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Monday, 4 May 2015

Why you don't set goals for the long term

Accountability - You can't touch me! 

Have you noticed most organisations don't set corporate goals that exceed more than 5 years?

OK, one of my ex-company had a strategic 10 goals for 10 years plan...

Most of us "shepherds" just snigger amongst ourselves as we put on a show and dance to rally the troops forward.

Come on! We have to be in the same job description for 10 years to be accountable. For that to happen, we have to be sheep.

Most of us shepherds are either on contracts or have no intention to stay in the same job for max 5 years. And true enough, the CEO left before he got to review what's the end result of his "baby".

Look! Water ahead! (望酶止渴)

Do you know the art of selling unpalatable Wholelife insurance?

You project the benefits as far off to the future as possible! That' why snake-oils always highlight the benefits after 30 or 40 years - it plays into the basic human emotion of greed.

It's simply a mathematical trick where the effect of compounding is only sexy at the last few years of multi-decade projections using single digit % compounding. 

Of course the snake-oil will conveniently gloss over the fact that for Wholelife, you LOSE money for the first 20 years from the get go!?

Yup, if the snake-oil senses the sheep is not so good with "seeing the whole forest", can even throw in the dumbest insurance of all - Wholelife for Child. 

If 30-40 years looks good, try 50-60 years of projected benefits!!! And if we throw in what our unborn and non-existent grandchildren may benefit... Hey! We have some extra decades to play with!!! How's that for the win!?

Is that how Angel or Private equity investors do when evaluating their investments? 

OK, maybe this would be easier - how many years do analysts use for their discounted cash flow models to arrive at the "fair" value pricing for stocks? How come no one uses 30 or 40 years?

Poor goal setting - Time to move the goal posts?

If a person finally reaches his/her goal of hitting $1 million in 20 or 30 years, there's a quick way to evaluate his/her goal setting skills.

1.  Moves on to the next stage of his/her journey. Do as you say.

2.  Moves the goal posts. Say say only. 

Of course must cut some slack to those who move the goal posts!

Afterall, a lot can happen in 20 years!!!

We can have wars, regime change, natural disasters, etc.

OK, maybe too drama since Singapore has remained "untouchable" for the last 50 years. Hmm, I seem to recall someone did say Singapore was an "impregnable fortress" once...

How about something as mundane as discovering the 3% factor we've used for inflation is "only" a projection? A projection is another word for guess, and guessing does not really fit the S.M.A.R.T criterias for goal setting, does it? 

And how confident are we in projecting our lifestyles and health conditions 20 years into the future?

In the short term, the gap between those with goals and plans over those without can be wide. But over the long term, is the gap still visible?


  1. Why do we see ants carrying dead grasshopper bodies? Ants have plan on what to do with the dead bodies?


    1. CW,

      Left, right, left, right.

      Worker ants don't have plans; they merely carry out the instructions of the Queen ant ;)

      Make a wild guess what the ants do with the dead sisters of their colonies...

      Is there a difference between a DEAD grasshopper and DEAD ant?


  2. I have achieved most of my long term goals but realize that it's as important to be living in the here and now. This was made apparent by the many disasters, natural and man-made in recent years that life is indeed unpredictable and I should live a life with as little regrets as possible.

    1. Joyce,

      You have grasped the essence and living well!

      Many have unwittingly put their lives "on-hold" with too much planning...

      1) When I graduate... then I will

      2) When I get married... then I will

      3) When we have more money... then I will

      4) When I retire... then I will

  3. And ...

    5) When I am dead ... alamak, forgot to have a will!?

    1. Lizardo,


      I don't know about you, but I'm not coming back!

      When I'm dead, that's will be the ultimate realm of no goals; no plans :)

  4. SMOL,

    I think you can have lifetime mission statement, goal, as long as it is a guiding principle and you feel motivated and happy having them

    However, if it is SMART, then maybe in the long run, it is not so smart. A unforeseen situation will wipe the numbers.

    My OM and I were having conversation about people upset and losing temper when things don't go according to plans. I told him the ONE thing that will always go according to plan is "things will go wrong". He agreed.

    I must tell you I am almost the lone tree in my industry that feel this way. They will always tell me poor planning. I like to slap them back and say:" at least I am executing"

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      Of course we can do anything we want just as long we happy :)

      (And don't get caught!)

      I like to throw out moot questions to see what nuggets of gold I'll receive in return ;)

      You are on to something!

      The higher strategic level we go, we see land owners and shepherds talk in terms of Visions, Mission statements, I have a Dream etc. All fuzzy and grey stuffs.

      It gets a little more concrete at the tactical level with 1 to 5 years planning. Here we start to see milestones, key review check-points, etc.

      And way down at the operational level - we get S.M.A.R.T goals...

      Suffice to say goal setting and planning were definitely not shackles invented by sheep to use it on themselves ;)

      Once I've crossed the river, I let go of the sampan. It's just a tool or vehicle for me to get across the river. I travel light.

      Lucky I agnostic. In case I die and I meet the big guy upstairs, at least I can say, "You know? I never believed in you; but at least I never disrespect you."

      Contrast this with some "spiritual" people plan their lives is a bit like treating the big guy upstairs as "transparent".

      莫事在人, 成事在天

      Things go my way, I give thanks, 感恩.

      I don't go aku, saya...

      Grow deep roots Sillyinvestor. You'll need it. The lone tree that sticks out will face lots of head winds... But hey! At least you'll stay cool ;)

  5. Hi guys,

    Ah, so the Queen ant has no goals, and only has great visions for her colony. She is resentful that her most capable daughter, being her prime minister in charge of affairs in the colony, keeps pressing her for concrete numbers and set targets. Of course there must be a set target everyday! If nobody tallies all the food foraged daily, then the whole colony will suffer! That's what the prime minister thinks. But if the Queen ant doesn't have vision, she'll be like all the other sisters who are still stuck in the old colony of their mother, nor daring to climb out of the dark comfortable colony into the bright unknown.

    New paradigm! A grasshopper is really a queen ant! But what then is a butterfly? Lol!

    1. LP,

      Good try with muddying the water...

      But au contraire!

      The Queen Ant is no Grasshopper.

      The only time she saw the light of day was on her maiden mating flight where she engages in an orgy of seeding her sacs with as many partners as possible.

      Once she has founded her colony deep inside her "gilded" dungeon, she will stay there till thy kingdom come.

      If you stay in a dark dungeon for the rest of your life, what's the point of setting goals?

      I guess the only thing she can do is repeat the same mantra to her daughters, "Study hard, work hard."

      Shoo! Little butterfly.

      What is a butterfly? You tell me!


  6. Hi SMOL,

    Aww...okay okay, grasshopper isn't ant because same same but different lol!

    What's a butterfly? I also don't know. Sometimes a caterpillar that is earth bound, sometimes butterfly which can fly ;) occasionally a chrysalis that cannot move too haha!

  7. Hi SMOL,

    Good football striker do not plan how many goals they want to score, they JUST NEED TO score! Pretty much the same in life that scoring goals is more important than just plain talking about goals.

    1. Rolf,

      Exactly ;)

      Strikers focus on getting themselves free from their markers and onto good scoring positions - what they can control and influence.

      Whether their team mates will pass them the ball or would they be tackled at the last minute is something out of their control....

  8. Thought world best strikers want to break the previous Top Scorer's Record. Bo meh?

    1. CW,

      I think I'll use Murong Fu's 以彼之道, 還之彼身 to reply you:

      1. Setting goals and planning is WHAT you want to achieve.

      2. It does not describe nor tell us HOW to achieve it.



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