5 Reasons SCARY Goals are Better than SMART Ones


Flickr photo by profaniti

We’ve all seen this graphic of SMART goals if we’ve done any searching for ways of making our days more productive. Productivity gurus tell us over and over again that we have to set GOALS that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.  A Google search for the term SMART goals returns 86,300,000 results.

But I think SMART goals are kind of DUMB. They might be good for getting that report turned in on time at work or getting all the filing put away, but they seem to encourage the mediocre and bland.

What if you are trying to do the NEXT BIG THING?

If you want to be a DOER of DEEDS, someone who makes a DIFFERENCE, a CREATOR of SOMETHING from NOTHING, I think your goals have to be kind of SCARY.

By SCARY, I mean just that.

When you think about them, you get that funny feeling in your stomach that tells you that you are about to embark on something slightly outside of your comfort zone.

A BIG IDEA won’t feel safe. You’ll feel inadequate, not up to it, like you want to run away. That’s a good sign. That feeling means that you are setting a SCARY goal.

SCARY goals are great because they are just like riding a roller coaster. You stand in line, knowing that you’ll be terrified when you get to the top of the first drop, but that you’ll be in for a heck of a ride all the way down.

You can also break SCARY goals down by the acronym SCARY as well.

A SCARY goal is See-able.

If you can visualize it. You can do it. This has been proven over and over and there are tons of websites dedicated to how this works. If you don’t know how to visualize. Learn. It’s a powerful tool for achieving those goals.

A SCARY goal is Creative.

A SCARY goal is not just wanting to make a lot of money. It is using your powers of creativity to create something that people value and can get some use out of. When you give value, the money follows. Don’t just follow that first idea, create lots and lots of ideas. Work your creativity muscles by keeping lists of ideas on waiter pads. Come up with 100 ideas and then pick one to create. That is what creativity is all about. Not settling for one idea when you can come up with hundreds.

A SCARY goal is Artistic.

Even if your SCARY goal is something that has nothing to do with art with a capital “A”, make it the most artistic expression you can. A SCARY goal is achieved with style and grace and flair. If you want to grow pumpkins, create the farm in an artistic way so that is pleasing to you and the people who visit. If you want to sell cars, make it your art to know everything there is to know about the kinds of cars you are selling and what draws people to them. If you want to climb a mountain, explore all the possibilities of how to make that happen, just like an artist does.

When you are pursuing a SCARY goal, you want to be Ready to Learn.

I never want to stop learning. Any BIG IDEA doesn’t even have the knowledge base developed yet to do it. You have to be ready to learn what you know, learn what you don’t know and learn what you don’t know you don’t know. By always being Ready to Learn, you open up so many more possibilities than if you already have all the answers.

My favorite part of a SCARY goal is that You Get to make a Difference.

Your next big idea, your next SCARY goal, just by pursuing it, will make a difference in the world. By keeping in mind that your SCARY goal, the one that gave you that funny feeling in your stomach, can possibly make a difference in the lives of many people, you’ll continue to pursue that goal no matter how SCARY it is.

Don’t be DUMB by pursuing SMART goals. Try taking on a SCARY goal today.

Let me know what your SCARY goals are. I’m very interested in hearing about them. Stories are the wildest things.


How to Be More Productive Now


I am definitely not a speed writer by any means.

It sometimes takes me hours to get through a first draft, slogging away at the keyboard, sweat dripping on the keys, checking and re-checking my grammar and spelling, trying to get the best turn of phrase, just the right jibe.

In order to get more writing done, I know I have to just write fast and write not-so-great first drafts, but my doubting brain keeps telling me to correct as I write and I trip and stumble my way to a first draft, only to have to do about the same amount of rewriting anyway.

So what would it take to become more productive? We could all use a few more hours in the day to get things done, right?

I know I could.

So I scoured the interwebs for some great advice and here is what I found.


1. How to Wake Up Earlier

I’m a night owl, always have been. I love to push it past 2 am to almost 3, sometimes 3:30, before I let my giant head crash on the pillow for some fitful sleep. I know I need to get more sleep and get up earlier, but how?

One way might be to plan something exciting for breakfast. Perhaps there’s a special food you’ve been looking forward to having. I like Nutella on just about anything, but since I’m doing the slow-carb diet, my breakfast these days is eggs and spinach and beans every morning except Saturdays. Not too exciting.

Maybe you could plan something exciting that you can do alone (or with a special someone) that will help you wake up before everyone else. Perhaps reading a favorite book, watching an inspiring video, or taking a brisk solitary walk around the block gets you motivated.

