Ep 71: Not SMART but BETTER Goal Setting

Not SMART but BETTER goal setting

In episode #71, we explore 3 fundamental of better goal setting. Goal setting is everywhere in our world. We set goals for our health, our careers, and our lives in general. And there are many different ways to set goals, from ‘SMART’ goals to New Year’s Resolutions. But the question is, how effective are they. And is there a better way to go about setting some real goals that you can actually achieve with a little push? Tune in to hear about how to set themes, goals, and what to focus on after you have set your goals. So that you can increase you chances of reaching your goals while enjoying the process.

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podcast Transcript

Good morning guys. Welcome back to a whole new year. I’m sure you’re rested and ready to go. And I believe that everyone must have, at some point in our lives, gave goal-setting a shot. Like seriously, everyone tells me to set the goals and I just keep failing them la. [laughs] I’m pretty sure, you know, six packs has been my goal for the last five years and look at me. But I definitely have met some goals, especially financial goals again and again. And I thought about it, like, why do I meet some goals and I miss some, forget the others totally, right. Is there a better way to go about setting some real goals that I can actually achieve with a little push?

All right, come on. We got to agree that some goals are, from the get-go, setting ourselves up for failure. So in today’s episode, I’m going to explore three fundamentals of goal setting. I’m sure we’re all pumped and ready to go. Welcome back. 

Good morning, everyone. I welcome you to another day with the Financial Coconut. In our podcast, we are debunking financial myths, discovering best financial practices and discussing financial strategies that fits our unique life–you get it–ultimately empowering us to create a life we love while managing our finances well. And in our first episode for the year, we’re going to touch on that very cheesy topic of goal-setting.

Okay. so I believe that at some point of your life, someone has asked you to set some goals or at least asked you, like, what are your goals for the year? And there’s this very famous system called the SMART goals, right? S M A R T. So, um, I don’t really subscribe to it. It’s either I’m not smart enough or, you know, it just doesn’t work la, because every time I spend so much effort setting goals, you know, I spent the last week of the year looking at things and reviewing stuff. And then, you know, first week of the new year planning and hoping to achieve all these things and I follow the SMART system  then, aiya, I barely hit any of them. [laughs] But whoa, whoa, whoa guys. It’s not like I didn’t hit any goals or I’m just a lazy guy rolling around — it’s not the case. You know, I still hit some goals, just not all of them, not all like 10 SMART goals, you know, I ended up hitting one or two and I wonder, is there a better system?

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So I went around hunting, I asked a lot of people how they set their goals and I went back and think about it. And I just kind of reviewed it on my own. And I realized that there are some fundamentals. And I just want to share with you my thoughts, like, how am I going to set my goals and how can you possibly set your goals for 2021? You know, especially after a crazy 2020. 

And so the very first fundamental that I believe you should set, okay, is to set a theme for the year, like one theme. No more. Okay. If your theme for this year is career progression, then that is your main theme, okay. If after you have some sort of career sorted out and your theme is to create like a financial plan to compound over into the future, then, okay. That is your theme for this year. If your theme is six packs, then okay, go and get your six packs. But that does not mean you stop listening to us la. You can still continue to listen to TFC while you aim for your theme of bodily attractiveness. So why? Okay, why do I recommend you setting one theme this year? One theme, no more. So my thoughts are, in the grand scheme of our lives, okay, we easily have 10, 20 years ahead of us on average. Okay. I’m assuming like we are 25-35 because that’s what the data tells us. So then instead of trying to hit 10 goals in a year that are all over the place and failing miserably at most of them, why not set one theme a year, do it really well, you know, make that a system.

