Written by Davinia Upshall, Brainiact Mornington Central
As I watched the newly released film “Nyad” (2023), I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Diana Nyad’s remarkable story and the journey of small business owners like us. The film chronicles the extraordinary feat of Nyad, a long-distance swimmer who, at the age of 64, achieved what she couldn’t at 28 – swimming over 160 kilometres from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. It’s a vivid illustration of the power of goal-setting and determination.
Nyad’s journey resonates with us as business owners. Her success was not just about physical endurance; it was about mental tenacity, the kind that is crucial in the world of business. When Nyad completed her incredible swim, she shared three messages: Never give up, you’re never too old to chase your dreams, and while it may look like a solitary sport, it takes a team to succeed. These words are very relevant to a growing business.
Let’s explore how we can use goal setting and determination, just like Diana Nyad, to build a better business.
Setting audacious goals
From my own journey, and Nyad’s story, I’ve learned success lies in having a clear goal, no matter how big or audacious that goal is, and then having the passion and drive to keep working towards it. For us as business owners, setting goals might seem overwhelming at first, but if you have enough passion, you’ll find a way to achieve them. It’s about knowing what you want and pursuing it relentlessly, a simple yet profound truth in both life and business.
Persistence and strategy: Never, ever give up
Nyad’s message of never giving up is a vital takeaway. In business, this means taking things one step at a time. Think of it like a journey. You need to know your destination, but you also need a map to guide you there, with specific steps and milestones along the way. Just as Nyad had planned everything from training to nutrition to navigating shark-infested waters, a business needs a comprehensive plan with clear milestones. It’s about breaking down that big goal into achievable steps, continuously analysing and adapting your strategy based on feedback and data.
Take my experiences in competitive rifle shooting, for example. Setting a goal was the first step, which was to get a certain number of my athletes into the Great Britain rifle team. The next, and most important step, was setting milestones – the first year I get one in, the next I get two, and so on. Then, it’s about developing and implementing a strategy – a detailed plan of how to reach these goals. This involved not just my efforts but also working with others, like developing others to coach fellow athletes.
In business, the same principles apply. We set ambitious targets and then map out a strategy to achieve them. It’s about having a clear goal, set milestones, a step-by-step plan, and the determination to keep going, even when faced with challenges. Even if it takes you five tries to achieve a goal, you should take that failure, analyse why it didn’t work out, and make a new plan that takes into account the new data you’ve gathered. This approach has helped me not only achieve personal milestones but also drive success in my business endeavours.
Staying motivated: Passion and purpose
One of the biggest challenges in achieving goals is staying motivated. I’ve found that having a passion for what you’re doing is key. If you’re not passionate, it’s hard to keep going, especially when things get tough. A common error I see is that people often chase goals for financial gain without any real passion. Our society tends to push us towards jobs that pay well, but they might not be what we’re passionate about. The most successful people are usually those who find a way to combine what they love with their skills.
It’s also crucial to find your real purpose. Again, you shouldn’t be driven by financial gain – it’s not a sustainable motivator. You should instead find a deeper purpose in your work. What positive impact do you want to make on the world? This kind of focus not only keeps you driven but also inspires the people you work with. Everyone works harder when they feel they are contributing to something meaningful. Aligning business goals with a broader purpose can be a powerful motivator.
Another mistake is giving up on a strategy too quickly, especially if it’s not showing immediate financial returns. It’s important to give your plan enough time to work and use data to guide your decisions. Many people don’t gather enough data to make informed choices, which can lead to premature decisions about their strategies.
How to prioritise your goals
To achieve business goals effectively, it’s important to have a clear and organised approach. I suggest using straightforward tools like the Business Model Canvas for planning and a whiteboard for brainstorming and tracking ideas. This helps break your big goals into smaller, doable tasks and keeps everything aligned with your business plan.
Here’s how to prioritise your goals:
- Start with a clear goal: Define your big goals and lay out your plan using a Business Model Canvas. This gives you a clear overview on one page.
- Set long-term milestones: Think about where you want your business to be in 10 years and set key milestones for the journey. While the details for the later years might not be clear yet, having these milestones gives you a roadmap to follow.
- Detail the short-term steps: Focus on planning the first year in great detail. If possible, break it down even further into quarterly plans.
- Use a whiteboard for ideas: Whenever an idea strikes, write it on the whiteboard. This helps clear your mind and keeps the ideas visible and organised. Regularly review these ideas with your team or a business coach, deciding which ones are worth pursuing and which should be set aside.
- Assign timelines: From the ideas you decide to keep, determine which ones you can start working on right away and which ones are for the future. This helps you stay focused on immediate tasks while keeping an eye on long-term plans.
Think of this process like solving a puzzle. Your main goal is like the picture you’re trying to complete. Start with the easy parts, the corners and edges, and then work towards the more complex middle. When you get towards the middle, if it doesn’t fit, you just keep trying or come back to it later with a new, clear mind. Regularly review and adjust your strategies as you progress.
You’re never too old to chase your dream
Nyad’s third and final message is one we can all relate to: age should never be a barrier to chasing your goals. It’s important to push past any self-imposed limits. Trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone is key to growing and achieving. There are countless examples of people who have accomplished great things later in life, often driven by passion or seizing an opportunity. In my own life, after over 20 years in a different career, I set a goal of running my own practice in business coaching. I’m constantly setting new goals, like increasing my customer base, and working steadily towards them. It’s all about setting those targets and not giving up.
The role of teamwork in individual success
Diana Nyad’s triumph is a perfect example of how big achievements often require a team effort. For business owners, it’s important to build a support system. Just as Nyad had a team helping her with various aspects of her swim, having a team in business means you can achieve more together than you could alone.
Working with a team helps in reaching ambitious goals more effectively. It’s about utilising all the resources and support you have. Remember, big achievements are often the result of collaborative effort. Just like Nyad needed her team, your business goals are more achievable with a strong team behind you.
Running a small business can be tough, like swimming against a strong current, but it’s also very rewarding. Taking a leaf from Diana Nyad’s inspiring story, to succeed, you need a clear goal, passion, good planning, teamwork, and the determination to keep going no matter what. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams. More than anything, it’s the journey towards these dreams – filled with hard work and team effort – that truly leads to success. Stick to these principles, and you’ll find the strength and direction needed to thrive in your business journey.