My 1st Mentor – Alan Hall

December 13th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Rich:

I’m so excited to be here today with my first mentor Alan Hall from back in the Netline days. You’ve heard me talk about Alan. Alan is an amazing individual. I’m so grateful to have him in my life. He is indeed an amazing individual and an example of what I hope to be in twenty years.

 

Alan you are now giving away everything you make! You’re promoting entrepreneurship and helping people’s lives. Will you talk a little bit about your work?

 

Alan: Well, it’s important for everybody to understand this is about stewardship—we’re stewards of resources. Somehow we accumulate wealth, but then wealth is really for us to give it away. To give to those who are of need. We all get enough to take care of our basic needs and then the rest outta be given away. That’s what we’re all about.

 

Rich: One of the philosophies that Alan has, is that the best way to take control of your life, and I agree, is to create a business. Not only does it impact yourself, but it impacts many people around you too.

 

Alan: Oh yeah. We’re looking for people all over the United States who are ready to start a business, and we’re here to support them! Obviously with Rich’s great knowledge, together we have teamed up to help make people successful. So go start a business! America needs you now.

 

Rich: That’s wonderful advice from a wonderful man. Look for more to come! I’m going to start highlighting Alan in future posts and tweets. Watch for Alan’s example. He’s done it the proper way. There are a lot of individuals that live and “it’s all about me”. But, Alan is the example to me; what I want to become like. Go forward and do good in this world. Please look forward for more to come from Alan.

 

 

Entrepreneur Myths

November 18th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Entrepreneur MythsI recently saw an article about Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Harvard University, his not quite alma mater. The title of the article was “It’s never been sexier to be an entrepreneur,” and while I completely agree with the sentiment, I worry that some people may think being an entrepreneur is sexy because of the myths they have bought into, not because of the wonderful lifestyle entrepreneurs enjoy. Today, I’d like to address three of these myths and show you why it’s still never been sexier to be an entrepreneur.

 

Myth 1: All I need is that one big idea. While it may be true in Hollywood that a big break can make your career, being a successful entrepreneur means doing a lot more than just having one great idea. If Bill Gates only had one great idea, Microsoft would have never been able to grow beyond the first build of Windows. Even Zuckerberg has to get bigger, better ideas, or else Facebook would never have added much of the functionality that keeps people on there every day. That first big idea gets you started in a business, but you need to be work on getting more to keep up with the rest of the world.

 

Myth 2: My venture needs to become the next Apple/Facebook/YouTube. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: though these successes are fun to talk about, they are the exception, not the rule. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean your business will be on the cover of Time. It means taking direct control of your career and day-to-day life. It means building something that makes you money and does something great. While entrepreneurs often make revolutionary products and services, most only revolutionize their respective fields, not the way the entire world works.

 

Myth 3: I need to quit my job and drop out of school to succeed. Once again, this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, quitting your job before having a solid source of income established to replace your job is financially dangerous. And though some decide that finishing school is not a good use of their time, colleges have many fantastic opportunities available for students, including the chance to earn an education. I not only got a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, but I have spent time working for other people as my situation needed, even after building several businesses.

 

Being an entrepreneur is a great life, and I encourage everyone to try it. There has never been a better time for it. Though building a business requires hard work and stressful sacrifice, it is the best life I know.

The Four Rules Of Scale – Zig Zag Principle #49

October 30th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I have developed four rules I follow whenever I create a business.  There are times I violate them, but I do so deliberately.  Keep in mind that these are my rules that fit into my skill set and values.  You will need to look at your own situation and determine the rules that work for you. 

Rule # 1 – Ride a Wave:  I like businesses that are on a wave.  Just like a surfer who gets in front of a wave and rides it to the shore, I want the environment to be right before I get on a wave in my business or my life.  If the wave is big enough, then just being in its vicinity will generate enough power to propel you toward your destination.  But if you catch that wave wrong, life can come crashing down around you.  The key is to get on and off the wave at the right time.  September 12, 2001, would have been a terrible time to start an airline.  This same day would have been the perfect time to start an anti-terrorist airline security business.  Purchasing a row of new condos in 2006, when housing prices were at a point where experts were beginning to see they were unsustainable, would have been a bad move.  Purchasing those same condos after the housing bubble burst and prices were slashed in half would have been the right time to add scale.  You need to assess your environment and pick the right waves to ride.

