Don't try to succeed at goals

Last Thursday night, I met with four of my closest friends. Instead of the usual night of drinking and talking about football, I thought we could do something different, based on some of the self-development and goal-setting exercises I've done in the past.

We decided to have a round-table discussion about where each of us is in our lives and where we see ourselves headed in 2016. We then followed up the talk with advice for each of us on how to reach our goals. The discussion took four hours. Yep... not your normal Thursday night out with the boys! But then again who want's to be normal? I’m guessing that since you've joined a real estate meetup, you’re ambitions are set higher than "normal."

During our discussion, we drank beers, talked casually, joked, and had fun. But at the same time, we were able to focus on the steps we could take to make our future goals more attainable. For some, it was the first time they had ever done something like that. Afterwards, I sent everyone a mind map of our discussion and notes for the future. I then emailed the following story about my own journey and struggle to overcome my fears and reshape my mindset.

I wanted to share that email with the members of our meetup as I think it might help someone else who’s struggling through the same things as they try to get started in real estate investing. I hope you enjoy it.

The email

(I've made a few edits to improve readability since some of the email referenced people and subjects that others won't know. Also, all of the names have been changed except for mine.)

Subject: Why trying to succeed at goals is the wrong approach
So here's why I don't think anyone should be focused on succeeding at a goal. It goes back to something we discussed, particularly when it came time for each of you to give me feedback.
What what was it that they had to say about me?
Dan, when you're passionate about something, you get really focused...
Dan, it was nice to see you following through on something...
Okay, I get the message. But as Bob pointed out, Do what you're good at. Your passion will follow." 
Great point! And by the way, Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, wrote an article on that. Scott basically says that Oprah got it wrong. Don't look for your passion. Because you'll become passionate about things that you are actually succeeding at. The whole passion argument goes back to the idea of correlation versus causation - Did you succeed because you were passionate? Or did you become passionate because you were succeeding? 
Here's the thing about trying to "succeed" at a goal.
Haven't we all started on projects, relationships, entrepreneurial ventures that seemed so promising at the start, only to ultimately give up on them? Can we honestly look at the wreckage of our past failed attempts and say that all of them were destined for success if only we had put a little more "effort" into them?
Sometimes half-baked ideas remain half-baked. Sometimes relationships are not meant to work out. And not every "get-rich-schemes" will actually make you rich.
But then here comes the hard part: How do you know when to stop? And how do you know when to persevere?
There's always that story about how some entrepreneur was just about to give up but somehow he or she kept going and ended up succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. So what's the answer?
There is no answer. At least not anything that will fit every situation. Circumstances vary. Risks vary. Downsides and upsides vary. There are too many variables to make blanket, yet comforting statements, such as, "Don't ever give up."
Which is why it's so hard to follow through.
We all have ambition. We all know what long work days feel like. We're all willing to make a sacrifice for a future outcome. So, why do we lack follow through on some of our projects? Why do we give up?
We don't give up because we're lazy. We don't give up because we're not smart enough. We give up because of uncertainty.
We don't know if the path we're currently on is the right one. We give up because we're simply not sure.
While it's tempting to say the answer is to "get certain," it doesn't fit the realities of the world we live in, nor does it fit our personalities. Maybe Donald Trump is certain about things, but he's more of a caricature of himself, at this point.
Reasonable people are never certain about anything because reasonable people understand the inherent uncertainty that any project holds.
Want some statistics to back this up? Startups are the ultimate measure of uncertainty. You're never quite sure if one is going to succeed. And the numbers? The combined ROI of all startups is less than 10%. Many smart people who felt certain at the start, ultimately fail when it comes to their startups. That's why the smart venture capitalist knows the real money is in investing in the startups that have already proven themselves. That's why "focusing on trying to succeed at a goal" is not the answer. The better thing to do instead is to focus on becoming a successful person.
Success if a lifestyle.
When I started my journey into real estate, I had my goals set. I worked with Greg to set those. But I do that all the time with projects. I write out goals. Some past goals have been, "Write a novel. Take my business public. Improve my left hand dribbling in basketball."
I have yet to accomplish any of those.
But, at the age of 42, knowing nothing about real estate, somehow, in a little more than a year's time, I've put myself in a position to run one of the biggest meetups in Los Angeles. (Yes, I'm nervous. Yes, I'm probably in a little over my head).
One thing that helped me realize this opportunity was that I made a simple shift in thinking from trying to succeed at my goals to trying to become a successful person.
I started studying what successful people do: How they talk, how they act, what motivates them.
I learned early on that one of things that distinguishes the successful from the unsuccessful is that successful people usually have a really strong network. They're able to call upon their networks for mentorship, advice, and motivation.
So, although I'm an introvert who would rather hang out with four people drinking beer than 40 sipping wine, I decided I needed to change that.
I also realized that successful people think differently. It's not like they don't have fears; it's just that they're able to move forward despite their fears.
And as Mark Twain once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't fo than by the ones you did do. So throw of the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
So, I also worked a lot on trying to change my thought process. I stopped watching the news. I made a much more conscious attempt to avoid negative people and negative statements. I even stopped listening to my favorite humor podcasts because I like dark humor too much and I needed to step away from that a bit.
I replaced that with motivating messages. I downloaded YouTube videos that inspired me. I spent more time reading and learning. I even recorded motivating messages to myself to play back to myself when I was feeling down.
I spent a lot of time focusing on how to put myself in the right mindset when I was faced with certain tasks such as networking. As an example, before the one podcast interview I did, I spent 10 minutes just chanting and jogging to get myself pumped up. No one was around, so I didn't come off as crazy person! that podcast just aired). During another interview, I spent the entire time pacing back and forth as I talked because movement helps me stay energized.
I also stopped thinking about task lists and started thinking more in terms of systems and habits. I don't want a "To Do" list - I want a system that I can use, that I can replicate to get the same results over and over. I want a daily habit, a ritual that I can use to put me in the right frame of mind. That's one reason I cut back a lot on drinking - it made it too hard to maintain certain habits that I knew would help me.
I'm learning to fail and to be uncomfortable. It was hard writing my first blog posts and publishing them for the world to criticize. The same goes for connecting with others in forum. But I know it's sometimes necessary to fail your way forward.
And so that's what I think has helped me follow through with real estate unlike other "side" projects I have had in the past. Instead of just focusing on buying a property or investing, I've been focused on shaping myself into a successful person. Not someone who's trying to succeed at a certain project. By doing this, the outcomes will follow.
The future projects we talk about - building apps, building resumes, working toward an MBA - I think the best way to think of these is not as projects in themselves but rather as outcomes that come from doing, acting, and thinking like successful people do.
That doesn't mean not setting goals. Successful people set goals.
That doesn't mean only networking. That's just one part.
It's that goal setting alone is sometimes not enough to move people forward. Instead having an entire system of thought and action in which goal-setting is one essential part seems like the better approach.
Anyways, I just wanted to share my story because I know that this change in my outlook and behavior has helped me a lot. Let me know if you have any thoughts. Thanks.

So that was the email. What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? What's your own personal mantra when it comes to success?