Mar 03

Most self-improvement programs suggest that the first steps are to:

  1. write down a list of your short-term and long-term goals
  2. post them in a conspicuous place

Doing this puts several things to work for you: First, when you write something down, the act of writing itself causes your brain to use different neural pathways. Odds are you could care less about which neurons you use to get something done, but you’d probably be interested to know the effects that research has shown writing to have on memory, cognition and creativity. Additionally, when you write your goals down you are forced to quantify and qualify them in ways that do not occur when you simply think to yourself “it’d be nice if i could do xyz someday…” Writing out the goals generally requires that you to think through the path towards achieving them as well. It gets you 100% clear on your intent (the “why”) and that is the strongest motivator you can possibly bring to bear. Anything you want to improve, you must first be able to track- this exercise clarifies exactly what you’re tracking from now on. The last thing you enact by exposing your goals publicly is peer pressure- when you post them on your bathroom mirror or on your bedroom wall or even in your cube, you tap into the same advantages that come with having a workout partner at the gym (ie. thinking to yourself, “i can’t skip today because i’ll be letting so-and-so down”). Peer pressure is typically conceived as a _bad_ thing but in this context I would argue that having other people aware of your goals will compel you to take steps necessary to meet them that you otherwise would not have. Posting goals in your workplace is a start but there’s a better, more conspicuous place to post them…

So in a bit of a social experiment, I’m proposing a meme centered around exposing your goals publicly for the next year and beyond. At the very worst – it’s comedy, you miss the mark on everything and nobody remembers the post a year from now. At the very best – it’s a living post that changes as you attain goals, an exercise that is the catalyst for some greater focus, and a neat way to peer over the fence and see what is important to other people (and prod them towards reaching their own goals). If you choose to participate, this is what you need to do:

  1. post a list of your short-term and long-term goals on your blog and mention who tapped you for the experiment. The goals you list don’t have to be technology-specific or anything-specific really- just stuff you want to want to eventually achieve. Aim high here, really ponder what you want to achieve someday, what you want your life’s work to be, and then write it down. Try to make the list as close to the chronology as you see it playing out- make it so it starts with the most short-term/atomic/realistic goals and let it wander to the most ambitious / wacky / long-term dreams
  2. use the title “opensource goals meme” so that other people can do a search and find the other participants. copy these instructions somewhere in the post or refer them here
  3. tap 5 friends to do this exercise after you are finished and actually READ what they write and REFLECT how their priorities are similar and different from your own
  4. maintain this list as you go crossing off things as you achieve them and adding new ones as they develop

So my list is perhaps a bit on the exhaustive/ambitious side but it’s been building in my Treo over the past year:

learn decision tree analysis
get accepted to the 9rules network
learn how to kite surf
learn to paraglide
learn morse code
reconnect w/ old friends on working US roadtrip
down-size, consolidate and turn house and convert to performing asset
get back to single-digit bodyfat
organize barcamp phoenix
regain flexibility
work for myself
cook 90% of all meals- less eating out
grid7 retreat w/ core intellectuals @ tonto natural bridge
achieve 1000 WPM reading speed
write for a reputable publication
learn yoga
become an employer
learn krav maga
buy a beachfront condo somewhere tropical
play “Panama” live on stage w/ Van Halen
take the bob baunderant school of racing
hold summer “cabin codefest”
produce coldturkey’s next album
get scuba certified
build a home recording studio
create a revolutionary billion dollar company
make the homepage of slashdot
drive from alaska to chile (fireandicetour)
learn to surf
make the “backs of giants” mural
learn accounting principles & tax law
learn tai chi
publish a kid’s book
learn to fly a helicopter
liberate 100 people from shitty jobs they hate
take down a major bully
develop a highschool curriculum
learn handwriting analysis
do a wilderness survival school and survive 1 wk in wild
start a VC firm
study all the major world religions
read all the Great Books
travel to all 7 continents
launch VELA project in phoenix
serve abroad in the peace corps
learn feng shui fundamentals
summit large mountain
speak at a major conference
complete the chronos custom nutrition program
complete a marathon
earn para3 rating and fly torrey pines
make the cover of WIRED
earn a PhD in biomimicry
beat the champion level of scrabble
meet the Dhali Lama in person
raise a child
x-country paragliding trip in either chile or australia
win pulitzer
redistribute the wealth based on merit
visit outer space
find cure for a major mental illness like depression
earn nobel prize

Ok, so granted they get wildly ambitious towards the end ;-) but my friend Don always said “goals are dreams with a deadline.” Never stop dreaming big, right?
Kimbro Staken, Steven Harvill, Rob Brooks-Bilson and Chris Tingom – you’ve been “tapped” ;-)

UPDATE: a few more people I’m tapping on this meme- John Blayter, John Bland, Max Porges, Noah Kagan, Francine Hardaway, John Murch

UPDATE: 6/16/06 – Held Cabin Codefest in Munds Park.