Rule #2  – Transaction Businesses:  I like businesses that sit in the middle of a transaction.  A well-known example is credit card companies, which make 2-5 percent every time one of us slides our credit card through a reader.  None of us give what we’re paying a thought (and if you think we’re not paying, think again).  Merchants are happy to pass along the fee because the convenience brings more people to their business.  Customers love the convenience of not having to carry cash or write a check, so they willingly pay their annual fee (and high interest rates) as well.  Positioning yourself in the middle of a transaction puts you in a great place to make money.

Rule #3 – Own the Customer:  I like to own the customer.  I don’t like being in a business where I can’t look into the eyeballs of the customer and resolve the issue.  I like to be in the middle of the transaction, but I do not like being sandwiched between brokers.

During the rise in the housing market, I was riding a great wave with a company called Mortgage Saver 101.  We had an awesome web site that generated leads of people looking to obtain mortgages.  The company was riding a wave and was a transactional and a digital business.  The only problem was that we did not sell our leads directly to the banks or the people who were coming to refinance their loans.  We sold our leads to a broker who would then sell them to multiple vendors.  Many times the broker would come back to us and say he did not like some of our leads.  We would ask what he didn’t like and he would simply say, “It wasn’t a quality lead.”  Without being able to talk to the bank or the customer, we were left to guess at what they really wanted.  This left us very vulnerable, giving all of the power to the broker.  If there was a problem, we had no way to solve it.  On the other hand, credit card companies are good examples of being able to own the customer.  The credit card company can communicate directly with the merchant that is selling the product or the customer that has signed up for the credit card.  They own the customer.  They can manage the relationship on both sides of the transaction.

      Rule #4 – I Like Digital Assets:  This is my very personal preference, but I love digital assets.  I really do not like retail.  Why?  Because I stink at retail.  I don’t have enough discipline and I am not patient enough to succeed in retail.  It doesn’t scale as well for me.  I know many other people who have been highly successful in retail, but it is just not my preference.  Once I make a website or an application, I have made it once and as many people as want to come will fit into that store.  That’s the primary reason I like digital assets

C Is For Cookie! – Zig Zag Principle #43

October 1st, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Other Resources to Add

Your organization will need resources other than more people.  Resources can include more capital or a new piece of equipment that will simplify your processes.  For example, if I were to create a cookie company, once I made enough money selling my first batches of cookies, I would consider using that money to purchase a machine that kneads the dough and then another one that cuts the cookies—after looking carefully at their cost and the potential return on my investment. 

Outsourcing is another way to add resources.  I started a company a year ago with my son.  My son created a website, and we then outsourced the building of five or six more websites.  We gave the developer our website template and told her exactly how we wanted our sites to be built.  Then we focused on other more lucrative parts of the venture.  One good thing about outsourcing is that you don’t have to worry as much about the value system.  The high production or the end result is what matters when you outsource.  The key to outsourcing is that you only want to outsource those things that can be thrown over the wall to someone who can do them independently.  Do not try to outsource those things that require your full involvement.  For example, I would not want to outsource my company’s financial books.  There are so many moving parts in my books that my executive assistant and I must go through them daily.  I want to know when bills go out, when we will be paid, and when our bills are due. 

One time I tried to outsource one of my companies’ bookkeeping to someone I knew in town.  It ended up being a nightmare because I was no longer able to know at a moment’s notice exactly where I stood financially.  On the other hand, I do outsource my payroll.  We send the payroll agency the hours each of my employees work, and they take care of all the required forms and paperwork.  I also outsource my taxes to my accountant.  We just send him a copy of our QuickBooks and the year-end papers, and he can take care of our taxes without taking any of my time.

Our Ironman Zig Zagger!

September 13th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Our next Zig Zagger on team Zig Zag that’s heading down to St. George, Utah, later this week is Dave Heywood. His Favorite part of triathlon is…..the party afterward! Actually, he ultimately loves the swim and doing the swimming training. He says it’s very relaxing even though he’s working hard. Running is definitely the hardest part of the race for Dave. It comes at the end when you’re always so tired yet it’s also the most satisfying.

