Maybe I haven't been asking the right question.
Each year, I ask my creativity students to list their goals. But, well, something isn't happening. The answers aren't answering the call.
So I'm going to ask it differently. Right here.
Why Am I Asking?
Anyone old enough to look back sees some missed opportunities.
I sure do.
I don't know where fully formed adults place the blame, but I place mine squarely on the person who never made goals for me. That, awkwardly, is: me.
Somehow, I slid through the Socratic hands of some of the best teachers this world has ever offered. But none of them asked me — at least, in a way that I actually heard — and answered — "What are your goals?"
So I feel obliged to ask you for your goals.
Because your college experience has to be more than education for the sake of enlightenment. It needs to be that and it needs to have some purpose.
You get to choose the purpose.
But I'm making sure that someone — right now, right here — asks you to consider: "For what am I investing all this time, money and effort? What is my goal?"
Are Goals That Important?
Having goals isn't everything. Living a rich, engaged life is more important. Loving others and being loved is more important.
But goals are also important. And they need to be written.
Writing your goals doesn't make them happen. But it's funny what happens when you write them.
If you abhor goals, you might consider jumping to this post. (I love this website.)
But if you want to work with me, you need to keep reading — and write your goals.
What Am I Asking For?
I'm asking for goals in four areas: business, community, family and personal. This is the top of the first page of Carry Forth.
How big a goal? Big enough that it's not easy to reach. Big enough that you might not reach it.
Big enough that it answers Ohio State's call to action: Do Something Great.
So What Goals Am I Receiving?
Without betraying any confidences, here is a complete rephrasing of some of the goals I'm receiving:
- Business: generates enough profit that I can afford the life I want.
- Community: respects and seeks me as a leader.
- Family: loves me and each other.
- Personal: ...I want to be happy and play golf.
Being rich, fertile, loved, and happy is important. I don't want my students to give up on these ideals.
But these aren't the goals I want them to list.
I'm looking for goals that are worthy of a headline. In The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times? Fine. The Columbus Dispatch? Fine. Field & Stream? Fine. Local suburban newspaper? Fine.
Just imagine the headline. Worthy is not newsworthy. It needs to be newsworthy. That's a good test for your goal. In fact, write your goals as if they are news headlines. (Think: obituary.)
If your goal isn't newsworthy, it might be nutritious, but not ambitious enough for this assignment.
Oh, and I've seen a student land his headline on the front page of The New York Times. No kidding. It was Jason Torpy.
Is Fame The Goal?
No. I wouldn't wish fame on anyone.
This isn't about fame. The world has enough celebrities.
This is about being worthy. Skip the fame, if you want.
I just ask you to have goals that, if achieved, would be worthy of fame.
What If You Fail To Reach A Goal?
I'm not going to hunt you down and slap you. (I'm not that good a teacher.)
But we can't let the fear of failure rob us of the thrill of ambition.
And if we don't have goals, we can't be surprised if we don't reach them.
Without a plan, goals are just hopes. And dependent on luck for success.
So, for each goal, outline a five-year syllabus for personal creative development: the people you need to meet, the books you need to read, the places you need to go, and whatever else you need to learn so you can reach each goal.
Most conversations with students include:
- "Worthy" is different from "newsworthy" — this needs to be interesting enough for an editor to put it in the newspaper.
- Goals cannot rely too much on any other specific person (like a sibling). Don't claim your kid's Nobel Prize as your goal.
- Our personal life, distinct from our family life, is an often overlooked aspect of life.
- Family goals and personal goals are sometimes the most difficult.
- Most young people don't read newspapers, so a "headline in a newspaper" is a quaint and meaningless anachronism. Here is what they look like.
Sounds like a big deal?
It is. But if you don't do this for yourself, you are delegating your learning and life planning to your teachers.
And we simply aren't going to do it for you.
I'm too busy messing up my life to spend time messing up yours.