- Before We Get Started
- How Do You Define What's Possible?
- The 3 Spheres of Goal Setting
- Action Plan
- Negative Consequences
- 50K Case Study
I’m writing this towards the bottom of my second glass of wine. A fine ten-dollar Malbec I bought from the bottom shelf at the local Whole Foods. Normally, I wouldn’t have two glasses on a work night. But that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for you, dear student. I’m hoping that if I drink enough, this description won’t sound like a scam. I’m hoping to drink the scamminess right out of my writing.
It’s tougher than you might think. It’s difficult not to write something that sounds like a damn infomercial.
Get it?… D.A.M.N. infomercial?
I’m hilarious. Oh, hey! There’s a reason to take this course. It’s not hilarious, but it is a lighter take on goal setting than you’re probably used to. It’s good for people who have a sense of humor, or who are naturally skeptical of success gurus.
I’m not a guru. I suppose that’s another reason to take the course. I’m a web developer by trade and I developed the D.A.M.N. goal framework to help my clients.
For years, they would come to me and ask for a new website. I’d ask them what their goal was and they’d say something like “Well, we want the site to bring in more clients.”
That’s nice, but that’s not a damn goal. At best, it’s a dream, and unless — hang on, I have to refill…
Okay, back. Unless you get much more specific, it’s going to remain a dream.
This doesn’t just apply to business owners and their websites. It applies to anyone who’s got their heart set on something. Whether it’s fitness or financial, artistic or otherwise, the fundamentals are the same.
What I’ve found is that most people put very little effort into defining their goal, instead focusing all their energy into taking action. Admirable, but ultimately not a great strategy.
Like many things, I liken it to food.
There is a restaurant in Tennessee that haunts my dreams. I ate there once and it was amazing. Every time I’m back in the area, I try to find it again. The problem is I don’t know its name or even the road it was on. The only thing I know is that it had rocking chairs on the porch. So whenever I’m near Pigeon Forge I drive the streets up and down, searching for rocking chairs.
This, unfortunately, is similar to how most people set goals. They have a vague idea of where they want to end up. And yeah, if you search long enough, you might find it. But it’d be better if you had a map.
The D.A.M.N. framework is designed to help you create that map.
"So... What makes D.A.M.N. goals better than S.M.A.R.T. goals?"
This is usually the second question people ask when they hear about my damn goal course, the first question usually being a chuckle followed by “What’s that?”
I have an answer, but first, a caveat. The best system for goal-setting is the one you use consistently. So if you’re already using smart goals and you’re happy with your results, damn goals might not be better.
I’m familiar with smart goals, used them for some time myself, and even taught the framework to clients back in the early days. They can work well.
That said, there are a number of things which I found frustrating about the smart framework, and which ultimately led to the creation of the damn goal method.
Too Many Cooks
To begin with, there is no common definition for what each letter of S.M.A.R.T. stands for. When the framework was first introduced in a Management Review article co-authored by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham in 1981, the letters of smart stood for goals that were specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-based.
In the years since, many have championed the idea, making it their own and adjusting it to suit their view of what makes a quality goal. As a result, there are now dozens of variations of the smart framework, each with very different meanings.
For example, I have seen the S stand for both specific, and simple, the M for measurable, and meaningful, and I would be willing to be 99% of the people reading this have never heard of the original assignable meaning behind smart’s A.
This is all innocent enough, but it can make it frustrating to try and collaborate on goals. If my idea of a good goal is one that’s specific, motivating, audacious, relevant, and time-based and yours is simple, maintainable, achievable, realistic, and trackable, we’re not likely to be prioritizing the same things.
All of this variability ultimately led to the second problem…
The most common current interpretation of smart goals is that they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.
Engineers are probably rolling their eyes with me right now.
Excuse me, but what is the difference between something that is specific and something that is measurable? If we can measure it, is that specific enough? Do we really need both reminders?
And what about achievable, and realistic? If something is achievable, doesn’t that also mean it’s literally realistic?
As a developer, I was trained to relentlessly trim the fat in systems.
Like George Carlin going to work on the ten commandments, I saw lots of waste in the smart framework and it irked me. Surely we could do better.
Aside from the redundancy, I found the focus on achievable and realistic particularly problematic, especially when working with people who were new to goal setting.
Simply put, people tend to confuse the word realistic with small. In case after case, I watched as teams talked their goals down in order to make them feel more realistic.
On the surface, this makes sense. Smaller goals feel like a safe bet because they seem easy to achieve.
The problem with small goals is that they are also:
Less inspiring – and therefore less likely to garner outside support, or spur massive, meaningful action.
More common – and therefor open to more competition.
It seems counter-intuitive, but bigger goals are often actually easier to get off the ground just because they capture people’s imaginations and no one else is attempting them.
I understand the point of the realistic reminder is to shoot for things that are possible. And if people could continue to think big while remaining realistic, it wouldn’t be an issue. But that doesn’t seem to be in our nature.
Speaking of Human Nature
People who ascribe to Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet™ regularly achieve outstanding results, many of which were previously thought impossible within the fitness industry. How?
One of the primary reasons is that the diet itself works with human nature — focusing on small changes, avoiding complex tracking, and allowing for regular binge-eating — rather than relying on developing multiple new habits and exercising will-power.
While it’s admirable to want to be disciplined, strong-willed, logical creatures, there’s an overwhelming abundance of evidence that says we’re just not. We can either struggle against this, or we can accept it and use it to our advantage.
The damn goal framework opts for the latter, incorporating ideas from disparate fields like investing and behavioral psychology in order to discover novel approaches, avoid common cognitive biases, and spur meaningful action.
It’s just fun to talk about. The damn goal framework is the only system I know of which allows you to swear at your boss, at your client, or at your children while appearing to share actual helpful information.
Joking aside, it’s memorable. If you lead a team, one of the most important habits you can develop in your direct reports is that of regularly talking about goals, and ensuring they’re on the right track.
One way to do that is to inject a dose of humor, and that’s exactly what the damn framework does.
So, is it better than smart goals?
I certainly think so… But ultimately, I leave that judgement to the damn students, and to your own damn experience.
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The writer Nassim Taleb once pointed out that that there is a difference between academics and practitioners. Academics, he says, study future events and write books and papers. They look forward and theorize, but their theories can struggle if they isolate themselves in the ivory tower. Practitioners on the other hand, get their information from the real world, learning in the trenches.
"...but practitioners," he says, "are usually too busy practitioning to write books, articles, papers, speeches, equations, theories and get honored by Highly Constipated and Honorable Members of Academies."
Since reading this, I've tried to think of myself first and foremost as a practitioner who writes, rather than the reverse. I spend most of my days working in the trenches, trying to solve real-world problems in my life and business. Then I reserve some time to report back from the front-lines and share what's worked.
That is what I can guarantee you - simple, straight forward ideas that you can apply and make your own. You can find a wide range of articles on my site, and of course, if you join my course you can contact me through the udemy platform.