This tough athlete already participated in a Half Ironman Race in Indiana, a couple of months ago. The race included a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and running for 13.1 miles. He says, “The last 2 miles are pretty rough. I could see the end goal when I got closer to the finish line. It was satisfying accomplishing that goal and cross that line.”

His entrepreneurial dreams all started when he took a course in college while getting his master’s degree in International Management. While there he took a seminar on entrepreneurship and ever since then he has looked for opportunities. He’s had many different ventures to zig zag his way to success. He used to have an import company that imported leather goods from South America. Then he was an insurance agent for a while where he worked as an independent contractor, building up his own business. Another fun job that Dave has done for several companies, is when he heads up the sales training for entrepreneurs in multi-level-marketing companies. He helps the teams understand what they have to do to create sales for their business to grow and be successful.

Dave not only applies the Zig Zag Principle to his business, but he bootstraps each venture as well (he thinks it is more fun that way)! His latest is such an innovative idea that it should be very successful.
MZKWRX.COM is a platform that gives independent artists and bands the opportunity to partner with their fans to create a unique channel to distribute their music and increase their fan base. MZKWRX.COM leverages the power of social networking, text messaging, and great music to help artists reach new fans worldwide.

Right now MZKWRX is in the 1st stage of Zig Zag, which is driving to profitability. Dave would tell other entrepreneurs in this same phase the best way to get through this first drive is, “It’s crucial to stay focused. Even though you may zig zag along the way, keep a focus on that end goal. Knowing what you are going to have to do to get there and knowing that you‘re going have to go left and go right. But still don’t take your eye off of that end goal”

Most entrepreneurs think it requires a bunch of money to get your idea to market, but Dave has figured out the value equation and has applied it to his business to help him bootstrap it. It is:
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave loves spending time with his wife and 5 children. One thing he appreciates about being an entrepreneur is that he gets to see more of his family and he likes that, especially when he works from home.

Dave has two favorite quotes, the first he has printed out and sitting on the wall next to him. It’s by a triathlon coach from down in Australia, Jeff Smith. “It’s better to be the driver than to be the passenger.” When you’re working for someone else you are the passenger and when you work for yourself you are the driver. He printed it off to remind himself daily as he builds his business that he’s the driver. It keeps him motivated.

The 2nd is from his dad. It doesn’t make much sense, but think about it when you finish a job, “It looks a lot more like it does now than it did before.” It means to Dave that hopefully now the job looks better. One way or another, a change has taken place. Think about it!

We’d like to wish Dave a fantastic race and best of luck to him and
www.mzkwrx.com (the site will be up shortly). In the meantime, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mzkwrx.

Getting Ideas for Your First Zig – Zig Zag Principle #35

September 2nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

The question that is asked of me as an entrepreneur more than any other question is; “Hey, I’ve got this really cool idea.  What do you think?  Is this viable?  Will it get me to cash?”  Coming up with an idea is the easy part.  The harder part is figuring out what is a good idea and what is a bad idea.  One of the first resources I use when I am vetting ideas is my modified version of a “Porter Model” based on Micheal E. Porter’s Five Forces Model. There is an excellent tool available on my website where you can use this tool hands-on! Check out the Zig Zag Principle Tools!

In my model there are six factors to look at.  These are:

  1. Barrier To Entry

    a.  How difficult is it to enter this  market space?
    b.  Do you have an advantage over the competition?
    c.  Once in, how do you keep others out of the space?

  1. Supplier

    a.  How much power do you have over the suppliers?
    b.  Are there multiple suppliers available?
    c.  Can you get a better price on your supplies than the competition?

  1. Substitutes

    a.  Is there a feature of your product or service that would compel customers to buy your product over the competition?
    b.  Is there a substitute that will compete with your product?

  1. Buyer

    a.  What is the bargaining power of the buyers? Do your target buyers have the power to force the price of your product down?
    b.  Can you command a premium price for your product?

  1. Competition

    a.  Who is competing for market share in your product? Is the market saturated?
    b.  Is there a rivalry among competitors in the industry? Not that competition can be a good thing unless is squashes your chances of entering the market.

