A sheen of ice covers the back deck as I let the dogs out this morning into the frigid air. The frost has coated the bushes as if they were dipped in white flour, and the dogs can’t wait to get back inside to the cozy warm fireplace. It’s the perfect morning to sit by the fire, smell the fragrant smoke, and hear the snap, crackle, and pop of the wood. Holiday music fills the air, and a big, soon-to-be-empty plate of cookies is sitting on the kitchen counter calling my name. As the song says, it’s beginning to look a lot like … well, you know.

I’m always amazed at how rapidly Christmas and then New Year’s come and go. The time between Thanksgiving and the first week of the new year is always a blur. And, once we get back in the groove, it’s February already.

Amateurs at Play

Back before I was a professional, I was an amateur goal-setter. I would wake up on January 1 after sleeping in and then, and not until then, I’d set my New Year’s resolutions. It was usually something about losing weight or getting rich. And, after thinking about it for the day, nothing ever happened until the following New Year’s Day. In fact, that’s the extent of goal-setting for most people. Gyms love it because people will sign up the first week of January, then never show up all year. But the act of paying for a gym membership makes them feel they are doing something about their health.

How the Big Boys and Girls Do Things

When I started learning about goal-setting from the pros, everything changed. I learned that in the major leagues, the people who take and achieve moon shots are the people who take this whole goal thing very seriously.

Now, what you do with your life is no business of mine. It is your choice. You may be perfectly happy as things are and you may want for nothing. If that’s you, stop reading now. If, however, you want to see how the big guns do it, stick around for a couple more minutes.

What Does Not Work

I’ve learned a lot about goals in my lifetime. And like most, I’ve read tons of books and heard lots of theories. At the end of the day, most of those books are written by people who never really accomplished anything — other than hitting financial goals by writing a book about goals. And most of their theories never worked for me. 

The phases of my life to the present time have been littered with failures, an occasional success, and a lot of accidental magic. 

Happy Accidents

Some of the best things that happened in my life were accidents, which brings me to my first of many thoughts on goals and life. Some of the best things that happen are never in your plans. Even the pros will tell you that no matter how much planning and goal-setting you do, something can come along that changes everything. The reality is that we all have opportunities fall in our laps. The difference between the amateurs and the pros is that the pros recognize opportunities when they appear, and they are ready to take action. They are willing to take a giant left turn, fast, without a lot of planning.

But here is the critical thing. 

We all get things dropped in our laps. The pros always know where they are going and why, and if something randomly drops in their laps, they can instantly determine if it’s a fit because they know if it fits into their goals or within their guardrails.

You Want Me to Do What?

Let me give you an example of something accidental that dropped in my lap. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I was approached by someone who suggested I become the CEO of their company. They threw out some big numbers and tried to interest me in the job. Though I was already running my own company, I usually explore everything. So I asked, “What will my life look like if I take this?” They quickly said I’d be spending a lot of time on an airplane, flying back and forth to Asia. About every two weeks, back and forth. I was quickly able to say, “I’m not your guy,” because I knew my guardrails and my goals. I politely ended the call.

Keep You From Running Off the Road

Guardrails are the things that fit within your ethics or your lifestyle. When my kids were young, one of my guardrails was that I wanted to be home as much as possible and travel as little as possible. Another was that I never wanted to work FOR anyone again. So when the call came in, I quickly found out I’d be traveling and working for someone else. Neither was a fit.

It’s Not a Fit

Goals, of course, are things that fit into where you’re going and fit with the value of your time. Let’s say you told yourself you were only going to invest time or resources in something that earned you at least $100,000 a year. If something came along where you would earn only half that, you’d know it’s not a fit — unless you are convinced you can make that $50,000 double. That’s a great way to determine if a shiny object that drops in your lap is worth pursuing. Goals and guardrails. 

In just about 10 days, you’ll be full steam into a new year. The pros already have their goals done and their guardrails determined. (I do mine in September.) But there is still time.

Menus Get More Attention

Most people spend more time deciding what to eat when they go out to dinner than they spend on their life goals. Carve out two hours a day for the next 10 days, and give it all some serious thought. Create three main goals, then sub-goals for each, and then work backward so you can break them out into monthly and weekly tasks toward your larger goals. That becomes your plan. Revisit it once a week, and strive to make that week’s goal happen. Add time to your calendar twice a week to THINK about your goals and challenges and ask yourself critical questions.This is how annual goals get reached.

Drifting at Sea

A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest. A boat adrift lands wherever the wind takes it. A boat with the motor running and following a map always arrives at its destination. Movement, with a map, is the key. And a great crew helps, including mentors with decades of experience. They are more valuable than gold because they have made their own maps of success and failure, and they can save you from yourself.

Determine what you want (goals) and what you don’t want (guardrails). Develop a plan, read it and act on it weekly, spend a lot of time thinking, get some great mentors, and amazing things can happen.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I was listening to a podcast where Matthew McConaughey was interviewed about his new book, Greenlights. He talked about how most people stop at the red lights life puts in the way and how you have to learn to turn them into green lights. Pros never give up or give in; they keep at it till they find a way. If you believe in something, let no one, no discouragement, and no challenge get in your way. You can defy gravity. You have vision that no one else can understand and that others will discourage. Don’t let them talk you out of the great things you can do. There are no limits, and no age limits (too young or too old). No matter what is happening in the world, it cannot stop you. The limits exist only in your mind. Make 2021 the year you take your moon shot.

Back in April, if you’d have caught me on the right day, I was ready to give in. I was at a loss. I thought I’d be out of business. I faced laying people off, and I saw my business crash. I got pretty depressed for about 24 hours. But then I told myself, “Enough pity. It’s times like these that separate the amateurs from the pros.” Either I was going to accept things as they were, and accept failure, or I was going to find a way, no matter what. Failure was not an option. So I pulled myself together, and let fear guide me to action. I talked to all my mentors, talked to my team, and launched ideas that could have failed. In fact, I almost didn’t launch them because I was convinced they would not work. But I had nothing to lose. We survived 2020 by doing two virtual events when everything else was cancelled.

Our third virtual event, Watercolor Live, is coming up in January. It’s breaking all previous attendance records so far. It’s a gathering of the world’s best watercolor master artists, teaching watercolor. People are attending from 30 countries so far. You can become an incredible artist, and this is the open door inviting you in. Don’t let this opportunity pass. You CAN do this.