Fragments around goals, achieving them, luck, ambition, and one way to succeed.
Setting goals is mandatory in almost every corporate box-ticking promotion-packet-building paperwork. They’re straight-forward, and probably achievable if you actually give enough of a shit to work on them. It’s why we end up with Promotion-Driven Development, AKA why Google has 10 chat apps.
Personal goals on the other hand, nobody will force you to set them. You’re welcome to have zero ambition, zero goals, and just float through. You’ll probably be fine. You’re also welcome to have ridiculously high goals, e.g. moonshots and fail miserably at them. Go for it. Failing goals is the norm.
What happens if you succeed though?
Okay, anyone can “workout every day” or “drink more water” if they choose to. It’s not hard, it’s just willpower and habit building.
What about more ambitious goals? Become a millionaire, quit your addiction, temper your emotions. Completing these goals requires a total change to your life, and will result in a definitively better quality of life. Obviously they’re a hell of a lot more achievable if you don’t start 20 steps behind everyone else (see “Even if you were the one, you’re not”).
Some disadvantages won’t be surpassable (no private space / time, no internet, government oppression), but the vast majority will. It’s all about prioritisation.
I’ll skip the details because it’s frankly boring and depressing, but I grew up in a variety of council flats (15+) in impoverished areas of London. Living in temporary flats put the seed in my brain of owning an actual family home. Not renting, not owning a tiny place, owning something significant.
So at age 21, out of uni, surely it was time to achieve those goals right? Well, no, I spent a few years working in tech for roughly minimum wage, saving almost nothing. What a waste of time and potential. Towards the end of this period, I made the borderline idiotic decision to gamble everything on running a startup. This struggled for 9 months then died. Cool, I’m now 25 and broke.
You’ll notice this is not exactly a unique scenario. What was unique was the jobs I managed to get after this. Hop jobs, 50% increase, hop jobs, 50% increase, repeated until suddenly I definitely wasn’t broke: I could buy an actual house. Welcome to tech.
To summarise, at 25 I had no assets and a negative bank balance, at 30 I had a large house and a stable high income. I’m not particularly bright, nor socially gifted, nor connected whatsoever. What the fuck?
No, really. Every deluded idiot who claims they have wealth because they “work hard” is missing how extremely lucky they are. Sure, a lot of this is self-made, by providing the space for luck to work. For example, by being easy to work with, connecting with others, upskilling yourself, perhaps even actually putting in extra hours. The majority though? It’s just dice rolls.
If you’re being honest with yourself, your current situation (good or bad) is equal parts luck, and the opportunity you gave luck. A random job offer isn’t going to appear out of nowhere if you’re not looking, or if you’re not actively making yourself employable. Seeing the opportunities and accurately judging them is all it takes.
A recruiter can’t help you if you don’t reply to messages. A scammer can’t scam you if you don’t reply to your messages. Be nice to people who are on your side.
I fully believe the only reason I’ve obtained any of the jobs (which are primarily to thank for achieving my moonshot) is interviewing ability. This deserves its own post, but for now: if you’re just about autistic (or psychopathic?) enough to be able to manually parse and strategically respond to conversations on demand, whilst still seeming natural and automatic, interviews become easy. I haven’t trained this skill, just been socially awkward and introverted enough to learn how to respond well.
You can do it too, just relentlessly practice interviewing as much as you would any other skill. Interview for jobs above your level, take part in research interviews, anything to get you comfortable answering challenging questions. There’s no point grinding Leetcode and being able to solve extremely challenging algorithm problems if nobody finds you easy to talk to.
What happens when you achieve your “impossible” goal? Well, you’ve got to find another.
I’ve got a few medium term goals (see “Identity”), but none of them are moonshots. Even the high-end ones around raising money for charity and earning a PhD aren’t impossible, they just require work and focus. Most of them are more likely to happen than not.
Without this moonshot (similar to a North Star in business), you’re lost. Why get up in the morning? Why work? Why save? You need a purpose. Within 5 years anything is possible, you just need to work out what the goal is.
I’m lucky enough to have way-too-big ideas pretty often, providing a motivator behind actions. Without this, I’m lost, and I can’t imagine feeling that way by default.
So what’s the takeaway from this post? I’m not sure. Try and provide opportunities for good luck, have a purpose, try not to settle for mediocrity.