#winning Before Beginning: a 5-step process to improving your goal setting game with (negotiable) non-negotiables

I'm lazy. 

I'm not saying that to be funny or cute: I'm being for real.

I'm REALLY lazy. 

Relaxing at the beach. Kicking it on the sofa. A quick bowl of cereal: those are the little things that bring a smile to this 30-year old entrepreneurs face.


I also grind, because  I know that being a hustler is just as important to me as finding time to relax.

Working until 2 am. Balancing too many projects. 2 hour deadlines: those are the moments I live for.

I work hard, because I know that when looking back on my life, I want to know that I used my energy in a positive way:

the best way for me to do that is to strive to be the best possible version of myself. 

I laze hard because I know that when I look back on my life, work isn't the only thing that I want to remember. I want to remember trips, experiences, people, conversations and food. Finding time to relax and enjoy life is the best possible way to create those memories.

Sounds like a conflict of interest, right? 

How do you put everything into your work and also put everything into seeking the joyful moments of life? 


Define What You Want

I think too often we get bogged down by how we think things are supposed to be, rather than just allowing things to... be. 

Examples of The Way we think Things are Supposed to Be

"I'm only going to go on vacation if its at least 2 weeks and I get to fly internationally."

"I'll start my company when I have XX number of dollars in the bank."


"I'll get serious with my girlfriend after I get a promotion at my job."

Do any of those sound familiar? 

We defer what we want because we have an expectation for the way things are supposed to be.

Which is fucked up!

Because the purpose isn't to get anywhere: the purpose is to live a life that fulfills you.  

Millenials in particular are suspect to this train of thought:

especially when looking at the relationship between work / life balance and personal satisfaction. 

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When we're kids, we're told to go to graduate high school, go to college, and get a great job. Eventually, you'll get married, buy a house, and start making babies: the American dream.

If you're an American and you want to be happy, you have to check these things off:

Check. Check. Check.

The problem is, achieving those things hasn't particularly made us any happier.

The recommended plan doesn't mention anything about fulfullment.  

When looking purely at hours, Millenials are among the hardest working generation in recent history:

Which hasn't directly translated to job satisfaction: Millenials are among the most unengaged demographic when it comes to their careers. 



I'm not sure why the work first mentality is so ingrained in our  culture either: most recent efficiency studies have shown that employees are most effective at their jobs when satisfied outside of work

Signs, which to me point to the fact that the real issue is that we've never asked ourselves what we REALLY wanted out of life, or, at the bare minimum, had the courage to explore. 

Because When it's all said and done, we're working to live, not living to work, right?

So here's what I propose: instead of focusing so much on whether or not your ticking things off your checkbox, focus instead on what's going to make you happy: e.g. a life that you can be proud of.

Because at the end of the day, no one's getting out of life... alive.

So. How do we do it?

How do we focus on living the life we want and win "the game" before  we even get started? 


Here's my 5 Step Formula:


Step 1: Work on Self-Awareness 

Step 2: Define Your Non-Negotiables

Step 3: Know Your Goals

Step 4: Appreciate Today

Step 5: Be Flexible


Step 1: Self-Awareness

“The Way to do is to be.” 

― Lao Tzu

Knowing who you are is the first step to improving your goal setting game in order to win before you begin.

Self-awareness is defined as: 

self-a·ware·ness (noun)
conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.

The greater message is that we all need to get comfortable with ourselves. If you're unsure of who you are, or what gets you out of bed in the morning, my recommendation is to spend some time getting to know yourself better. 

A good first step is to take inventory of your strengths and weaknesses:  that way, you can focus on maximizing what you're good at, and minimize what you're not so good at. 

When setting my goals for the year, I take an honest look at my strengths and weaknesses and build a plan around those:


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Positive Attitude



Susceptibility to Burnout

Organization and Attitude are probably my greatest strengths. Not being on time and susceptibility to burnout are areas that I have to improve. So, when goal planning, I make sure to take these strengths and weaknesses in order to compensate.

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I use my organizational skills to better help plan my days in order to avoid being late, or to schedule time for fun in order to avoid burnout. Because we all know that burnouts no good.

Next, up: how I use non-negotiables to help guide the path. 

