Keep Your Eyes Off the Prize

Posted By on October 12, 2009

Hundreds of books have been written on the importance of setting goals. And having a clear focus is important in any entrepreneurial venture, no doubt about it. But as crucial as it is to know where you want to go, even more important is knowing how you’re going to get there. A universal trait of RMITs is the ability to execute, to get across the goal line without dropping the ball. What also sets RMITs apart, however, is the ability to adapt to new circumstances, and even change the goal when necessary. Dan Duncan, the richest man in Houston, told me that he runs his businesses, Enterprise Products Partners and Duncan Energy Partners—not to mention his five-thousand-acre Double D Ranch and his considerable philanthropic contributions—according to one piece of advice his grandmother gave him: “Just get up every day and do the best you can that day.”

“Daily incremental improvement is the surest path to great success and a great fortune,” Duncan told me. “You’ve got to be able to execute every day.” Having a goal is important, but as David Rubenstein, Washington, DC’s RMIT, pointed out, no one can predict the future. “The obsession with goal setting and worrying about the future will only take your eye off the ball,” he said. Ross Perot, who sold Rubenstein his copy of the 1297 Magna Carta, also emphasized the impossibility of following a business plan saying, “Life is not an organization chart. Life is more like a spider’s web. Things happen in strange ways.” Like the Magna Carta, any plan has to evolve and adapt while adhering to its core principles. Which is not to say you should start over from scratch every day. Rather, you should build on what you’ve achieved, and you should not focus exclusively on what you hope to achieve.

This seems like a dull, conservative view, but by executing well and building a strong foundation for your business, you actually make yourself far more nimble and adaptable, and better able to take advantage of new opportunities and innovations. As with any other journey, the key to reaching RMIT-caliber success is not in mapping out the route in advance; it’s in regular tune-ups, keeping the gas tank filled, and checking the traffic and weather reports. Watch the road, not the horizon, and you’ll get to your destination much faster—even if you decide to take an alternate route.

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About The Author

W. Randall Jones is the author of The Richest Man in Town. Visit the About W. Randall Jones and About The Richest Man in Town pages to learn more.