And in 10 years time, you probably achieve them all, right? There’s a very good chance that you can hit most of them, you know, over a period of time. So bearing the compounding idea to compound your life to a better place that you want to be in 10 years. Okay, I know it sounds a bit arbitrary, especially when you see people, you know, the ideal people, right? The ones with nice body, waxy hair, cozy home, thriving career, quality friends, you know, equally cool partner, happy family, you know, the ideal retired life, the Instagram pop girl guy la that you benchmark against subconsciously. I mean even, when I’m scrolling through Instagram, I also feel like, wow, my friend’s doing quite well, pretty cool. 

And you think like, okay, if they can, so can I, which is probably true. It’s probably true. If you get down and dirty to do what they do. Think about, you know, achieving a theme, kind of like starting a business or embarking on a degree or changing a career, right. The intensity is similar. And why do I say so? Because it’s really about cracking the code. Like you set up, you know, a whole year for this thing, right? It’s a whole year for this theme to achieve it. And then most bystanders won’t understand because they’re just on the side, right. When you jump into the ring, like, whoa, dude, there are so many little things to sort out.

Of course, like, it’s the same idea that the first pull up is always the most difficult, once you know how to pull then the second, third, it becomes very incremental, right. But when you dedicate a whole year, you know that this thing is going to be important and you want to achieve that, say something like finding a life partner, right, from the outside, you may think like, oh, okay I need to download Tinder, get down to swiping and meeting some people on dates and hang out, and that’s a modern way of dating, right. But have you thought about how many dates you need to get on right. Or how to write a successful bio on dating apps? Where to go when you close the deal on the dating app, what topics to talk about, who is your ideal partner, what is your budget for dating, how many dates should you go before you narrow down your list? At what point do you introduce him or her to your friends? And may many, many, many, many more questions to solve. Before you enter, you may not have such thoughts. You may have underestimated it.

And that is the reality that most people do. And on that note, imagine in a year you try to do so many different themes at all. A little bit on fitness, a little bit on social, a little bit on family, a little bit on finance, career progression, my goodness, siao ah. That’s probably why most people, they get nowhere with this way of setting goals. They’re very scattered all over the place. 

So let’s focus. Choose one theme for this year. And after you crack your theme for this year, create a system that you can keep going with. The learning curve becomes way more simpler, like the idea of, you know,  after doing one pull-up you can do the second or third, you know, it becomes very repetitive and it’s much easier to achieve than when you first try to like, how do I get this first pull-up? You need to get your friend to come and help you to push, you know, you’ve got to do like other exercises to strengthen your core and blah, blah, blah, all those kind of stuff. So every year you crack a new code, you crack a new theme and integrate it with your old systems, your old habits, to  refine that towards an ideal life, towards the life that you want.

And of course, at some point you may need to outsource some of these stuff, but that is a whole different level of discussion. But yeah, since we are here — what do I mean by outsourcing? So for me, okay. I have picked  stocks for many, many years, right? I’ve about five years, four or five years now. But as my life gets really occupied with podcasting and managing a team, you know, at some point, at many points in 2020, I wanted to like, just pass my portfolio to someone else that I know shares my investment ideology, because I know what I want, how to get it done, I know who to choose to outsource.

So that’s a whole different discussion altogether, but the idea is, after picking one theme a year, you compound that over a period of time, you come closer to the life that you love. So think about yourself like a business. There are many things that you want to solve towards the life that you love, but what is that for this year? Is it career progression? Is it finding a sport that you can repeatedly do so you get a healthier life? Is it getting your financial plan sorted? Is it spending more time with people that matter? You know, there are many, many more, many things to solve. Once you thought about it, come on to the Telegram group and pledge, share it with us. I want to be there with you. 

So now that you have a theme, okay. I’m assuming you are convinced by my discussion and you have a theme, now let’s break that down, okay. Point number two, let’s break the theme down into five achievable goals. 

