Apple’s slogan, Think Different, was a game-changer for the computer industry when it appeared on television commercials and magazine pages in 1997. Apple set itself apart by making the purchasing decision personal. The Think Different campaign was attractive because it referenced other well-known people such as Einstein, John Lennon and Martin Luther King and it made you feel like you could be part of that club by buying Apples. Plus, it made Apple a luxury symbol. Apple has never come out with a budget laptop, because the brand is based on the notion that Apple users can afford to buy the highest-end products.
But it’s hard to “think different” when you’re doing the same things every day, which is a challenge that many people who own their own business face. Shake yourself up by teaching yourself how to think different. Some people do this by hiring a coach or consultant, and this can certainly be effective.
You may consider bringing your staff together for an open-minded meeting. The people who do the same jobs everyday will most definitely have ideas for how they could get things done in a different way.
You may find yourself saying to yourself or your staff things like, “Let’s just do it that way because we know it works.” This is the same as saying, “I don’t like where this path is leading me but I’m going to stay on this path just because I’m already on it.” If you were making any other decision–actually literally on a hiking path, in line for a food cart pod and you changed your mind about what you wanted, or buying shoes–would you stick with the decision you already made simply because you had already made one? No, most people would not! So give yourself the same freedom in your business. Learn how to do things differently, or at least, how to see that there might be a different way to think or act, and see where that goes.
According to recent research by the University of Scranton, 92% of people who set New Year’s Eve goals never achieve them. What’s the difference between the 92% of people who don’t meet their goals and the 8% who do?
Research by Edwin Locke and his academic partners answered that question back in the 1970s. Their research showed that the most achievable goals were ones that were specific and challenging. But they shouldn’t be so challenging that they can’t realistically be achieved.
Locke’s research showed that specific and challenging goals led to higher rate of achievement than easy goals. “Do your best” goals or no goals also met with failure. Based on their field work, the people who achieved their goals most often received feedback to keep them on track. They were given a reward such as money when they attained their goal, and they accepted their goals.
In other words, in a work setting, they were assigned a goal and they accepted the goal. And then had some input and ownership into how it was going (they got feedback and they wanted the reward).
So how can you put this information into practice? If you want to learn Italian so that you can attend an international conference in Rome next year, don’t just tell yourself that you want to “learn Italian.” Instead, set a specific and achievable goal. Set a goal to purchase a language learning program. Set a goal for yourself to complete a chapter every three days. Then set a goal to join a conversational group six months from now.
Those goals are specific and achievable. And there’s a pretty good reward attached to completing it. When you learn to create manageable goals, and give manageable goals to your employees, you’ve moved yourself from the realm of the 92% who consistently fail to meet their goals to the rare and few who actually do. That’s something to be proud of.
When you’re in business and you don’t know where you are going, the path can be scary. Looking ahead often reveals nothing but a tangled thicket, with brambles at every turn. But when you know where you’re going, the path ahead suddenly starts to look different.
The walls that formerly looked like obstacles shrink. What formerly looked like an impenetrable thicket worthy of Brer Rabbit becomes a warren of passageways and possibilities.
Not knowing what’s next instills a feeling of inadequacy and anxiety. What’s the most effective way to avoid these feelings? Set goals.
List your wants, needs and ideas. Chart a path. Figure out where you are and where you want to be.
Notice how I’ve not said, “Make a plan.” Don’t plans fail? Aren’t plans made to be changed? I’ve heard that somewhere before. That’s why I say set goals instead.
Yes, plans do not always go as planned! But when you set a goal, you decide how to achieve it. You are at Point A and you want to get to Point B. There could be a multitude of paths between Point A and Point B and you could find yourself on any of them at any given time, depending on what decisions you make along the way. There is no right or wrong way to get to Point B. And if you’re focused on a goal of arriving at Point B instead of following a plan, it hardly matters.
If you really want to achieve the goal, you will. Nothing will stand in your way, and if something does stand in your way, you’ll find a new path around it.
Would you rather the laundry be washed but not yet folded, or still piled up in the dirty hamper?
Would you rather have a 10-minute phone call with your best friend because you’re both busy? Or keep waiting for that hour-long phone call that never happens?
Would you rather have a card from your kids that has your name misspelled? Or no card at all?
Would you rather meet a goal, or never meet the goal because you were waiting until it was “perfect”?
Hopefully these examples show you that in many situations, particularly in business, getting something, even if it has room for improvement, is better than waiting until it is perfectly polished. Because it may never be perfect. When we start using new apps and computer software, we know they may be buggy. We use it anyway and happily install the updates when they tell us they’ve fixed a glitch. There’s no reason to choose whether you would rather be perfect or ready.
What matters is that you are working, and your work is evolving. It is fine to set a goal and meet it, with the realization that you have a chance to go back later and improve it. In fact, you probably should go back and improve it. If it’s perfect already, that doesn’t give you any chance to make it better.
Don’t let the goal of perfection be a roadblock to putting your work out there. The beauty of the world today is that you can update whatever it is . . . your website, your product packaging, your email, your hairstyle.
It’s better to try and fail and learn and find moderate success and improve than to have no success at all. As Seth Godin says, “Polish with your peers, your true fans, the market. Because when we polish together, we make better work.”