05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Crazy Goal Problems

by M. L. Buchman

Disclaimer/Warning: I am a very goal-driven, achievement-oriented, Type-A+ personality. (I can hear all of my friends going, "Well, du-uh!") That said, if what I'm jumping into below isn't the way your brain works...don't burden yourself with it, because it will just tie you up in knots. If my wife tried to do something like this...well, even trying to explain it to her was tricky. Her brain simply doesn't work this way. Moving on...

I've just discovered a new problem with setting goals...what happens when you achieve them?!?

I'm not talking about the little goals: exercise more, finish book #X, turn in a short story before the deadline for the anthology. I'm talking about the big ones. In 2014 I pretty much hammered down a goal. The catch was that it was a goal I set twenty-one years ago:

I want to make my living as a full-time writer.

Now that's a little bit of a cheat, but not much of one. What happened was that, barring any unforeseen problems, I will achieve that goal  in 2015. That's with no breakouts, no hitting a bestseller list, none of that. Simply as a mid-list writer, I will achieve a goal I set more than a third of a lifetime ago.


Now what am I supposed to do with that? That simply stated goal had driven me into the writer's chair through: meeting contract deadlines while working eighty-hour a week corporate jobs, while raising a kid, cooking dinner a couple nights a week to give my wife a break, and everything else that went on over the last two decades. Totally exhausted and sleep-deprived, I can tumble into a chair and write a 1,000 words, That's forward progress and it was driven by that simple goal statement.


First! Recognizing the problem. I found that my motivation to work on the next book--despite being excited by the next book project (#3 in my Kate Stark "Dead Chef" thrillers -coming in February)--was a little hard to find. I'd sit down, jump into a scene and thirty seconds later be checking a factoid on the Internet that wasn't even going to end up in the book.
A good friend and I spent a couple hours talking about it and he nailed it down for me, "Hit your goal, didn't ya?" Crap! Since when did I feel bad about achieving a goal? Okay, not "bad" just at a loss.

They always say that identifying the problem is half the problem. Great! Now where the heck is the other half? (Especially since I haven't quite finished the first goal, It's just that I can see that if I continue in a workman-like fashion, I will achieve it.) Hard to get motivated by a phrase such as "workman-like fashion" isn't it?

So, I wander back to two of my favorite references on goals.

First, Napoleon Hill (This is my favorite of his works. It's a series of lectures in his own voice near the end of his life; Think and Grow Rich was a quarter century earlier). He talks of setting goals and resetting goals. He talks about the size of goals and how to set them. No way am I going to try and summarize all of that here, but I've listened to this at least twice a year for the last 20 years, so I'm diving back in now.

Second is Jim Collins and Jerry Porras' plunge into the structure behind successful corporations. A key phrase comes to mind, the BHAG! It was a common theme to the long-term, stable, immensely successful corporations: the Big HAIRY AUDACIOUS Goal!

Hmmm... There's a catch here. I don't know what my BHAG is! But, I know that I need a good goal now to move me forward.

So, I ultimately set a one-year goal with 2 parts:
  1. Finish out the last year of my "make my living as a full-time writer" goal with ease and success. (That in itself was a BHAG monster when I wrote it down on July 26th, 1993.) 
  2. By January of next year, figure out my Big HAIRY AUDACIOUS Goal!
Stay tuned for more to come as I figure out this thing that I so enjoy doing.

In the meantime, you should feel free to pre-order my March (Night Stalkers, in which Michael finally gets his love story) and April (a Night Stalkers novella for charity along with 7 other amazing authors) releases.

M. L. Buchman has over 30 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at


Judith Ashley said...

Interesting post Matt. I do understand how your brain works. I may not be quite the Type A+ person now but there were times in my life when I fit the mold pretty well.

I've two BHAG's. One I'm about to reach. "Retire and enjoy my life and write. Well, I have two more shifts and one meeting left but 02/18 I turn in my pager, fob, id badge and 02/19 submit my last billing.

The other is a bit more elusive because it is simple. To live an easy and effortless life full of joy and happiness. I'm certainly much more "there" than I used to be but there are times.

I'll have to look that particular Napoleon Hill book/tape/CD up. I have a couple of his audio tape albums plus the book "Think and Grow Rich" but I know I'd enjoy having his message about goals all in one place.

Love seeing you name on the anthology! as well as your own titles. I'm always inspired by your progress. It can be done! and I can do it.

M. L. Buchman said...

Whoo-hoo, Judith!!! 3 weeks and counting!!!

I think simple is a real key. You may noticed I slipped in the phrase "with ease and success." I think "ease" is a very powerful word, especially in the world of goals. It is when I try "too hard" that I end up tying myself in knots.

I do really enjoy the lectures by him. Highly recommended.

And no question at all you can do it! The real secret to achieving goals is to to have them in the first place, really clearly and concrete, and then work toward them in the second place.

Sarah Raplee said...

Interesting post, Matt! Can't wait to see what your next BHAG turns out to be!

M. L. Buchman said...

Me either! I have only a few guesses at this point. I'm going to take it on faith that by year end, I'll find it...or at least the next one. :)

Maggie Lynch said...

Matt, I've always loved the way your brain works and that you stay true to yourself. I can see the project manager in you that is crossed with the big dreamer.

I like the BHAG concept. For me, I tend to break my goals down in a more "typical" business fashion--Vision or Dream, followed by BHAG 5 year or 10 year goals, followed by timelines for meeting 5 year goals, followed by steps to get there with deadlines and products.

In 2004, I set a 10 year goal to be making enough money writing to retire at age 60. Though I've been paid as a writer off and on since the 1980's, it was in 2004 that I started seriously writing novels and following my goal of building up a backlist while working full time 50-60 hr per week jobs.

Unfortunately due to work drying up and the economics of recession, I was forced to try to make my 2014 goal work in 2012. I wasn't able to make enough money in 2012 to pay all the bills, BUT I also didn't starve or go into bankruptcy because I was successfully 8 years into my 10 year plan--meaning I had savings to draw from to supplement my writing, and had books already in the pipeline and short stories out and non-fiction work paying royalties, etc. Like you, I'm thinking that 2015 will be my year to be able to pay all the bills with my writing career.

I completely believe in goal setting, large and small. I also believe in keeping what you call the BHAG in site, while being flexible enough to evaluate progress against smaller goals and make changes to keep moving forward. Flexibility and being able to make changes along the way is just as important, to me, as setting the BHAG.

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Maggie,
Yep! Sometimes life rolls intervene, and it eventually turns out to be on your behalf. I lost my corporate job two years ago and the recession, while recovering, still wasn't hiring project managers back into the fold. So, I too had to jump and gamble on the savings as a buffer. The shocker is that it appears to have worked.

As to flexibility, that is an essential key. Napoleon Hill talks at length about set your big goal, but don't get attached to the plan to get there. Plan A doesn't work? Try Plan B, or C. Keep the goal clear, renegotiating only if necessary. The plan to get there? Yep, flexibility.