  1. Channel

    a.  Do you have access to a distribution channel? Channel is probably the most important of all the factors. If there is not a market need for your product and a way to get ti to the customer, then your business will fail. In the businesses I create, I will not move forward until I have fully figured out the channel. Most people thing they will build the product, then try to sell it. The correct order is to ensure the market will buy your product, then determine how you will deliver it to your customers, and only then go ahead and build it.

For each factor you will come up with several questions similar to what I have posed above.  The answer to each question will receive a positive (+), a negative (-), or a neutral (o)  result, ending in a final overall score for each factor.  As you look at the positives and negatives of your business idea, you will be able to see rather clearly if it is a idea that works or just a pipe dream.

As you look for ideas, there are a couple of things you should remember to avoid. The first is what I refer to as “the rabbit syndrome.”  Some people see ideas popping out everywhere they look. They’ll spot a great idea or concept and proclaim,  “Look! A rabbit!”  Then they see another and another and another (if you’ve spent anytime in rabbit country, you know they’re everywhere).  They chase one rabbit after another and end up so busy chasing every rabbit that pops up that they never actually drive to profitability.  At some point you have to settle on one rabbit and chase it as hard as your can—hopefully to the successful end.

Another mistake you want to avoid is falling in love with an idea to the point where you can’t see its deficiencies. In 1989 I contributed my fair share to making my first $2 million business mistake. So what was it?

Rich Christiansen $2MM Channel Lesson

We did what so many eager engineering types do—we built a way cool, exciting, leading-edge product (in this case, a digital power line transmission device), and then tried to sell it.
In our engineering minds, we just knew customers would buy these boxes by the truckloads.  We had attended the trade shows and been mobbed by fellow engineers who thought our idea was awesome, which convinced us this product was going to be a barn-burner. Everyone told us we were so smart and this was the coooooolest technology ever.

Well, cool technology does not necessarily lead to actual customers, and in 1990 the company went belly up!  Why?  Because our product did exactly what a $20 power cable could do, only our box cost $995 apiece.  And, in our zeal, we engineers never stopped to consider that, if given the choice, people would opt for the $20 cable, even though our technology was “better.”

And, lest you think engineers are the only ones who can’t see beyond their great ideas, I have an associate who is passionate about building ultra-modern cement homes.  He has wanted to create a business around these buildings because he is passionate about the benefits they provide. The only problem is that he lives in a community where most homes are built using wood, bricks, stucco, and traditional architecture.  In spite of all his passion, the people in his community have not caught on to the idea of building cement homes.  You do not want to create a product in which consumers have no interest.  If you don’t have a channel to sell your products, your business will fail.

Find Your Hidden Assets – Zig Zag Principle #33

August 23rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

This first zig requires sheer grit and raw determination. I often joke that when I am starting a new business I will go out in the street and dance in a tutu if that is what it takes to get to profitability.  And while my efforts have never come to that, I will do what it takes, within the framework of my values, to get enough cash to move forward. Operating from the black gives you a much higher level of confidence and a sense of durability that you can’t have if you’re always worrying about draining your bank account.  If you have money in the bank or cash in your pocket, you can breathe a sigh of relief as you keep trying different things until you get one of your ideas to work.  And if you can’t get an idea to be profitable, then check it off your list and try something different.  (This is what I call failing efficiently, which we’ll discuss in more detail later in the chapter.) 

Just before the dot.com bubble burst in the early 2000s, I was working as the general manager of a company called MyJobSearch.com.  It was a heavily funded business in the web 1.0 Internet bubble phase.  This was a wild and crazy time when companies were being built and funded by people writing business plans on paper napkins.  This company had hired forty or fifty employees, and we didn’t even know what the exact product was that we were building.  And, because we were living on investment bankers, we had no clue how we were ever going to get to profitability.  Heck, we didn’t need to!

When the bubble burst, everything imploded.  Not just for this company but for almost every other company in the web industry.  The reason this company and those other companies failed was because they were not built for profitability.  We had never needed to pursue that strategy.  In fact, during this time, the strategy for most of these companies was to get an IPO and then get bought up by a bigger company.  But, as countless people who lost huge sums of money found out, that is not a business plan that can be sustained. 

So many businesses I’ve seen think that all they have to do is head straight for that beacon in the fog.  It doesn’t work.  The first zig always needs to be to get cash!

