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Letting go of goal setting


A guest speaker came to campus to talk to the student business club about how to increase sales. Rafael, a senior in college who also owns an online t-shirt company, excitedly filled his notebook with tips and ideas the guest speaker shared. Towards the end of the lecture, Rafael wrote in big bold print a five step plan the speaker laid out on how to increase sales by 60% over the next six months.

Ready to take on the challenge, Rafael went right to work on the plan. He cleared his plate of all distractions to hyper focus on school and increasing his sales. Within two weeks his sales rose 20%. In two months he was up 35%!

Thrilled to see the five point plan working, Rafael became even more committed. Within four months his sales increased 45%. Nothing could stop him now! As he neared the end of the fifth month, Rafael had increased his sales all the way to 50%.

As the final four weeks rounded out, Rafael struggled to obtain the final 10% increase in sales and ended the six month run with his sales up 50%.

One day, while Rafael was out to lunch with some friends, he saw the guest speaker at a nearby table. Rafael went up to her and joyfully shared his story. Feeling a bit defeated, however, Rafael ask what he didn’t to right to get the final 10% increase.

With a puzzled look on her face, the speaker responded, “Did you hear me say 60%? I only said 16%!”


I’ve heard various versions of this parable delivered to different audiences. Built into the many lessons is one around goal setting. For as long as I can remember, I was told that goal setting is a good thing…and for the most part, I still agree. What if, however, the very thing that is supposed to be pushing us forward – goal setting – is actually holding us back? What if our abilities are greater than our goals are allowing us to perform? It could be that you are setting your goals too low and just need to up them, but why stop there? Could it be that without goals your potential is unlimited and it’s the goals, no matter how high you set them, are holding you back.

I was talking with a speaker friend about goal setting and in reflecting on his career, he realized that none of the career goals he set for himself have been as beneficial to him has the random opportunities that showed up along the way. My career mirrors the same outcome.

As I think more about goal-setting, I’m exploring the idea of not having any, instead, having a defining set of principles that I show up with, and be present with, in every moment. Then let what happens happen and let go of the outcome. After all, the random opportunities that have showed up along the way have been exponentially more beneficial to my life than the things I’ve set goals for.

Tom Krieglstein
Tom Krieglstein
Tom started his first business, an online retail store, as a junior in college which he grew to $1.5 million dollars in annual sales. Through his second company, Swift Kick, Tom has spoken to over half a million leaders around the US and the world including South Korea, Indonesia, and Bermuda. Tom was named the #1 leadership speaker an unprecedented 5 years. He’s a TEDx speaker, Guinness World Record holder, and has co-authored the Amazon.com award winning book “First Year Student to First Year Success.”And on a personal note, Tom lives in New York City, was named after a cat, and loves peanut butter.