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And then what?

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Something cool happened to me. Yesterday, I was quoted in the New York times for PBwiki (check the last 2 paragraphs). It felt great, and my parents are proud of me.

It also made me think about the odd goals we set for ourselves. For example, I spend a lot of time figuring out marketing strategy for PBwiki. At the beginning, I thought it was critically important to get press coverage. “We’ve got to be in the [insert big newspaper here],” I said, and I was sure about it. But I was wrong. The real goal wasn’t to get news coverage or more conference invites or funding. The goal was–and still is–to get customers who love our product. So when I saw the quote in the paper today, I was proud and happy and thrilled. And then I thought, now what?

I know a young CEO whose only goal is to get her company funding. Why? What happens once she gets funding? Does that mean her company is a success?

Another blogger I know desperately wants to be featured on TechCrunch, the popular Web 2.0 blog. What happens then? Will he instantly get famous? Does all the hard work pay off once you’re featured on some blog?

The answer to both is no. Achieving these goals is just the first step. And then what? What happens if you actually achieve it, and realize you never thought through the next step? Other “goals” I have heard: “I want to be an investment banker,” “I want to live in a nice apartment,” and “I want to be the best-dressed person at work.”

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  1. That’s awesome man, congrats!

  2. I think this is an awesome thing to have happened to you, and I definitely agree with the point of your post: “then what”?

    This reminds me a lot of Anne Lamott’s book “Bird by Bird.” She talks about how writers desparately want to get published, and when they do for the first time, they realize it didn’t really fulfill them. They seem to ask “now what?” Thus, the point should be to write, and just let the rest fall however it does.

  3. You are right, what is the point of being featured when there is nothing ahead after that.

    Congratulations on your leap…I am sure I am following the making of a great entrepreneur.

  4. That’s exactly the question I’ve been thinking about for the past few months.

    I was about to go after funding for my own company when I realized that I didn’t have a plan for the money. I figured I’d just throw it at some local commercials, newspapers, some guerilla marketing stuff, etc. But, I didn’t have a plan.

    Not having a plan will kill you.

    Just a note: I still don’t have a plan. I don’t know what will be the most effective campaign for my dollar. If I knew that, I’d be able to create a plan to utilize the dollars I may receive. Otherwise, I’m staying out of the game.

  5. I think the difference might be that these are means to an end and not an end in itself. Don’t get confused between the “what” and the “how”…If your goal is to get more subscribers, then getting quoted in the NY times is a nice way to make a lot of people know your company name briefly, but it’s a very un-targeted audience and ultimately may not result in any new accounts, or any paying accounts. So, while it might be useful collateral later and help build your brand, it’s not directly linked to achieving your goal…it’s a “how” along the way, but doesn’t directly lead to the “what” that you were looking to achieve.

    I think you also bring up an interesting point about why you would set a particular goal.

    I think also there’s a natural “let down” period once you’ve hit a goal. You’ve spent a lot of energy working towards that goal, and once you’re there it can seem draining to climb the next mountain and empty not to still be climbing something. I say, enjoy it, brag about it, but keep in mind you’re never quite done.

  6. “I don’t know what will be the most effective campaign for my dollar.”

    Sometimes the best way to find that out is to experiment. Unfortunately, experimentation costs some money.

  7. Have you ever read the book Think Big, Act Small by Jason Jennings? I think you would like it. It is about the workings and CEOs of the nations top 7 companies that have had double digit profits for the past 20 years. It is very interesting, think you would like it.

  8. You’re part of the PBWiki team? How cool! I use PBWiki for my classroom:

  9. You seem to be suffering from the “we have arrived syndrome” as described by Jim Collins in “Built to last”. This is a syndrome that plagues companies and people alike after achieving a BHAG; (to continue to use Jim Collins’ terminology- Big Harry Audacious Goal). If you do not immediately set a new BHAG- you may stagnate, feel like you’ve lost momentum and continue to suffer from the “we have arrived syndrome”. The remedy for this cure- according to Collins- is to re visit the core ideology, set a new goal, and stimulate progress and change to achieve it. Your next goal needs to build on the last and build on your core ideolgy and vision for yourself/company. Built to last- by Jim Collins et all. Great book- I highly recommend it. Congrats on the Times… a great goal to have acomplished.

  10. And then what: To be the headline on the New York Times not in the last two paragraphs.