So let’s say your theme for this year is to learn how to pick stocks. Okay, I always use this example because it’s close to me, it’s very easy for me to explain. I hope you understand, if you don’t please feedback to me and I will find a different ongoing example that makes it easier. So, okay. If your theme is to pick stocks, then there are some things that you need to do. What are some of these things? From a fundamentalist viewpoint, you’ve got to learn to read your financial goals, uh, read financial statements. Okay. Go through a quality program or maybe read annual reports, you know, meet like minded friends, find a mentor, actually pick some stocks. Learn how to run valuation models, listen to stock-relevant content and whatnot, right? So there are many things and this is not an exhaustive list, okay. The idea is after you have that theme, you pick five goals that you feel can help you achieve that theme. Of course, I definitely encourage you to get down to doing it la. You know, within your five goals, not everything is a learn, learn, learn kind of thing.

And even learning is a very complex, uh, discussion. Later, I will tell you a little bit more. But if you want to achieve your goals, you want to achieve that six pack, then you’ve got to, you know, get down to the track and do your thing, or get down to the gym. Don’t just read about diet and read about exercising, right? So, same idea for achieving your own portfolio or picking your own stocks. You got to get down to pick that stock.

And one hack that you can have when trying to achieve these goals is that I’m pretty sure there are some people in your life that have achieved these themes. Or you have kind of benchmarked against them — and they don’t need to be your immediate friends. These days, honestly, a lot of people on LinkedIn, a lot of people on Facebook are very open to just reply you if you send them something that you know, for lack of a better way to put it, stroke a little bit of their ego la. And they will reply you. So if you know someone who has already achieved what you are trying to achieve for your theme for this year, why not ask them, what do they do? What did they do to achieve this thing, right. What is their system? And their system will be your goals, right? So let’s say they read financial statements or they hang out with people in the financial space, or they listen to the daily podcast called FT News or something  like that. And  that really helps you with a better idea as to where to go, what to do. So go and talk to these people, this is the fastest hack. 

And how do you know that you have come up with very good goals? Okay, very good goals will be, if you write these five goals and you pass it to your friend next to you that did not participate in your goal setting journey, and they know exactly what to do. That means the kind of action words that you use are not negotiable. Things like “learn”: what is learn? Things like “pick up”: what is pick up? Things like “ideate”: what is ideate? Things like “create”: what is create? It’s so complicated, right? Because there are multiple process in a lot of these things. 

How do you create something? How do you ideate on something? How do you learn something? Everybody has a different way to do it. But if you pass them a five-goal list for this year, if your theme is stock-picking and your five goal list is: read 30 financial annual reports; pick 10 stocks; go for one course; write 10 theses; or put 10,000 into the market.

Then it’s much easier. Non-negotiable. Read is just read, pick just means pick, go for course means go for course. So you want to make sure that it is that simple, the best is you add some numerical value. I love to add numerical values into my goals because that gives me some sort of benchmark to achieve.

But most importantly is that, you know, you’ve gone through this whole process. You write them down and you write goals that are very easy to understand. Everybody can understand. Once you give them this list, they will know what vegetable to buy, what meat to go for, where to go, you know, very simple, very clear, as clear as possible. Which brings me to point number three. 

After you’ve set your theme, you go and coax around and find out what goals to hit, you know, in order to achieve your theme and you set your goals. The point number three is: focus on the process, not the goals.  “Eh, Reggie, Reggie chill, chill, chill. You said like focus on goals ah? In front, you said set a theme and then write goals, and now you tell me don’t focus on the goals? Focus on the process?” The reality is guys, the goal is set, right? You’ve already gone through the process of setting a goal, no point looking at them anymore. What you really need to do now is to focus on the process towards achieving that goal. Like, let’s say if you want to lose weight, right. Everybody  knows — okay, I know this is a bit contentious — but everybody knows that if you go on a treadmill every day, you run 5km, you definitely will be a lean boy, okay. I don’t know how else to put it la. You’ll be very lean, every day 5km on the treadmill. But can you start there? It’s probably pretty tough to start there. And you know, if you have been a couch potato for a really long time, you know, recently I’ve been a little bit of a couch potato. So then where do I start? I start with jio-ing my friends to go on a makan trip, walk around, you know, do very, very long walks, I pick up a bicycle and I do a little bit of a run, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and it just keeps going and gets going. And I keep refining the process towards achieving that goal. It’s actually, a pretty well documented way of doing things. Very progressive, tinkering ideating, very growth mindset way of doing things. And you see that actually everywhere around your life. Like at work, when you join a new company, they will give you a three months probation and then they will give you a partner or a mentor.

