Monthly Archives: June 2010

Goal Setting – The Way Forward

So here is where the hard work begins: There was a famous study done at Yale University in 1953. In that study, the 1953 graduating class was polled and it was found that 3% of the students had definitive, written goals for their future.  In 1973, the surviving members of the class were polled and it was found that the 3% with the written goals had more net worth than the other 97% COMBINED.  That is as powerful a statement as can be made for the effectiveness of goal setting.

There are a great many techniques for goal setting.  You have to play around a bit to see what you think speaks to the way YOU think.  I’ve done this many times in many ways. From straight up goals in writing to “Vision Boarding” which is basically goal setting with pictures. I’ll do a separate post  on that as it is a good variation for visual oriented people. I’ve heard a lot of theories on goal setting.  Some are very forgettable and surface and some really bring results.  I want to share with you what I have found to be most effective.

In 1937, Napolean Hill first published his seminal study of success “Think and Grow Rich.”  He was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to research and come up with a philosophy of success.  Over a 25 year period, Hill interviewed 500 of the worlds most successful people.  Not only did he find that the vast majority wrote down their goals, he was able to narrow down the common denominators to form a philosophy and a system.  Most modern goal setting techniques use and expand on this classic system, but in reviewing it for myself I find it to be the most purely communicated and a streamlined way to formulate goals.

Hill’s philosophy is relatively simple: Choose a goal, plan the work to achieve the goal, work the plan with persistence and determination until you achieve the goal.  Sounds easy enough, right?  The hard part is when you hit obstacles, and you will hit obstacles.  The majority of people give up the first time the hit an obstacle.  The difference between successful people and those that give up is that successful people understand that failure is not defeat, it is a necessary in the process of becoming successful.  It’s almost a yin and yang principle.  Failure helps to redirect and refocus your efforts as you move towards success.

Thomas Edison famously said:  “I did not fail 10,000 times inventing the light bulb.  I successfully found 10,000 ways that did not work”

These are Napolean Hill’s six steps of goal setting:


Fix in your mind your goal, BE SPECIFIC.  If it is wealth, fix in your mind an exact amount of money you wish to earn.


Determine what you plan to GIVE IN RETURN to reach your goal.  If your goal is financial, what goods and/or services will you provide.  If you want to shoot two movies, what preparation, study, ongoing training do you plan to do and other jobs to get there do you plan on doing.  I think we can all agree that in this world nothing comes for free. Whatever you want you’re going to have to work hard for it.  You have to acknowledge that in your goals.


Establish a DEFINITE DATE that you will achieve your goal.


Establish a DEFINITE PLAN to achieve your goal and begin the plan immediately whether you are ready or not.


Write out a clear, concise STATEMENT of the goal you plan to achieve.  Name the time limit for its achievement. State what you plan to give in return, and describe clearly the plan through which you will achieve your goal.


This is the most important step.  Read your written statement twice daily OUT LOUD.  Once in the morning and once in the evening. As you read your statement, see, feel and believe yourself as having already achieved your goal.


Take one goal at a time, obviously prioritize your goals, but break it down and do this exercise for every goal you wish to achieve.  I’ve found when I do too sophisticated and broad whole life goals, I tend to put them away and never look at them.  By stating one goal at a time, you will be focused.  If you have multiple goals, you will have multiple statements.  That’s OK, what you will notice is that the individual goals begin to form a tapestry of your life.

You can and must get to the point where you’ve memorized word for word your statement.  I think we all agree the mind is extremely powerful. Telling your conscious and subconscious the plan over and over will spur your mind to action and call on your imagination’s assistance in helping you come up with plans to get there.  Repetition is the key to success.  Again, repetition is the key to success.  The marketing guru Chet Holmes puts it this way:  “Success is not doing 4000 things 12 times, it’s doing 12 things 4000 times.”

All through my life in one, way, shape or form I’ve been a musician.  I’m still learning to play the guitar (10 years later.)  At the moment, I’m working on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.” Chordally pretty easy, but it is a finger picking song in “claw style.”  Yeah, I know, look it up, it’s hard.  Especially hard to do as fast as you need to, to play the song.  I practice it every day for about 20 minutes, more if I can.  And I’ll keep practicing only that until I have it memorized and can play it on command.  Practice towards memory recall is necessary in any artistic discipline.  It’s the same with goal setting and business discipline.  If you do not reinforce your goals everyday and tell yourself what you intend to achieve over and over again, you might as well not do it at all.  Mine are posted in my closet.  To get dressed, I have to see them.  I’m private about them, but I still have them in a place where I see and read them all the time.

You need to do the same to move forward.   Give yourself the 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night to work on the things that you really desire in your life.  I think you’re worth it. The question is: do you?

Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul the blue prints of your ultimate accomplishments.

-Napolean Hill

Quick Quote

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” – Pericles

8 Secrets to Success In 3 Minutes!

Love this video, you will too!

Who Are You Going To Believe?

