“The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'” – John F. Kennedy

Charlie is getting better every day. Last week, for the first time, he finished all his writing commitments on Friday — before he left work. “That gave me a full weekend off,” he told me. “And guess what I did?”

I was delighted to hear his answer. He worked on planning his life goals. The proof was in the Life Goals Summary worksheet he showed me. There, in the “Life Goals” column, were four big ones, one for each of the important areas of his life (the same areas that I suggested you concentrate on in our first New Year’s resolution for 2004):

1. For his wealth: financial freedom — a life without debt

2. For his health: a fit, healthy, and active life

3. For his personal self: the ability to live and work wherever he wants

4. For his social self: maintaining strong, loving bonds with his children, family, and friends

That was an impressive start. Just as encouraging, his five-year and one-year goal boxes were densely filled out too. In the “Financial ” box, for example, he had indicated the kind of annual income he hoped to be generating at each one of those milestones — and he had targeted a significant accomplishment for Year One: to increase his income by 100%. That may seem unrealistic, but he had already figured out how to do it by asking his boss (me), “What would I have to do to double my income in the next 12 months?”

The main thing that Charlie has to do in order to achieve that very aggressive goal is to create two winning promotional packages for ETR. So that became his No. 1 one-year financial goal.

Here’s where his impressive start began to fizzle. In his monthly financial-goal boxes, nothing was written. “I’m not sure how to get that done,” he admitted.

“By identifying that goal and making it a priority, you’ve already done the most important thing,” I told him. “Now you need to figure out how many promotions you’ll need to write to give yourself a better than even chance of coming up with two winners.”

He asked several experienced copywriters who have done it and found out that, on the average, you have to write six promotions in order to come up with two “controls.”

“OK,” I said. “You are onto something. To come up with two controls in one year, you’re going to have to write a new promotion every two months. Now, you need to break down the steps that it takes to write a promotion. And so he did:

1. Get the assignment.

2. Research the product.

3. Research past promotions.

4. Hold a brainstorming session.

5. Create two or three proposals.

6. Get them approved.

7. Write the promotion.

8. Get it critiqued.

9. Rewrite it.

10. Get it mailed.

By breaking the goal down into individual tasks, Charlie can clearly see that he is going to have to get started right away if he intends to achieve it by the end of the year. He’s going to have to go through this 10-step process six times — and that will keep his monthly, weekly, and even daily schedule very full.

There’s another problem we discovered while looking over Charlie’s five-year plan. His No. 1 and No. 3 life goals overlapped. “Living and working wherever you want” is, at least in large part, the same thing as having financial freedom. To Charlie, it seemed like a personal, not a financial, goal because of the effect it would have on his lifestyle. But, as I pointed out to him, being able to have such choices is, in fact, one of the main purposes of building wealth.

Developing your “personal self,” in my book, is a very different thing. Personal development includes such things as:

  • learning a foreign language
  • cultivating your wine-tasting ability
  • earning a black belt in martial arts
  • reading the classics

Charlie felt that such pursuits might be too frivolous at this point in his life. “I think I have to focus on my main goal . . . the wealth-building goal. I’ll have time for that other stuff later.”

“That’s what you think,” I said. “To have a better, more fulfilled, BALANCED life, you need to do both. You don’t need to spend a lot of time on the personal you, but you do have to do something every day — maybe just by learning something new about a subject that you’re interested in.”

I reminded him of David Galland’s hour-a-day learning system and said, “Surely you can find an hour a day.”

When Charlie left my office, I began jotting down some ideas on how to make ETR’s goal-setting program even better than it already is. As you know, this program is based on the understanding that if you want to achieve something big in your life, you have to put some disciplined effort into it. In past ETR messages, I told you exactly how I used this system to get where I am today.

I still use the same yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily task-planning techniques that I urge you to use. Are you using them? If you haven’t yet accomplished everything you’ve been trying to do, I hope Charlie’s story has inspired you. He’s well on his way to the future he has envisioned for himself. You can do it too.

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