If Tough Things First stands for one thing, it’s setting and achieving goals even when they are difficult.
In this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn talks about setting priorities to meet those goals.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. Hi, Ray. It’s good to be back with you.
Ray Zinn: Rob, it’s so good to hear your voice again. Thank you.
Rob Artigo: And it seems like it’s been a long time, but time marches on and here we are doing another podcast and I’m grateful for that. Now, whether they plan to, or not, like me, most people set some kind of goals every single day. Now that could be something easy, like going to the store, just doing the dishes, maybe doing the dishes isn’t always that easy for everyone, but they’re goals nonetheless. And we got to think of things in terms of this podcast for entrepreneurs and business operators, entrepreneurs do the same kind of goal setting, those small tasks that they have to do every day, because they’re just things that everybody has to do. But they also have to keep the future in mind, their business, where they are, where they’re going, and what’s next.
So, let’s talk about setting goals first, and then we’ll talk a little bit about some of the strategies for making sure that those goals come to fruition. So for you, it’s always been important to set goals when operating your business.
Ray Zinn: Well, even running your life. I mean, it doesn’t have to be running a business. I mean, setting goals is really avoiding procrastination and that’s the title of my first book, Tough Things First. We tend to not want to set goals, for one thing, because it’s a lot of work and because we’re not really willing to do the tough things first. And so, when I wrote the book and we hadn’t yet come up with a title for it, I had my staff together and we were talking about what should we title this book? Vona my VP, she just said, Tough Things First. Do the tough things first.
And so, the only reason we have a goal is to get us to look up, to aim higher, to reach out and to lengthen our stride to be more purposeful in what we’re doing. We don’t have to set goals for things that are almost secondary, like eat once or twice a day or three times a day, or whatever, or go and get the mail. I mean, setting goals is really trying to reach up. In other words, trying to get us to go above and beyond where we are, not just to repeat something we did the prior day to better ourselves. And so, that’s a whole concept of setting goals.
Now, how do you set goals? You look at really, I would say, once you listen to this podcast, write down three things that you really don’t like doing, and that should be a goal or those three goals are the ones you should set for yourself that you want to accomplish over the next period of time. Habitus is easy to start and hard to break, but a good habit is hard to start and easy to break. So you want to set good goals, good habits. And so, write down three things that you don’t want to do. And I’m sure we all have those. I can think about 10 more right now as I’m talking on this podcast of things I don’t like to do. And those are the things that I’ve got to focus my mind on. Because once I learned to do the tough things first, once I learned to set goals for which I don’t want to achieve or I’m reluctant to do, then setting goals becomes easier.
Rob Artigo: One of the goal setting principles that I have is that if I’m facing something that is an extraordinarily daunting task, and I’ll give you one sort of, this is a smaller task in the scheme of things because it’s just a project around my house, but I have an area that for a long time on my property had been overgrown since I had moved in. And I’d slowly been trimming back things and breaking it down. And I’ve got all these root balls from these hedges, they’re ancient. I mean, they’d been growing there for a long time. There’s big roots and root balls and there’s this…
What I decided to do in terms of my goals was to take it and establish what it is that I want to achieve, but take manageable pieces away from it and set a goal to achieve that one little piece. Because it’s like, I can’t do this whole yard myself, but I can do this one little piece and it won’t be that difficult. So part of my goal setting tends to be prioritizing the piece of the bigger project that I have to get done, because that one piece that I have to get done is manageable and I can get it done right now. And then over time, what I’ll find is that the whole project will eventually get finished.
Ray Zinn: Well, you’re jumping into how to achieve a goal. Okay? So we went from setting goals to achieving goals.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. Well, and that would have been my follow up question is all right, let’s talk about making sure that we see those goals through fruition.
Ray Zinn: Well, it’s like the old saying goes, how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time? And so, as you said, you go, “How are you going to clean up your yard one root ball at a time?” And so rather than just dive in and try to get it all done to the point of exhaustion, do it in bits and pieces. Don’t discourage yourself, because as humans, we can get easily discouraged. So rather than try to hack the whole problem out in one day, try to do it a piece at a time until the goal is achieved.
I can remember years ago when I had my first home, we were repainting the home. We’re using a sprayer, but at nighttime, I didn’t want to disturb the neighbors with the compressor going. And so I got the roller out and I had my car parked up on the curb with the headlight shining on it. And I continued painting. I finished it at two o’clock in the morning. But I felt so good. I mean, I know in that case, I just continued because I felt that… Well, my thinking was that it’s going to look kind of dumb to have part of my house painted when I woke up in the morning. So I painted my entire house in one day, finishing at two o’clock in the morning. So in that case, I really ate the whole elephant in one day, one bite at a time. But if I was bonded, determined I was going to finish that house, but that’s kind of who I am. I just go at a task until it’s done.