And then, you know, you will go through all these processes or learning all these different things. And in three months time, somehow you wake up, three months later like, eh, actually, I kind of know what’s going on already. I know what to do. Same for if you’re a guy, you go to the military, the first three months you go in at first, you’re very jittery. You don’t know what to do, then in three months time, somehow you can do 10 pull-ups. Because all these processes have been refined over time, over time to get to where you are, or get to where the organization wants you to go. So let’s say on the theme of stock-picking for this year. Okay. let’s say you want to build your own portfolio and you listened to me and you said, okay, I’m going to read a financial statement; I’m going to read a financial report. And you open a financial report and you beh tahan, right. Because there are a lot of jargons inside, a lot of complicated stuff, you know, that you probably will not understand because it has never been part of your life, right? So you go through this process of Googling and whatnot. And after 10 pages you want to give up and then you take a break, you know, you go do whatever you want to do, go to your gym, go to do everything that you’re familiar with and you enjoy doing, but then you can come back later and continue to do the next 10 pages. So you take maybe two weeks to finish one report, right? With some Google support, with some listening to some YouTube videos and whatnot. So you take 10 days to finish one report, but then you finished it, that’s one. Then you try to push yourself a little bit, hey how about let’s take one week, hey,  how about let’s take five days.

And over time you just become faster and faster. You pick up this thing and the learning curve becomes simpler and simpler and you know what you are doing over time. And the general idea is to take the path of least resistance. Always start somewhere simpler. So that it keeps you going, gets your system going, and it kind of warm up, warm up.

Don’t straight away go in and chiong, you beh tahan. So if after reading  the report, you realize you cannot, then why not start with weekly podcasts about stock investing? Like I think the Motley Fools have pretty good content, or you can listen to daily news, like, you know, FT news briefing, daily financial news, to kind of get you into the mood, get you into the momentum.

But you know what your goal is, you know what institutes and what constitutes someone that really knows how to pick stocks, right? So then you gotta eventually get there. But you start somewhere, you know, don’t be too nuts about it. 

Also, since you listened all the way here, I’m going to give you one more tip. The thing about refining your process is it is very difficult. And it is, um, for lack of a better way to put it, if you are into the unknown, it’s almost crazy. And if you don’t have a mentor, you know, which can be pretty pricey, you can read books and whatnot and all those things I’ve talked about a lot. But one thing that I feel that we all should do is really to get an accountability partner, right. Someone to pace you,  your pacer. Or sometimes I call it the pacer pack. So go on your social media, or come to our Telegram group and share your goals. Share your theme, share your goals and find your pacer pack. Sometimes you get your good friends, right? Your buddy for life, you realize they not a very good pacer. Because they’re your buddies, they know you inside out,  they know what strings to pull you to just ask you to chill, relax la bro, walaowei. You know, so many years  like that, why need to change?

So it is not always about finding the closest friends, but it’s about finding people that have  similar goals and relatively similar moral values. And that’s good enough. And then you guys can get going and achieve your goals for this year. Keep refining that process until you achieve that goal. And in a year’s time, you will wake up and say, eh, I have met my theme. I have achieved it. Or if you have not, maybe you are 80%, 50%, that’s not too bad. And then you can always refine it and continue to roll down with this theme for the next year, because you’ve already sorted out a lot of the first pull up kind of problems. All the tinkering and questioning and all the small little questions that come along with one theme.

