Never Share These Goals

Jessica Mah, InDinero

July 23, 2018

As a child, I had a lot of health problems. Not knowing how long this life thing would last, I was in a rush to go out and build something at a young age. So I left high school at age 16 to go to the University of California, Berkeley, where in 2009 I started inDinero, my Evergreen company, which provides financial tools and data for small businesses.

From the start, I knew I wanted to build a profitable company that I would never sell. That was a strange idea to a lot of people. But I’ve built this for me for the long haul because I don’t ever want to start from scratch again—and so that I will never have to work for someone else. In order to make this intense drive sustainable — for me and for my company — I’ve had to get creative.

To manage my life and company goals and make them compatible, I came up with a personal operating system. This system is a combination of daily rituals and diligent goal-tracking on a spreadsheet that keeps me — and inDinero — on track and forward-thinking.

First, my daily priming ritual: Every day I pump some intense music and put on a 22-minute timer before running through a focused meditation on different topics. It’s a combination of three minutes focused on gratitude, five minutes on what goals I’ve accomplished, five minutes on what goals I’d like to accomplish, and 10 minutes on illuminating my beliefs and journaling. This routine really gives me a plan of attack for that day and week.

The spreadsheet where I outline my 50-year vision, mission, and goals is something I’ve been building for two years. On this simple document, I track my week-to-week progress and outcomes. Originally I had 10-, five- and one-year plans just for my business. I expanded this to include my personal goals, such as romance, career, physical health, and financial success. When I put a desired result on my spreadsheet, I then track my progress until I am successful.

A lot of people just let the day unfold. Living that way won’t help you achieve maximum potential. Some people say, “it must be so stressful to have goals hanging over you all the time,” but I think it’s more stressful not having a plan of attack.

Given my experience, I have some tips to offer Evergreen leaders interested in creating your own personal operating system:

Don’t be too committed to what you first put down. Be open to having your goals and desired outcomes change over time. Your goals may get bigger and bolder. Be open-minded, and you might be surprised.

I recommend modifying your plan monthly. You might want to consider archiving for further reflection — although I choose not to do this, as I’d rather push forward and not dwell on the past.

This document is and should be very private. I have some outlandish goals, so I need to minimize the naysayers. While I have shared it with a few close friends for feedback, I don’t recommend wide sharing. Only give it to people who know you really well; otherwise you’re going to end up having a lot of unproductive conversations. And never share this with your employees — some of your personal goals will counter their wishes. My goal is to build a huge company, but I don’t want to work 60 hours a week. That’s a good practice, but an employee might misinterpret it as, “Jessica just wants to fly airplanes and start other companies, and she must be distracted from the business in her fun, great life!” Don’t share.

Also, I make bigger leaps and bounds when I work on this in a two-day retreat environment. Take your friends, go somewhere warm and fun, and engage over your goals and visions for life. Get serious about making some changes and doing something big. I’ve organized several of these retreats for other women running businesses.

Since I’ve started this personal operating system, it has given me grit and endurance and helped me commit to the Evergreen philosophy. Having a long-term horizon keeps me focused on the business and forces me to grapple with my beliefs and constraints in hitting my goals. I’ve grown so much personally in these two years — and I will soon be tripling my business.

I’m convinced that if more people did longer-term life planning, looking out 50-plus years, we’d see more Evergreen businesses. The act of diving into your personal goals and desires on a more macro level lends itself to the Evergreen lifestyle. I challenge you to articulate what you really want—doing so just might help you achieve your goals in businesses and in life.

Jessica Mah is Founder and CEO of inDinero.

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