But still, one bite at a time, I don’t try to use a 10-foot roller to paint the house. I’m still using a nine, 10-inch roller, but I’m going at it until I’m done, because I know if I stop, I won’t start again. How do you start a marathon? By knowing you’re going to finish it. That’s how you do it. You don’t start a marathon by just taking the first step. You have to say, “I’m going to finish it.” And so, you’re going to make that as your goal, that I’m going to run this distance and finish that task. But it will be one step at a time as you get to the end of that race.
Rob Artigo: Well, and you’re talking about the project of painting the house was a time when you were in the zone, right? It’s just like the running of the marathon. There’s that time where you get into this zone, where you’re just one with the run, so to speak, and you’re running along your route and you’re achieving your goal. You’re in the zone. But there are times when we have goals that we’ve set, and this happens a lot, is you hit that trudge mode where it becomes a longer slog of trying to get the project done. And how do we make sure that we’re achieving our goals when the times aren’t so easy and we’re not on autopilot and we have to make something happen?
Ray Zinn: Well, that’s the hard part, is how do you keep up the pace? So rather than outpace yourself, you keep pacing yourself until you finish it. As you pointed out earlier, how do you clean up your yard? One root ball at a time. But if you just say, “Okay, I’ll get back to that later,” then you’re back to procrastinating. And that’s one thing that will kill a goal faster than anything else is that procrastinating. You got to be willing to stick to the task until it sticks to you. That’s what Emerson says, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier.” Not that the nature of the task becomes easier, but our ability to perform it becomes easier. So you got to stick to the task until it sticks to you.
We, humans, tend to run really fast and then… As the story between the tortoise and the hare, if you remember that story, where the race was between the tortoise that plods along versus that hare that just can run like a screaming demon. And of course we knew who won the race was the tourist, because he kept it up, he didn’t slow down. The hare ran out of gas and he’d go over and sleep for a while and then rest. And then the tortoise just kept plugging along. So don’t run faster than you can run. Pace yourself, keep your goal in mind. If you decide you’re going to run a marathon, make sure you have that in mind as you start the race, don’t just say, “Well, I’m going to run so many miles,” okay? Because that’s not a marathon. A marathon is a specific distance. And so you got to say, “Okay, that’s going to be the goal, not just run for a while until I get tired and do like the hare does and pull over and take a nap.”
Rob Artigo: Do these goal setting and goal achieving ideas work with just about any kind of goal that you can set for yourself? And I think at the beginning, we were talking about something small, like making sure that you got to the store that day and picked up milk and eggs or something. But you could start off small and work your way up to something big like you’ve had, I’m sure many goals that you set at Micrel over multiple decades, where a lot was at stake. And a lot of money was at stake and a lot of people’s jobs and livelihoods were at stake. Are we saying that these methods for achieving goals can go across any one of those platforms?
Ray Zinn: Sure. When I started Micrel, I said, “My goal is to run a successful company.” So we started out with like three people. That was the size of the company. And then in the end we had nearly a thousand. So you just keep moving along, executing on those individual goals that accomplishes your main goal. So you have your primary goal, for example, in running a marathon, it might be to run the first 10K at a certain speed and then to run the second and so forth. So you just keep setting these goals and then making sure that you’re pacing yourself, that you are on track to accomplishing what you want. And it can be anything. Any goal is worthwhile. The problem we have as humans is we tend to procrastinate. We tend to put off what we need to do. And that’s the most heinous, dangerous attribute that we humans have is that ability to procrastinate, to put off. Procrastination is actually putting off tomorrow what we should have done today.
Rob Artigo: And it’s great to finish off the podcast that way, because what we’re talking about here is procrastination just leads to piling up of things that you need to get done. And then they become, as we’ve discussed in the podcast, it becomes a project too big for you to wrap your brain around. And then it becomes impossible for you to complete the goal. So getting those things done while they’re manageable and you can get them done right away is a great way to make sure that you catapult yourself toward completion of that goal.
Ray Zinn: Exactly.
Rob Artigo: All right, Ray, look forward to the next time we do a podcast. We want to make sure that our listeners go to their favorite podcast source. Could be the one they’re listening to right now, and they give a rating for the podcast so we can spread the word about Ray’s podcasts, the Tough Things First Podcast. And we look forward to next time, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. Yeah, this is great.