Step 2: Enter Non-Negotiables. 

a non negotiable is something that's defined as "insert non-negotiable definition here." 

My  non-negotiables are my principles, or the things I find value in. These are things that I'm not willing to compromise on: when looking back on my life, I want these principles to have helped guide me to wherever my path has  lead me.

The focus then doesn't become so much on the destination as it does in putting together a solid foundation: a path that I can believe in 

Its been pretty well documented that in order to achieve a goal, you need a plan. By outlining your principles, you give yourself a framework for where you're going. 

So by putting on paper the things that you find value in, the things that by achieving (or striving to achieve) will make you content, you've literally given yourself a plan of action for achieving your goals. 

These are my non-negotiables, or, my guiding principles. The rules I've created for myself that I'm not willing to compromise on.

  1. Anything is Possible 

  2. Be On Time

  3. Ride the Waves

  4. Keep Your Word

  5. Fun, All The Damn Time

  6. Meditate

  7. Family

  8. Fear Nothing

  9. Apologize When You Mean It

  10. There's No Tomorrow

  11. Love


I've put out into the Universe the things that I find value in. The things that when I look back on my life, if I didn't abide by, I would feel a certain restlessness about my transition into whatever next phase we enter after we die. 

Non-negotiables provide a framework for getting what you want out of life. Now that I have a path, I can start filling it with the experiences, moments, and life events which best reflect them. 

Next step? 

Define what you'd actually like to see happen. 

Step 3: Know Your Goals

My friend Danny is a  fitness guru: this dude is in crazy the gym.

When I first started my fitness regime, he was the first person I hit up for advice. 

Whenever I hit him up for exercise advice, always starts the conversation with the same question:

"What are your goals?" 

Which is sometimes a frustrating response when you want a 30 second answer, but a necessary one. 

How else can you know "you've arrived?" 

You have to put down what you'd like to see on paper, and then put a date next to it.

Every year I write down the things that I'd like to accomplish by the end of the year.

I then break out those goals by quarter, month, weeks, and days, in order to make gigantic annual goals more manageable. 

The idea is that I take HUGE goals and break them into manageable pieces that I can attack every day.

Ruckus Projects was one of the first places that I learned about goaling: it was there that I learned about the 3 year / 3 Month Rule:

Know where you want to be 3 years from today, but make sure you're daily focus is on what you can control in the next 3 months.

While scary, it's  pretty freeing to put pen on paper and saying: I AM GOING TO DO THIS. 

A dream written down with a date becomes a goal
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan
A plan back by action makes your dream come true

Writing down your goals with dates next to them allows you to work backwards in order to figure out how you're going to get there. 

Step 4: Appreciate Today

Appreciating today is something that I've only recently learned about. 

If I'm being honest, I've been so focused on growing my business: building relationships, creating a product, and figuring out a way to bring it to market, that I've allowed some really cool possibilities to walk past me.

Ron Burgundy and I know a little thing about loss. Learn to appreciate the lessons: don't focus on your failures!

Ron Burgundy and I know a little thing about loss. Learn to appreciate the lessons: don't focus on your failures!

What sucks for me is that I allowed the pressures and frustrations, not the passion and momentum, prevent me from some really special things, which is disappointing.

Achieving your goals is tough because there's not a real path to get there: we just do the best we have with the information we have available and just live.

We're going to make mistakes. 

So don't worry about getting knocked on your ass every once in a while.

While our hearts are still pumping, we have the ability to hit the reset button and change our life's trajectory: something you're going to need do (often) if you want to  get the things that you want out of life. 

Step 5: Be Flexible

“The only constant is change.” 

― Heraclitus

Life is CONSTANTLY throwing curve balls our way: bills, deaths, break-up's, things always manage a way to throw wrenches into the grand plans for the future that we've created for ourselves. 

Shit changes, no matter what you do about it. We're constantly growing, learning, and experiencing, and as a result of that, we're going to change.

Which means our goals might change. Or our plan to get there. Or our values.

The lesson here is no get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because the more you try to fight change, the more uncomfortable its going to be. 

So you've got it, T's 5 Step Process to improving your goal setting game.

While not perfect, I hope this helps you guys knock out some of the things you'd like to accomplish, or at least, provided you with some perspective.

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