When Tools Get in the Way of Our Goals

Dan BlankWe all have so many online tools at our disposal. While many of them feel new, exciting, and empowering, the tools alone can sometimes get in the way of what we are trying to do. So today I want to chat about the difference between “getting things done” and actually accomplishing your goals.

Likely, you have no shortage of ideas of what you want in life: Maybe you are trying to grow your online audience, write a compelling blog, build an online business, or find a publisher for your book. Yet, I imagine that many of your goals are only half-realized. So the question is: what is stopping you?

I’ve been considering this question for myself as I named this website. Sure, its symbolic, but it is critical that I fully understand my goals if I have any hope of accomplishing them. There are three ways to consider it:

  • we grow MEDIA
  • we GROW media
  • WE grow media

Let me explain:

  • The first explains WHAT we do. Creating MEDIA is the goal.
  • The second explains HOW we do it. We are GROWING it organically.
  • The third explains WHY we do it. The WE means that we are helping each other.

The ‘what, how, why’ is a take-off on Simon Sinek’s ideas in “Start with Why,” a book that promotes the idea that people believe in WHY we do things, and not so much WHAT we do. An example would be that people pay twice as much for Apple computers because of their belief in deeper things such as beauty, simplicity and design, and not because the computer itself has a faster processor.

All three parts of “Why, How and What” are essential. But as I start this journey, build this website and connect with folks about their needs and goals, the WHY – the WE – is what I am most focused on:

WE grow media.

Sure, I have to develop programs and content and leverage networks and tools. But I am looking out beyond them. Looking deeper. Looking to the horizon, to the place that we want to be, and how we can help each other get there.

Many of us get caught up too much in the day to day. As if email is our master, and the Blackberry, Basecamp, Twitter, Outlook Calendar, etc are the ‘productivity tools’ that rule us.

And it’s silly, and a bit dangerous.

It’s easy to get into a habit of checking and checking and checking these things. To ‘stay on track.’ But what it means is that we are always REACTING instead of CREATING. In the day to day, it’s easy to justify. But when looking back at a bigger chunk of time, a few months or a few years, you realize that you have little to show for simply keeping up with email and other routine chores to ‘keep the lights on’ in your career.┬áThe same goes for other online activities such as blogging or online marketing.

This is no way to live. No way to accomplish your goals. No way to build a life.

Likewise, ‘yearly’ performance evaluations or quarterly report cards don’t do enough to create value in our lives. They are far too thin and far too infrequent. And they are just words on paper.

I have always been inspired by the movie The Paper Chase. The overall moral of the movie is that we are more than a grade on paper; That life is not meant to be lived on a treadmill whose angle is constantly being raised; That, if your not careful, life can be a series of meaningless tests that always promise the cheese, but never deliver.

Today, some people use new metrics to measure this: number of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends.

And, while I value each of these networks, and spend a great deal of time serving those communities, the numbers don’t tell the real story.

  • Having 514 Twitter followers is different from asking someone: “how can I help you today?” and really meaning it.
  • Having 265 LinkedIn connections is not the same as assisting someone rethink their career.
  • Having 198 Facebook friends is nothing compared to the one person you help in a time of need.

These networks are powerful, but they are just TOOLS. What you do with them is what counts. We need to look beyond them. Don’t rely on the meager capabilities of any tool. To innovate you need to blend different tools – old a new – and use them in ways that speak to YOUR goals, not theirs. EG: don’t worry about number of times you are ‘listed’ on Twitter, but rather, the number of heartfelt ‘thank you’ emails you get from those you’ve helped.

Often, I feel like I live much of my life online, and yet three of the most powerful tools I use are incredibly old fashioned:

  • The telephone – I’m on networks such as Twitter all the time, but am always quick to move things to a phone call if I can. There are simply connections you can’t make in 140 characters.
  • Face-to-face – I’m a big believer in just sitting down and having coffee or lunch with someone. The web allows us to be VERY targeted in our virtual relationships, but face-to-face conversations is wonderfully diverse.
  • Notepads (virtual or real) – to flesh out ideas.
  • Reading (everything and anything) – to expand my universe and get fresh perspectives.

The goal here is not to choose traditional tools vs new media, but in integrating the best of both worlds in order to focus on helping others and accomplishing your goals.

If you are full of ideas, but blocked by the tools, I’m happy to help out.