I caught a segment on a popular morning news program in which the CEO of Google was being interviewed. The line of questioning centered on the type of potential employee Google typically looks for and the kinds of ideas that would catch the eye of Google as something they would want to pursue.
The CEO gave the example two potential ideas, one that would result in a car that could get 50 miles to the gallon, and one that would get 500 miles to the gallon. While the first idea would be more easily attainable and very useful in the world today, they would be much more interested in the second idea. Even if they failed, the CEO asked the interviewer to think about all they would learn simply by trying to achieve a seemingly impossible task.
Thinking that through for a minute, I realized the genius of that perspective. Imagine if two teams of people worked on each of these ideas. The first team achieved 50 miles to the gallon. The second one only reaching half of their goal by coming up with a method to achieve 250 miles to the gallon.
Which one is the greater success?
About a year ago, I began training for my fourth marathon. I spent months doing speed training, extending the length of my runs, and experimenting with refuel and rehydration techniques. I had done things in this round of training I had never done before.
I fell far short of my time goal, but it was not a failure.
Over the first thirteen years of our marriage, my wife and I accumulated over $109,000 of credit card debt. We were on the brink of financial ruin, and had compromised my family’s future financial security. Yet I would not consider that a failure either.
Both of these scenarios are certainly mistakes. With my marathon training I had misjudged the impact an extra 20 pounds on my frame would have on my conditioning. I also hadn’t trained at the pace needed to achieve my goal. With our finances, my wife and I did not communicate about our finances, and we simply treated credit cards as a resource to get what we wanted, whenever we wanted.
Mistakes only become failures when you refuse to learn from them.
In both of these instances, I have learned from my mistake. As I begin training for my next marathon in June of 2015, I am putting an emphasis on losing weight and paying attention to the pace at which I’m running. My wife and I communicate constantly about our finances, and make decisions together regarding how our money is spent.
We also take forward the knowledge we gained from our mistake.
Just as the knowledge of a team that set out to build a car that could achieve 500 miles to the gallon, but could only squeeze out an efficiency of 250mpg, our experiences have given us useful knowledge that we can build upon.
With my marathon training I know exactly how often my body needs some fuel and hydration to prevent running out of energy and hitting the infamous wall. With our finances, we know the effects that lack of communication and consistent overspending can have, even if we have learned that lesson more than once.
Set your goals high.
I’m very adamant that my goal for my June of 2015 is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It’s a lofty goal, and will require me to shave 50 minutes off my best marathon time. If I train and achieve my goal, that will be spectacular. But if I train and shave 25 minutes off my personal best it will still be the best time I’ve achieved by far.
Regarding my finances, I actually have a list of goals both short term and long term that I want to accomplish. They are also very lofty goals. If I achieve all of them, I will have complete and undisputed financial freedom. If I only achieve some of them, I will simply be well taken care of for the rest of my life.
Are you setting your goals high enough? Are you learning from your mistakes?