“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…”

This is Part 3 of my Goals series. You can find Part 1 Here, and Part 2 Here.

Twenty years ago this November, Jennifer and I were on our honeymoon in Hana, Maui. We were lounging around a pool – I was bored and she was reading a book. I started thinking about the future and came up with some questions that I had never asked her. Here are two of the questions along with her responses:

Alden: “Honey, if the Big-Man upstairs says you can have whatever you want for kids what would you want?”

Jennifer – without ANY hesitation says: “Oh, that’s easy: I want four boys, 2 years apart – I want to be in diapers and then out of them…forever.”

Having grown-up in a family of four, the concept of a family of six was totally foreign to me – took me a little while to think about her answer! She was so confident in her response, and I think she noticed my surprise (and maybe a little color draining from my face too!), that she followed-up with:

“You know, the gender of the children isn’t up to me…it’s up to you – no pressure sweetie!” she said half sarcastically before going back to reading her book.

It took me more than a few minutes to process life as a family of six, before I asked her the next question:

Alden: “So, we’re now a family of six – what’s the single most important thing you want to do with our “four” boys that are each two years apart?” (I might have asked this question with a little sarcasm attached.)

Jennifer – again, not missing a beat: “Live overseas.”

Alden: “Where?”

Jennifer: “A place where Spanish is the first language. I want our children to speak multiple languages, enjoy traveling and have a worldly point of view.”

These two questions are almost verbatim – there’s just a little paraphrasing going on here to keep this blog post shorter – but it’s the God’s honest truth. Fast forward to our 20th year of marriage, and here I sit in Barcelona, Spain as we begin planning our return to San Francisco after living here for what will be two years this summer. Our FOUR boys are now 7-9-11-13.

Was it just dumb luck that we had four boys, two years apart and that we moved to Spain (and traveled to over 20 countries while we’ve been here)?

What do you think? Divine intervention? Was I born to be a father of four and take them to Spain? Did I come pre-programmed to do this?

I certainly think there’s another power at work, and regardless of your spiritual beliefs, whether it’s the “universe” or a higher authority or quantum mechanics, you MUST define what you’re after. I’m not saying you’ll always get what you want, nor am I saying if you follow my steps your dreams will magically turn into reality. I will tell you this: dreams don’t work unless you do.

I want you to stand on my shoulders in hopes you can see a horizon that’s further away than the one you can see while standing where you are (if this metaphor is lost on you, reread GOALs Part 2). It’s why I discussed horizons first before getting here. My whole point of writing these blogs is to help you see greater horizons – God knows there have been many who have helped me see further!

When I was grappling with Jennifer’s first response about “4 boys/2 years apart”, I had NO IDEA how I was going to deliver upon that request – NONE – Nada – Zilch. So you know what I did? I started my first set of 20 year goals on that honeymoon – I wrote done exactly what we both wanted: 4 boys/2 years apart – live in a Spanish speaking country for at least year. I’m not kidding you, I did exactly that. Then every year, I rewrote that 20-year goal at the top of the page of my one/three/five-year goals. I put it on top of my bedside table stand. Though I didn’t read it every night nor did I post it for the world to see, I did however remind myself of it nightly. The little black book that I bought in Hana, Maui became my first Goal Log. (I use the name “Log” in reference to a Ship Captain’s log that he/she is required to keep a daily record of ship activity.)

Over time, I refined my Goal Log. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had been doing 1-, 3- and 5-year goals, but I had never planned 20 years out and then planned backwards. The “Log” also became a tracker for my personal bucket list of things I want to experience, from doing, giving or buying. My bucket list has them all.

Another thing my Log houses was something I developed called Outcome Accounts – these came to me from my days suffering through Accounting class in Business school. I took the fundamental building block of Accounting called a “T-Account”. (It literally looks like a capital “T”) and adapted the simple credit/debit construct to help me focus on the goals that were truly meaningful. The way it works is simple: write with AS MUCH SPECIFICITY AS YOU CAN about your defined goal at the top of the “T”. Underneath on the left side, write down all the positive outcomes that will occur to you and those involved should this goal get attained. On the opposite side, write down all the NEGATIVE things that will occur should this goal not make it to your reality. You’ll be surprised to find that BOTH columns will motivate you and sometimes the pain of the right column will provide exactly the motivation you need not to give up your quest for the goal.

Lately, my Outcome Accounts have become more complex because the goals I’m seeking are getting bigger. (By the way, that’s what happens once you get a taste of accomplishing your goals – you dream up bigger ones!) I need lots of different types of folks to help me achieve these goals, so I’ve created a new “T” account that is part two of my Outcome Account – and it’s focused on who can help me AND how I can help them. VERY IMPORTANT: if you decide to embrace others in helping you achieve your goal ENSURE you consciously look for ways to help them – make it quid pro quo and you’ll be surprised how much faster you can attain the goal and how much joy you’ll receive from helping others. Above is a hand drawn picture of what I’m talking about.Ti

I could spend another 10,000 words discussing the importance of goals and what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what I’m trying out. BUT THE NUMBER ONE THING I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER IS: your life is UP TO YOU!  Our only limitations in life are our imagination and determination. Your biggest challenge should always be dreaming up bigger goals. I will end this blog post by completing the quotation that started it:

“….Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”- Mark Twain

What are you waiting for?!



P.S. If you want more details on Outcome Accounts – see my book Be Unstoppable – the 8 Essential Actions to Succeed at Anything