And in 10 years time, you will be way closer to a life you can love. But what is your theme for this year? So I’m going to sum up today. Okay, point number one is to set a theme, right. Don’t have your goals all over the place. Set one theme because there are a lot of unique challenges to that one theme. And you want to dedicate all your bandwidth to it. Whether is it meeting the same people, reading the similar kind of books, understanding the general theme. You want to go in there with one, all your bandwidth on one. I think that is a much better way because over time you actually compound it, so that’s perfectly okay. 

Number two is: once you have the theme, you break it down into achievable goals, achievable goals are: you write down these five goals and you pass to the guy next to you and then he can execute it. Even without understanding your theme, he will be able to execute these five goals. So make it that simple, right? Don’t use complicated action words, go with very simple action words. And add a numerical value. 

Number three is to focus on the process and not the goal, because you’ve already set the theme, you already set the goals. Now let’s refine on the process to help you achieve that goal. Potentially find an accountability partner, but always take the path of least resistance first. And then we keep refining it and changing it and getting to where you want to go. And I hope you achieve your goals this year, and I hope you learned something useful today. See ya.

Hey, I hope you learned something useful today and truly appreciate that you took time off to better your life with the Financial Coconut. Knowledge is that much more powerful and interesting when shared, debated, and discussed. Join our community Telegram group, follow us on our socials, sign up for our weekly newsletter–everything is in the description below. If you love us and want to help us grow, definitely share the podcast with your friends and on your socials.

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Test test. Okay, love it, love it. Well, happy to be back. I took a break from recording. By now you guys should know that we record in chunks. It’s not like a “okay, this week I need to record for next week.” No, no, no. We record in bulk chunks and I’ve been taking on a creative break for a while and just kind of ideate on a lot of these topics and actually pretty happy to be back on the mic. And I’m very happy that you are still with us in this new year. So all of you have definitely made the podcast possible, and I hope that this year you can also achieve your goals on top of us achieving our goals. 

My theme for this year is to make sure TFC becomes something. We want to make it into a viable business that we can pay people, have a proper team to keep doing this, and continue to provide good content for you and bring all these interesting guests. And that’s why we are spinning off a Thursday podcast, which will focus on interviews. So every Tuesday will be only monologues and every Thursday will be interviews. And all these interviews, we are trying to get all these guests and we’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes work. So if you know some people that you want us to talk to, definitely email us, reach out to us on a Telegram or whatever socials that you are on. And for this Thursday’s guest, this Thursday’s guests are pretty interesting people, Dylan and Ava. So they are from the One Kind House.

So One Kind House is a social movement project, I will not do marketing for them, but they’re very interesting people. And these two are the kids of Kelvin Soh, who is the founder of One Kind House. And we actually record it at their place, and it was really awesome because they’re young, vibrant, and they have a very different way to see the world. Which is why I decided to put them on the very first episode of 2021, because I think, post-covid, a lot of things are getting challenged. A lot of things need to go. And you know, it’s like, no problem, no question, right. So now that there is a problem, we are reinventing the wheel. Who better to listen to then these young excited people that are trying to create their life. So they have very, very interesting insights on how they see this world. I think that is amazing for all of us, right? Whether you are an adult with kids or whether you are just a thriving teenager or whether you are like me, right. 

Just trying to sort out the life that I love, still single, vibrant, exciting, you know, and yeah, why not, do it? They come from a very interesting background, school dropouts, international school students, but they’re local Singaporeans. So very interesting mix. And I think they can provide us very good insights.

And for next week, next Tuesday’s episode, we’re going to talk a little bit more about budgeting. So I realized that budgeting is not a given. A lot of people have one bank account or two bank accounts at best. And, you know, I actually have four bank accounts and I’m gonna share with you how I use these four bank accounts in a much more detailed manner. And why do I think, over time they have served me very well and they can continue to serve me very well going into the future. So that’s all for today, hope you enjoyed the interview. We’ll see you next week. Bye bye.


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