In the summer of 1978, I lived on the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. I was a singing bartender. I got people hammered and then sang pop and show tunes to them for tips. It was ok to be 19 and on my own, though all I wanted to do was get to New York and start my life. While I was there, I heard that the actress Ruth Gordon lived not far from me in town. For those of you that don’t remember her, she played the scary satanic neighbor in Rosemary’s Baby. More famously, she played Maude in “Harold and Maude.”

I wanted to see if I could meet her to get some advice for a young actor starting out. In preparation, I felt it made sense to read her autobiography. I finished the book and then took several weeks to get up the courage to walk up to her door and try and meet her. This is anti-climactic here, because when I did finally knock on her door, the housekeeper said she was gone for the summer. She always left then as the tourists were too much (probably just sick of aspiring actors just walking up and trying to meet her.) I would say I never ended up getting her advice, but by reading her book it wound up that I did. One thing she wrote never left me, it was this simple but brilliant phrase: “Never face facts.”

At the beginning of her career she struggled. Several times she tried to go home. Early on she received some hideous reviews and had a terrible time getting roles. She was told more than once that she didn’t have what it took to make it, but she kept going anyway. She persevered even though many around her did not believe she could make a living. However, amidst mounting evidence that they may be right, she believed in her heart that she could be successful, would be successful. And she never faced facts.

You can be the hardest worker and have the most talent of anyone you know, but if you don’t solidly believe in your heart that you will get to where your dreams want to take you, you will fail. You see, if you don’t fill your heart with YOUR beliefs about you, others will be happy to fill it with their beliefs about you.

Take a moment during each day, close your eyes and search your heart. Be sure not to let your mind “face facts” about what the obstacles to the ideal career you imagine are. Instead, picture all you imagine your life can and will be. Use your mind to support the belief in yourself with positives about all you have to offer your art and the world.

It doesn’t matter what the facts are. I could bore you with stories of people faced with overwhelming negatives, who proved they weren’t too old, too short, too tall, too settled into a career to manifest their dreams. There are so many success stories that go against the grain of the norm it’s ridiculous. We’re wowed by these stories, but perhaps the people who DO think they are too old, short, tall, settled etc. just fail because those are their core beliefs.

Remember, your beliefs are YOUR beliefs. Since they belong to you, you control them and only you can change them. That’s the beauty of your heart. It may break sometimes, but it will always obey you. As Henley famously wrote in his poem ‘Invictus:’ “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

A few years after that summer on Martha’s Vineyard, I did end up meeting Ruth Gordon and her husband Garson Kanin. They had come to a recording session I was involved in with Stephen Sondheim in New York. Turns out they were old friends of his. It was brief and I never got to thank her for her advice, but 30 years later, I can say without a doubt it has served me well.

What’s Your Pathology?

Pathology: a: The branch of medicine concerned with the study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences; Any deviation from a healthy or normal condition; abnormality. b: the structural and functional deviations from the normal that constitute disease or characterize a particular disease. c: An American Death Metal band hailing from San Diego, California.

I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day, who happens to be battling cancer right now.  We were joking about the different kinds of pathology out there in the world.  As a society, we talk about pathology in terms of catastrophic disease, but my friend and I were laughing about how we each have a “pathology” of the mind.  A general make up of deviations, based on our upbringing, seminal events in our lives or fears that can hold us back in our careers and our relationships.

So then, what is your pathology?

For example:  I once went to a seminar led by T. Harv Ecker about people’s views on money.  He challenged us to examine which is our tendency about money in general.  Are we a saver, a spender or an avoider?

Personally, my pathology is: I’m an avoider about my own money.  That sucks for my wife because she ends up taking care of the bills and accounts all the time.  The irony is:  At work, I’m all over it.  I handle other people’s money all the time effectively and efficiently.  I take financial decisions head on and manage things very well.

Here’s the rub for the Artist though:  Their personal and professional lives tend to intertwine much more that mine does.  Whereas, I have a company and there are various sources of revenue, the Artist tends to be a singular entity.  Their time is finite and it only goes so far.  Plus, when you are a craftsperson, YOU are the revenue source.

Back in the day when I was acting, if I wasn’t working I felt like a professional failure and a personal failure because the two were inseparable for me because I was the product.  Does this sound familiar?

It wasn’t until I was in business for some time that I began to understand that the two CAN and MUST be separated. At the same time, the personal and the professional must compliment and respect each other.  This is where the power of the pen comes in and goal setting starts.

So then, what is your pathology?

What are you most afraid of when it comes to your career?  Is it fear of failure, rejection?  Do you feel like you don’t know as much about your craft as people think you do?  (Side note here, I call this “imposter syndrome” and a lot of successful artists I’ve come in contact with seem to have it.)  Do you feel you say too much while your working?  Too little?  Does the possibility of being judged paralyze you?  Do you just hide sometimes and avoid work altogether so you don’t have to face ANY issues?

