Investing (your life) in a startup

set goals

Before you start the new job: Set goals

I had a conversation last week with one of the most successful businessmen in America.

I was standing in the same room as him at a party in New York City when he asked me to step into the hallway. He's an older man, you see, so he wanted to speak with me somewhere quiet. He congratulated me on my new job, and asked me to tell him more about the company I will be working for. He was trying to wrap his brain around what I saw in the opportunity that convinced me to move my life from New York to San Francisco.

After 5 minutes, he seem convinced I had made the right decision. Before rejoining the party, he left me with a few words of advice. "Set goals for yourself before you start your new job. 3 month goals. 6 month goals. 8 month goals. If you aren't hitting them, and the company isn't growing the way it should be, don't be afraid to get out. Know when to say enough is enough." I thanked him and we returned to the party.

A few days later I wrote down my 3 month and 6 month goals (I'll set my 8 month goals after 3 months). Here's how I've interpreted his advice:

Take care of yourself

Don't be distracted by the 1 year mark.

In merit-based companies like small startups, what you accomplish is far more valuable than how long you've been there. Don't buy into the concept of needing to stay at one place for a year. If your learning stops, and you're unable to achieve what you set out to do for the company, it's time to re-evaluate. Make changes in yourself. Ask for more support from the company. If this doesn't work, you must have the guts to admit defeat and move on.

Time is your scarcest resource. Don't burn it up in the wrong place.

Don't get complacent

Your story of accomplishment will help you reach your next major goal.

Whether that goal is getting a new job, earning a promotion, or raising money for your startup, you need to tell a compelling story of what you've done. The goals you set when you're starting out will be the highlights of that story. If you walk into a job, mindful of what you're trying to accomplish, you'll have more details to flesh out those highlights.

If you find yourself going through the motions one week, look at your goals. Can you cross out the first few? Are you on track to hit the larger ones? They will serve as a constant reminder of what needs to be done, and where you need to improve you own skillset.

If you're smart about your goals, and you work hard, success wil take care of itself.

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