 

Finding Hidden Assets

When I am starting a business, the first question I ask myself is, “What skills do I have that can get me to profitability the fastest?” (And this same question should be asked whether we’re trying to build a business or any other part of our life.)  The answer doesn’t have to be perfectly aligned with your beacon in the fog, just something that is close enough and is an inch or two up from where you currently are. (Remember, we’re zig zagging.)  While I was in college majoring in electronic engineering, I found a job at a computer repair shop.  It certainly wasn’t where I wanted to end up, but I was able to get cash for my family and also learn skills that would bring me closer to my goal of graduating in engineering.

When my partner, Ron Porter, and I started CastleWave, I had a knack (for which I had been well paid) for getting key words to the top of the search engines on the Internet. I had sworn I would not share any of my search engine optimization (SEO) secrets and mental knowledge with other people because I was done making other people rich and I was in the mode of creating my own businesses.  But in the earliest days of CastleWave, I realized that the fastest way to cash was to fill the need other companies had for SEO work.

I had some contacts in New York City who I knew wanted to get their own web sites to the top of the search engines. So Ron and I flew to New York and sold these contacts on search engine optimization.  We were almost instantly profitable because I was willing to do what I regarded as the equivalent of going out in the street and dancing in a tutu. I did not initially do what I wanted to do; instead, I zigged to the fastest source of cash I could identify because I understand how important that first zig is.

Find Out Your Values – Zig Zag Principle #30

August 11th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Values Exercise

A powerful and valuable exercise that I like to use is from Rick Sapio.  

  1. Write down three people in your life that you most admire or respect, and who you most want to be like.
  2.   From the values below, circle seven or eight values that best describe each of those people.  
  3. Those values that show up repeatedly will be the things that you value.

This simple exercise will bring great clarity to what your values are.  From my experience, you will end up with about ten values with which you closely align yourself.

 

 

Value Assessment

 Achievement/Drive, Adaptability, Adding Value, Advancement and Promotion, Adventure, Aesthetic, Affection (love and caring), Affinity, Aliveness, Arts, Attractiveness, Authenticity, Awareness, Beauty, Bliss, Caring, Certainty, Challenging Problems, Change and Variety, Charisma, Charity, Cheerfulness, Chivalry, Clarity, Close Relationships, Coaching, Commitment, Communication, Companionship, Compassion, Competence, Competition, Confidence, Congruence, Connection, Conscientiousness, Considerate, Contribution, Conviction, Cooperation, Courage, Courteousness, Creativity, Decisiveness, Democracy, Dependability, Discernment, Discovery, Ecological Awareness, Economic Security, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Ethical Practice, Empathy, Endurance, Energy, Enthusiasm, Environment, Equality, Excellence, Excitement, Expertise, Expression, Fairness, Fame, Family, Fast Living, Fast-Paced Work, Financial Gain, Flexibility, Focus, Forgiveness, Freedom, Friendship, Fun, Giving, Gratitude, Growth, God, Happiness, Having a Family, Health, Heart, Helping Other People, Helping Society, Honesty, Honor, Inclusive, Independence, Influencing Others, Inner Harmony, Inspiration, Integrity, Intellectual Status, Intelligence, Intention, Intimacy, Involvement, Job Tranquility, Joy, Justice, Kindness, Knowledge, Leadership, Learning, Leverage, Life, Location, Love, Loyalty, Making a difference, Market Position, Meaningful Work, Mentorship, Meditation, Merit, Money/Making Money, Music, Nature, Nurturing, Open and Honest (i.e. being around people who are), Openness, Partnership, Passion, Patience, Peace, Perception, Perseverance, Personal Growth & Development (living up to the fullest potential), Physical Challenge, Playfulness, Pleasure, Power and Authority, Presence, Privacy, Probability, Productivity, Public Service, Purity, Purpose, Quality, Quality Relationships, Rational, Receptivity, Recognition (respect from others, status), Reliability, Religion, Reputation, Resolution, Resolve, Resourcefulness, Respect, Responsibility and accountability, Security, Self-determinism, Self-Respect, Sensitivity, Sensuality, Serenity, Sharing, Simplicity, Sophistication, Soul, Spirit, Spiritual, Spontaneity, Stability, Strength, Status, Success, Supervising Others, Synergy, Team/Teamwork, Technology, Tenderness, Time Freedom, Togetherness, Travel, Trust, Trustworthiness, Truth, Unity, Value, Vigor, Vision, Vitality, Vulnerability, Wealth, and Wisdom.