I’m not purposefully trying to put you in pain here.  Oh, wait a minute, yes I am.  To move forward, I vehemently believe you have to face the facts of where you are right now both positive and negative.  Acknowledge it and realize that it’s all learned behavior that can be unlearned if you have enough at stake and are willing to change it. At that point, constructive progress can be made.

My challenge to you this week is to write down what you think is holding you back as far as how you feel about your talent, how you feel about money, your current financial responsibilities, the type of work you get etc… etc.. etc.. Then, write a short statement on what the consequences would be on your career of not changing these negative perceptions.  There are no rules on this part, just get it all out on paper.  Realize something though:  No one is to blame for anything you feel.  This is an exercise about YOUR current negative perceptions of your career.  If you were to ask me, I’d have an entirely different take based on what I know.

Once you have this all written out, I want you to write a paragraph about what it means to you in your heart to be an artist and your ideal vision of what your career can be.  Then, make a list of all the positive things you think are propelling you forward towards the career you want.  Again, your talent, money responsibilities, the kind of work and life you aspire to, the people around you etc.. etc.. etc..

I think what you will find is that the lists conflict A LOT.  The things that you feel most negative about may be undermining the things you feel most positive about.  Some if it may be very confusing, for example: a big positive for me has always been taking care of my family, it would be easy to see that responsibility as a burden that narrows my options, but I’ve adjusted my perceptions and I use it to drive me forward.  See both lists for what they are and decide to adjust your feelings and perceptions to support the positive list of things that propel you forward.  Then get rid of the negatives list.  There’s no reason to hold onto it, it doesn’t serve you. Ritually burn it if you want, bury it in the backyard, I don’t care.  Just get rid of it.

Pathology be gone, we’re moving forward in the positive now.  It’s a decision and a conscious choice you have to make for yourself.  I once heard some TV talking head psychologist say “people don’t change until they are forced to.” I’m not sure I buy into it.  I’ve seen plenty of situations that support that view, but I do think by choosing a path of improvement and pursuing it with organization and absolute determination you can choose for yourself to move forward at any time.  Carpe Diem.

Thru Traffic Merge Left

Ah, the 101 freeway, my home away from home.  I spend an awful lot of time there and find that I contemplate the world in thoughts that start and stop with the rhythm of the traffic.  The other day, the traffic was actually moving for once and I suddenly found myself in an exit only lane.  The yellow diamond shaped sign said “Thru Traffic Merge Left” and I had a revelation about passion.

Passion you say?  How could a traffic sign possibly bring you to that thought? Stay with me a second.  Sometimes in business and in artistic pursuits, your passion can blind you to the road ahead. You may miss the signs that tell you that you might be in an exit lane when you really want to be on open highway.

Passion is about focus.  When I am in the middle of a deal, it’s very easy for me to become passionate about getting the best deal for my client. My focus becomes so single minded, the tendency can be to bull through and close a lopsided deal.  Lopsided deals seem good for a moment, but never serve the long term goals of my client. I trained myself a long time ago to step back and listen carefully to the other party and their needs, and assess, so I don’t miss any important signs and am able move lanes when necessary.

A frequent comment I hear from clients is:  “My lifestyle is such that I have to take money jobs and what I really want to be working on are projects that mean something to me.”  Believe it or not, this happens as a result of passion.  This comes from being passionate about the work, ANY work, while you’re getting your early opportunities.  You live your life, have a family, buy cars, a house, etc… Before you know it, you get stuck doing the same types of projects all the time because those types of projects have become your core business.

It’s not hard to change lanes on the highway.  Put your blinker on (indicate your move,) , check your mirrors (assess your risk) and turn the wheel slightly (make your move.)  It’s not hard in business either.  Make a solid, specific plan to make it happen (indicate your move,) consider the options (assess your risk,) and begin to move.

I’m not saying this is easy, it’s just not hard.  You can slowly assess and adjust your core business.  Just as you don’t dart from lane to lane on the highway without looking, you don’t just instantly diversify the type of projects you work on.  It’s a process of small sacrifices (usually financial) and experimentation, reassessment and continual incremental moves.

What lane are you in?  Is it the lane you want to be in?  Are you even going the right way on the highway?  What can you do in your personal life to perhaps cut back and make a wider array of options possible?  Have you enlisted help from your spouse, agent, mentors and other contacts in devising a plan of diversification?

The good news is:  It’s possible for you to stop being a victim of passion and use your passion to diversify your career.  You just need a clear plan, patience to implement it and good communication with those around you.  This week I challenge you to write down in several paragraphs what your career looks like now and what you want it to look like three years from now.  In coming weeks, I am going to guide you through a goal setting process, essentially a map of how to get there.  For now it’s important for you to figure out what you want the destination to be.  Too often we just drive and go where the road takes us.  If you want to get to Chicago and you don’t use a map, you’ll pretty much just drive around forever and never get there. Capiche?

Just a couple of paragraphs and you can start to figure out what lane your in and what lane you should be in!  Trust me, I spend a lot of time on the road.