No Sloppy Thinking: A Framework To Achieve Your Goals

No Sloppy Thinking: A Framework To Achieve Your Goals

After writing recently about what Elon Musk has been able to achieve, I've been thinking a lot about blockers that cause people and companies to fall short of their goals.

This assumes that those goals have been clearly defined. That's often the first problem. Getting everyone in a company on the same page to achieve the same macro objective is the first step in the process. A great litmus test for this is to randomly stop an employee in the hallway and ask them what business they think the company is in. The more varied the answers, the less this first crucial step has been achieved.

And personally, many of us are not working towards a macro goal, but rather, we're just trudging along, one day at a time. I often see people working towards secondary, more immediate objectives without having a clearly defined macro goal. So although it sounds obvious: To achieve success, one first has to define what success means. Have you set macro goals for your life? Mine, in prioritized order, are:

  1. Be a great father to my children
  2. Be a great husband to my wife
  3. Create tremendous value*
  4. Live a happy life surrounded by my family

Once your macro goals have been clearly defined, either on a personal or company level, the real hard work begins: Executing on those goals. As I recently wrote, ideas are like sperm -- while they're essential for producing value, they're pretty much useless on their own. So just like for ideas, having a framework for actually executing on macro goals is key to achieving them.

Fellow SETT blogger Sebastian Marshall recently shared with me just such a framework, which was developed by Ray Dalio in a long, dense and inspiring document called "Principles". If you really want to dig into your personal decision making process and how to optimize it for success, it's a must-read. Take your time getting through it, though, because it'll make your head hurt. Sebastian has been posting a "Dalio of the Week" on his blog to break the document up into smaller chunks, which is a great way to approach it.

Dalio lays out the following decision making matrix to define and execute on goals (p.36):

This framework is money. And it highlights something that gets in the way of achieving the flow: Sloppy Thinking. I've come to the conclusion that in order to even begin to achieve high levels of productivity and success, first thing one has to do is have an immediate, visceral and overpowering disdain for sloppy thinking.

Not tolerating sloppy thinking doesn't mean being an intolerant or abrasive person generally. It just means not tolerating sloppy approaches to goal setting and decision making -- both from yourself and from others.

If you look at the framework above, there are really just two parts to it: Step #1 is to set goals, and steps #2 - #5 are all about identifying and removing the problems that stand in the way of achieving those goals. Having an intolerance for sloppy thinking makes achieving both parts much easier.

"No Sloppy Thinking" means not tolerating:

  • A lack of strategic goals.
  • A lack of a framework to achieve those goals
  • Indecisiveness in removing problems that block the achievement of goals
  • Inaction, especially when driven by fear
  • Decisions made from emotion and opinion vs. pursuing external validation and data points
  • Rationalization of failure

This intolerance of sloppy thinking has to begin internally, and that's where I'm really focused right now. I'm going to use Dalio's framework to help me be very methodical about it. As Sebastian mentioned, "nobody is equally good at all five steps in the framework." Isn't that the truth -- in the past I've been way too tolerant of problems that block the achievement of my goals. It's easy to put decisions off because there's friction being created by problems in your way, but I'll be focusing on taking swift and decisive action to handle those problems instead of tolerating them.

What opinions do you have about Dalio's framework? How tolerant are you of problems that block you from achieving your goals? What step in the framework are you the best & worst at? I'd love to hear your opinions and have a discussion with you in the comments below.


* Side note: This blog is very focused on my macro goal #3, "Creating tremendous value," by creating a space for entrepreneurs to help each other. I don't blog much about goals #1 or #2 here. If you'd like to read & discuss topics around relationships and raising children, I invite you to hop over and subscribe to my less tech-focused blog, LifeWeTravel.