 

After you have established your values, do not let anyone into your intimate circle that does not fit with your values.  Of course it’s naive to think that you will never have to deal with anyone who doesn’t share exactly the same values, but I’m talking about your inside circle or trust relationships.  That means your important hires, your friends, your partnerships.  You need to establish a value gatekeeper that you have complete trust in to make sure that your values are honored.  These values help you surround yourself with people who alight closely with you.

Staring Deep into the Eyes of the Dragon

August 8th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “How do you ensure that you’ll be a successful entrepreneur?” Many people think that it requires a high degree of intelligence or some great insight or an extensive network. I continually tell people the number one factor in business, and I think in life in general, is unalterable determination—or in other words, looking your dragons in the eye and spitting on them, despite the fact that they are trying to eat you up.

I love the movie Cinderella Man. The story is of a man who is a professional fighter. He’d previously given up fighting, but because his family is starving, he goes back and faces a Goliath in his life.

There comes a point in the movie where he’s facing the most formidable opposition. This particular opponent is actually known for killing people in the ring. The protagonist takes several hard body blows…and then there comes a point during the fight where he turns and shouts “Hit me! Hit me! Is that all you have?”

He takes blow after blow until he ends up winning the fight despite the brutal beating. Sometimes we have to face such dragons.

Last week I found myself in a tough situation as I was preparing myself for a little respite I’m going to be taking with my wife. I really found myself in an impossible situation, with some factors in my life attempting to dish out every body blow that I could possibly take.

Then I experienced an interesting change that came over me halfway through the week. This change was similar to the change in Cinderella Man.

My approach and my attitude toward my conflicts became. “Is that all you have? Bring it, bring it!” Then I had to proceed to face those dragons and stare them in the eye.

Indeed we will all have intense challenges in our life, but particularly as you face entrepreneurship. The biggest challenge I leave to you is this: As crazy as it sounds, embrace those body blows! Look them in the eye. Fight the dragons. You will reach a level of exhilaration when you get through the challenge. Then go forward, prosper, and enjoy the wonderful ride and life of becoming a small business owner.

A Firm Foundation – Zig Zag Principle #23

July 22nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Values are the infrastructure or highway system we travel on to reach our goal. 

If my family and I were taking a road trip to Disneyland from our home in Utah, we would have two choices.  We could pull out of our driveway, point our car southwest, and begin to drive through neighbors’ dining rooms and yards, through cow pastures and weeds, across streams, and over mountain ranges until we got to sunny Southern California.  The other choice would be to do an Internet search for the best route to Disneyland, and then print off and follow the directions that are given.  I suppose option one would get us there eventually, if I had access to an amphibious assault vehicle…and if we could avoid arrest.  But I think my family and I would enjoy the trip more if we followed the Interstate—and exited the freeway once in a while for gas, a bite to eat, and a chance to freshen up.   

Just as there are roads my family is willing to take and others we’d rather avoid, there are ways of living life and doing business that I am willing to try and others I steer clear of.  For me, I love to drive on paved streets because I know my wife’s minivan will get stuck in the mud if I head off across uncharted terrain.  And, like a good map, my values keep me on the right roads.

Any organization that is going to be successful—whether it is a family, a sports team, or a business—must have a set of values to work from; otherwise, it will end up wandering into the weeds.  When I say values, I’m not necessarily referring just to moral values.  Values go well beyond what we may typically think of when we hear the word.  They are the infrastructure you are going to use as you build toward your goal.  Values include the behavior you are going to exhibit, the culture you want to create, and the rules you will follow. Values set the tone for what the culture in the company will be.  Following or ignoring values creates the stories that then reinforce the culture we are building.  Different families have different values, just as different businesses have different values.  As an example, let’s suppose you want to start a high-class, restaurant with inventive food and a romantic environment.  In this restaurant, you would value using fresh ingredients and having a meticulously clean kitchen.  Quality, refinement, and culture might be some of the values you would promote among your staff and with your customers (whom you might refer to as patrons).  On the other hand, if you were looking to open a family-friendly, fast-food restaurant, you would value speed, efficiency, variety, and the entertainment of kids.  Ideally, you would value cleanliness as well.  You are not going to use the same high-quality ingredients as your gourmet counterpart, and you might have far more options on the menu, including a kids’ menu.  Identifying your values, based on your purposes and objectives, is essential so you can clearly define where you’re headed with your venture.

