Piece by Piece, Step by Step, by Joel Block

Goal setting is very difficult for many people, in part because they try to swallow the whole elephant all at one time. Sometimes goals are very easy to understand but for whatever reason, they’re very difficult, confusing, and sometimes seemingly impossible to achieve.

In the 1991 movie “What About Bob,” Dr. Leo Marvin wrote a book called “Baby Steps” and that pretty much summarizes the way that goals need to be achieved.

I travel frequently. Let’s say that I’m going to Florida. I don’t focus on going to Florida; I focus on the many steps that it takes to get to Florida. For example, first, I have to get in my car and make sure that the car has gas. Second, I have to get myself to the parking area at the airport. Then once at the parking area at the airport, I have to get myself onto the shuttle bus to the terminal. And once I’m at the terminal I have to get through security. And once I’m through security I get to the gate, board the plane, take my seat, change planes, whatever the next series of steps are. There might be 15 different steps, but when I travel I focus on doing one step at a time until I’ve arrived at my destination.

Business goals, educational goals, personal goals, and social goals all work the same way. Break them down into little pieces.

Sometimes it’s easier to understand sports than it is to understand real life, because sports are so definable. The rules are so clear and well understood. Any game or sporting event is easy to follow if you understand the rules. Everyone on the field understands the rules, and everyone in the stadium understands them too, and for those reasons, everyone knows when a player is making the right move, the wrong move, or if he is completely off course. But somehow in our life, setting goals just doesn’t work the same way.

We have to get in the habit of breaking big and seemingly impossible goals into bite size pieces. For example, writing a book is not a book, it’s a series of chapters. Or maybe the focus shouldn’t be on the whole chapter but rather on a number of pages or a series of paragraphs. And maybe those paragraphs follow a series of outlines that require some research.

One way or the other, you have to ask yourself, “What are the pieces that will eventually get me to the place I want to go?” By asking that critical question, you will eventually get yourself to the goal line. It’s very tough to get through the Red Zone to the goal line. The first 80 yards are pretty easy, but once you get into the Red Zone, those last 20 yards, the field is short, players are on their guard and there just isn’t a lot of margin for error. The Red Zone is where most of the fumbles take place but it’s also where the points are made.

Taking the ball 90% of the way down the field isn’t good enough because you don’t get any points for 90%. You have to cross the goal line. You have to identify your goals, you have to understand the objectives, and you have to really be clear about what it is you want to do and why you want to do it. When you understand what the outcome is going to be and what the reward is to you when the job is done, it gets a lot easier to plan the work and break the job into lots of little pieces.

We’re all doing more with less these days. As the organization changes, how can credit professionals create meaningful goals despite internal and external changes that are beyond their control? How can credit professionals proactively bring change to their organizations by changing process and policies to increase cash flow? How do you create a credit culture where people think about doing business differently and are purposeful about making and accepting change that they believe will make a positive difference? Attending CreditScape will help arm you with tools to do your job better. Visit CreditScapeConference.com for more information. I hope to meet you there.

Joel Block is a business advisor and long-time venture capitalist and hedge fund manager (gobbledygook for “professional investor”) who is based in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. He will speak on Managing Change in Your Credit Department at CMA’s Spring CreditScape Summit on April 4-5, 2018. For more information about the event, visit www.CreditScapeConference.com.