UPDATE: 8/1/06 – Became an employer (hired Ben as our first full-time employee)

UPDATE: 10/15/06 – completed the PADI scuba class

UPDATE: 12/15/06 – Got accepted to 9rules and organized the 1st Barcamp Phoenix

UPDATE: 1/5/07 – Had my first kite surfing course – woohoo!

UPDATE: 3/9/07 – Published my first book

8 Responses to “Opensource Goals Meme: a social experiment in becoming “write brained””

  1. Brad says:


    This is a cool idea. I’ve been doing something similar (on and off) for many years. I can say that in the years I wrote down goals, I was much more successful in achieving them than the years I did not.

    I just want to point out a few things about goal setting I’ve learned over the years:

    (1) Make your list short, but not to short. The goal is to reach as many as your goals as possible without making it too easy on yourself. A long list can actually be detrimental because it can cause procrastination. The longer the list, the more likely you are to ignore it because it will take a lot of effort to decide which goals to tackle. Also, if you have a list of hundred things and you knock off 10 during the year–you want get as much satisfaction because it will appear that you actually didn’t get much done (no matter how big your achievements were).

    (2) Break down larger goals into smaller ones. It’s far easier to accomplish a lot of small tasks that lead to the ultimate goal than it is for your mind to digest the project as a whole. For example, instead of putting down: Get PhD in computer science — you might put down register for graduate school and get financial aid.

    (3) Separate larger and long-term goals into a separate list. This list can be your 5 or 10 year goals. You?ll probably only want to review this list once a year.

    (4) Use images with your goals. Create a scrapbook or web page and put visual references to your goal. If you want to buy a house–put a picture of the type of house you want. The image doesn’t have to be too specific, but it should be similar to the object you want or the feeling that you’re trying to achieve.

    (5) Not only should you frequently review your goals, you should also revise them. Throughout the year add, delete or modify your goals. If you stick to your list without modification it, can take you down paths that you no longer want to go or make you avoid your list.

    I think this is a cool project and I definitely want to see the end results.

    My 2 cents.


  2. […] So enough of the ra-ra-ra motivational speech… I can’t possibly match Steve Jobs’ commencement address in that regard. I do however challenge the loyal OKDork readers out there to participate in a social experiment of my design and of which I believe Noah would approve. I call it the “Opensource Goals Meme.” I won’t rehash the details here and say why I think it’s effective in its purpose but if you want to participate, read the rules via the link above and leave a trackback so we know where your goal post is. Then run this google query occasionally and observe and reflect on other people’s goals and how they differ from your own. […]

  3. My goals are now on my blog. This will be fun.

  4. […] The “how” of this process was relatively easy. Perhaps the more interesting question was “why?” And there are a couple of reasons. I started the book as a birthday present for a girlfriend-now-just-friend but the more I got into making it, the more I was curious about trying this as an experiment to see if I could do it. One of our goals with Grid7 is to know how to do a bunch of different things, to help others to build stuff they’re passionate about and to create a series of small, passive recurring revenue streams. This project was consistent with those goals and also satisfied a goal I’ve had for some time of wanting to write a kids book. […]

  5. A Key says:

    To borrow some ideas from motivational speaker, Mike Lipkin, change them from DREAMS into EXPECTATIONS. If you expect they will occur, then they Will Occur. Rehearse your victory and it will occur. Also, expect more. It sounds like you don’t require this advice as you have effectively put it into action.

  6. […] With 2008 ringing in around the world I figured it was time to start posting up my goal page as well as work on my Open Source Goals Meme to the world. […]

  7. […] I was recently tapped by Sean Tierney to build my own Lists of Goals. I have been meaning to post this up, but have so many goals and ideas that I didn’t want to limit myself. Although one thing I have learned about Goal Setting is you need them to remind you and help you achieve them. This “Open Source Goals Meme” is an experiment on exposing my own goals to the public so others can follow up and help me focus on accomplishing them. Rather then play telephone and repeat some of the instructions, I encourage you to take a look at sean’s blog and post your own. […]

  8. […] Goal Setting – To get back on your feet, sometimes you need to take a step back and realign your goals. I have previously posted about the Opensource Goals Meme. I am a big fan of posting up your goals and looking at my 2008 Goals I am surprised my readers have not given up. (I too need to get on the ball, I guess I should be eating my own words.) Also if you have not created one, try making a dream board and posting it where you are most often working. […]

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