I do know that research shows absolute darkness in the bedroom is important for our brains and bodies to recover fully. Ditto for drinking water before hitting the hay. If you rely on an alarm perhaps putting it across the room or buying an alarm clock that rolls of the table and makes you chase it might be the key.

The ultimate reason to get up, though, is that you are excited to get to work on sharing your story with the world. Remember, you are contributing to the good in the world by adding your story to it. That might just be the motivation you need.

“I’m getting up early to make the world a better place!”


2. How to Think More Quickly

I come from the world of film, theatre and television and have done my share of improvisation. One of the first rules of improv is to never say, “no.” It’s better to say, “Yes, and…” Making a habit of saying, “yes, and…” will lead you on many interesting adventures. I know it’s done that for me.

By going with your gut and working with your first thoughts, you will most likely find the essence of your idea. If you over-think, you’ll give yourself room to let self-doubt and negative chatter creep in.

You know how you can have “knee jerk” reaction to something? What if you had a “mind jerk” reaction instead? By practicing coming up with many ideas all the time, you’ll be priming the mind jerk to spring into action when you need it.

James Altucher (I’m telling you, subscribe to his blog!) recommends that you carry around a waiter’s order pad and write down as many ideas as you can in order to constantly flex your idea muscle. He also finds it comes in handy in warding off intruders who are trying to keep you from coming up with any good ideas in coffee shops. Just ask, “Can I take your order?” Who knows, maybe you’ll make some tips


3. How to Work Faster

Listening to music really helps. I’m listening to JaBig’s YouTube channel with the video (just a static shot of Beethoven’s face) called  6 Hour of The Best Beethoven – Classical Music Piano Studyin… [sic] (maybe put an ‘s’ on the end of Hour for me, JaBig?)

I have to admit that having this playing in the background has helped me write this post faster than I could without it. There is something about fingers flying across a piano keyboard that keeps my fingers moving across my computer keyboard as well.

Turning on more lights is supposed to increase production as well.

I remember working as a proofreader for a big credit card company in, yes, Wilmington, Delaware, (where all the credit card companies have their offices, look at your statement) and we were in the same part of the building as the graphic artists. They kept the lights really dim and there were very few windows.

I think they thought it was good for reducing eye strain with all the big computer screens, but to me, it was good for having me fall asleep. The copy was 6 pt. font already and in the dim light with the clickety-clack of keyboards all around me, I was often Captain Nod of Sleepyland in about half an hour of working. I think I must have consumed a pot of coffee a day at that job. According to Philips.com, if they had just increased the light from 300 lux to about 2000 lux, our productivity would have gone up about 8% and our tasks performance by 16%. 10000 lux is what we consider full daylight, not direct sun and you can buy therapy lamps that are in this range.

I’m the worst offender of this next one, but I have to admit that clearing my desk and keeping it neat does help me to be more productive. First, I’m not stressed about finding things and second, I don’t get the urge to stop what I’m doing and clean up the desk and forget about my writing. By keeping the work surface clear, my mind seems to stay clear as well.

One last thing I’ll share is – use a timer. When I don’t feel like working at all, I pull up a timer app, or grab a kitchen timer or punch numbers on the microwave and give myself 15 minutes to get a first draft done. I tell myself if I don’t get anything done in 15 minutes, I’ll give up and go on to the next thing. I almost always get into it within 15 minutes and when I look up at the clock again, 40-50 minutes have passed and I’ve gotten close to a 1000 words done.

Those are just a few of the things I use when I want to be more productive. I’d love to hear what you do!

Drop me a line below.



Coffitivity App – Enough Noise to Work

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Some of my favorite writing days have been when I was living in Chicago back in my twenties and had a long day all to myself at a local indie coffee shop.

The sound of the steamer frothing milk, the sharp bang of the coffee funnel on the counter, the grinder turning beans into the quickest way possible to get caffeine into my system and the low hum of conversations all contributed to creating just enough noise to get some great work done on whatever project I was working on at the time.

Now that I’m a Daddy Writer I don’t have as many of those leisurely days alone to ponder in random coffee shops.

That’s why this really cool app at Coffitivity.com was so exciting to find.

With a free download, you can have a coffee shop ambiance (either “Morning Murmur” or “Lunchtime Lounge”) anywhere you need it and you don’t have to pay $4 for a latte!

I really like the user interface and the sounds are calming. Check out the scientific research they cite to back up their theory that low-level noise actually enhances creativity.

Let me know if you try out the app and if it helps you with your writing. It’s available for both the iPhone and Android platforms. They also have a few other productivity apps as well.