#569 Goals Are for WINers

Except When They’re for Losers

Scott Adams created Dilbert in 1989. According to my quick math, assuming he’s done a strip every day since Jan 1, 1990, then he’s created over 10,000 Dilbert’s.

I find that astonishingly inspiring.

In fact, I think about him and Charles Schulz every morning as I do my quick 3-minute journaling and reflect on my commitment to my own craft. (Side note: You know how many Peanuts comic strips Schulz created? 17,897. In a row. How? Daily Rituals.)

For curious souls: This is +1 #569. By 2050, I’ll hit 10,000. I’ll be 70. (And, with some (very) diligent, patient, and persistent (and playful!) work along with some equally good fortune, I’ll have the opportunity to hit 25,000 at 105 in 2080.)

But that’s not the point of Today’s +1.

Today I want to talk about the fact that Scott tells us that: “To put it bluntly, goals are for losers.” (We actually chatted about that in +1 # 102 for those keeping track. 🤓)

Now, he’s being deliberately provocative with that statement to make his point and also says: “You could word-glue goals and systems together if you chose. All I’m suggesting is that thinking of goals and systems as different concepts has power. Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at every turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their systems. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.”

So, there’s NO DOUBT that, ultimately, it’s ALL about systems.


Aristotle and his buddies didn’t tell us that we’re teleological beings for nothing. We NEED to have targets. Of course, modern scientists agree. Happy and successful people have projects and are engaged in meaningful, specific, challenging yet doable goals.


Once they’ve set their target/goals, happy/successful/eudaimonic people focus on the PROCESS of getting there. Or, the “systems” as Scott would say. Or, the “algorithms” as we discuss in Optimizing Algorithms 101. Or, the “lead measures” as the 4DX guys put it (and we chat about in Productivity 101).

So, I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’ve stepped up my Energy-Athlētē standards.

I’m basically going from never being an athlete to striving to not only be a world-class (for my age group) Spartan athlētē but seeing if I can be the best (!) in the world (for my age group) in 6 years when I’m 50.

My ultimate target is to see what I’m capable of athletically (within some pretty narrowly defined constraints) while striving to be an exemplar and demonstrate the power of incremental Optimizing in service to our work together. But that specific, measurable goal to be the best in the world has, to put it mildly, done astonishing things to my standards AND to the SYSTEMS I need to execute to have a shot at reaching that goal WHILE “winning” every day.

Now, to be clear, if all I did was think about my “goal” of winning a Spartan Race in 6 years when I’m 50, I’d go nuts and be a loser every day.

But… That’s not at all how I’m approaching it. As I told Phil the other day in our chat, I’ve ALREADY WON. I’m ALREADY so much healthier/more energized/wiser/a better teacher/etc as a result of setting such an audacious goal that it blows me away.

As I was reflecting on this (coincidentally on my Trail run!), I thought to myself, “Goals are for WINers!!”

When we set authentic, challenging, meaningful goals and then discipline ourselves to create and then execute the systems that will give us the best shot at achieving our big goals while eliminating distractions and maximizing minutes, we naturally tend to ask ourselves, “What’s important now?” “What’s important now?” “What’s important now?”

(At least I do.)


Then I get to WIN! WIN! WIN! (And, of course, with high standards come a lot more opportunities for “Needs work!” but THAT is done with a spirit of playful actualizing as well so…)

All of that to say…

What goals are inspiring YOU these days?

What systems are going to take you there?

How can you WIN a little more today?

Remember: Goals are for losers. Unless you word-glue it to systems. In which case, goals are for WINers!!!

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