In response to the essay I wrote about my new book on self-development, The Pledge, I got a great letter from “Tom,” an ETR reader who is passionate about goal setting.

Passionately negative, that is. He thinks “it’s a damned joke.”

In the real world of business, Tom says, people make decisions based on gut reactions and leaps of faith. The best decisions often come “when you have your back up against the wall. When anxiety levels are high… the brain has to work fast and efficiently.” Goal setting, Tom suspects, didn’t get me to where I am and won’t work for anyone else.

I love this letter because it so clearly comes from the heart. Tom’s clearly a pragmatic guy who doesn’t want to waste time (or money) on useless business ideas.

I’m sympathetic to his feelings, because I used to feel the same way. I started a dozen companies and made millions of dollars without ever setting goals. I had dreams. I made New Year’s resolutions. But I never actually set specific goals and tried to follow them.

So Tom is right — you don’t have to set goals to be successful. If you have good instincts and good luck, you can do very well, as I did in the beginning of my career.

But just because goal setting isn’t necessary, it doesn’t follow that it is not good. Longtime ETR readers know that my days of formally setting goals began when I started writing ETR in 1999. And what I found — and I hope Tom will pay attention to this — is that my productivity quadrupled when I found a goal setting program that worked for me. What’s more important, I started achieving things that, until then, I had never come close to accomplishing.

For example, without the program — which I call my Master Plan — I never would have been able to write and publish a dozen books. Or write, direct, and produce a feature-length film. Or win several Brazilian Jiujitsu tournaments. Or write 350 poems in a year. All while keeping my “day job.”

The same program helped ETR employees too. One, for example, used a master plan to go from being a low-level employee answering the phone to a management position in just a few years. He is now a major profit producer for the company. Several employees have used master plans to meet their weight-loss and physical-fitness goals, including one who lost 30 pounds through diet and vigorous exercise and overcame significant health problems.

I explain how to put together and follow your own Master Plan in my latest book, The Pledge. The book will be published by Wiley & Sons in November. Meanwhile, we are giving away a free excerpt of it right now. When you sign up, you’ll also get a first chance to buy the book when it comes out. To get your free chapters, just go here.