue at this point.
So I have space and time to take many shots at my goal.
Also, since quitting corporate slavery last year, I have taken multiple shots and managed to keep hitting that goal every month.
Either through service businesses like ghostwriting or product consulting, or through products such as my writing course.
Or through a mix of product and service business such as the mastermind program I launched a couple of weeks back.
But I want to explore more.
I’m in a constant struggle to figure out the right balance between freedom, fulfillment and financial stability.
Every project or task I perform is an input to this complex program in my mind that is trying to find this balance.
So I thought - how can I feed more data to this program quickly? How can I run it many times, find that perfect harmony between what the world needs and what I am willing to offer it happily?
As crazy as it sounds, the more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that I had launch more products and services, try out different business ideas and go through the whole cycle of “Launch>Sell>Build Product> Iterate” many many times to reach the ideal configuration.
So with that in my mind, I took on this crazy challenge of launching 25 products in 25 weeks.
It sounds intense I know.
And it feels intense as well. 3 weeks in and I’m already feeling the heat.
But I know that by the end of the year - when I sit down to write my next year end reflection post, I would have learned many more interesting lessons about myself.
All thanks to this challenge.

Final thoughts

Maybe 6 months ago it made sense for me to have a goalless existence, I was still getting out of the hangover of corporate slavery back then.
Today I feel more strongly towards having 25 output goals and 1 outcome goal. I may contradict myself, and that’s okay.
I care more about being comfortable with my today than being consistent with my yesterday.
Also I think not changing your mind with new information is a good working definition of stupidity. And I don’t want to be stupid.
I don’t know how the 25in25 challenge will end up. I may find a few products that do well that I can double down on.
Or I may find none.
But I am sure that this output goal will take me closer to my outcome goal faster than any other method I know.
Maybe I am naïve, and there are other, smarter ways to get there.
But all my life I have learned the smarter ways by taking action on the naïve ways I knew.
This model has worked alright for me so far, and I’m ready to test it out for 6 more months.
The next 25 weeks are going to be fun!
I’m excited for the ride, wish me luck 😅
Cheers,
Ayush 🙏
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