Chicken Chasing 101 – Zig Zag Principle #17

July 7th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

If we’re not setting goals that are within our reach as part of finding our beacon, we will find ourselves doing a lot of aimless wandering in the fog.  I’ve always been motivated by the goals I’ve set; in fact, every year I see to it that my family gets together and makes goals. These are not your garden-variety New Year’s resolutions; these are actual goals we plan to achieve, individually and collectively.  We make short-term goals, mid-term goals, and long-term goals.  (Personally, I have set goals until the end of my life.)  It has been fun to see the kinds of goals our children come up with each year.

We do not judge each other’s goals.  We just write them down and post them on the refrigerator.  As the year progresses and each goal is met, the children ceremoniously cross off each goal, which brings a huge sense of satisfaction.  Sometimes we will put up goals that are a big stretch to reach.  Other goals might be much more simple.  Over the years my family has found that the best way to make goals is to keep three things in mind.  A goal needs to be: 1) written down, 2) measurable, and 3) realistic.  It never ceases to amaze me how powerful this simple process of creating and writing down goals ends up being.  Of course, times change, priorities shift, and we all do our fair share of zig zagging toward our goals.  So while there are a few goals that end up not being completed, most of what we’ve committed to gets crossed off by the end of the year.  What I find more gratifying than just checking off goals is seeing how their goals provide my children with direction and motivation throughout the year.

I’ll admit there have been times when a family member’s goals have left me wondering how they are ever going to achieve them.  But I’ve also seen many examples of how having that beacon in the fog provides a powerful reminder and sense of purpose.  A few years ago, my seven-year-old son had us write down a goal that really made me chuckle.  When we asked him what goals he wanted to pursue, without hesitation he blurted out,  “I want to go chicken chasing!”  We all laughed; but, in keeping with family policy, we wrote it down and posted it on the fridge.

Now we do not live anywhere near a farm, nor do we have any chickens nearby, so my wife and I were not sure how this goal was going to be met.  I suppose we could have driven him to a petting zoo, but in reality his achieving this goal was not a big priority for my wife or me.  When we did think about it, we just figured this would be a goal that would sit on the list and at the end of the year we would say, “Well, sorry, but that one just didn’t happen.”

The year progressed, and of course there was no chicken chasing.  In fact, we thought he had forgotten all about his goal.  Then one day in mid-October, my wife called me on the phone, laughing uncontrollably.  She and our kids had stopped at the Post Office to pick up some mail.  As they got back in the car, the son who wanted to chase chickens got really excited.  He and his younger brother then bolted out of the car and started chasing two wild roosters that had been sitting in the bushes at the Post Office.  My wife and the older brothers watched as these two little boys chased those birds around for a good five minutes.  My son was so excited when he got home that the first thing he did was grab his big red crayon and cross off “Chicken Chasing” from his list of goals.

While you may never have a goal of chasing chickens, my son’s experience exemplifies the power of identifying and then writing down those things that are going to serve as our beacons in the fog.  While everyone else in our family had pretty much forgotten about his goal, he kept looking toward that beacon—and for the right opportunity to achieve his goal.  I have found that if you put a goal out there and write it down, it is amazing what the universe will return to you.

Your beacons in the fog are generally longer-term goals that your short-term and mid-term goals will lead you toward.  You can have several beacons you are working toward in different areas of your life.  When I began college, I had identified several beacons in the fog I intended to pursue.  One was to graduate from college.  Another was to meet the woman I would marry.  Still another was to find significant ways to render service.  I must say that the day I started college, I had no idea how I was going to accomplish those goals, but they provided me with guidance and motivation as I developed the short-term and mid-term goals that kept me moving toward the light.   After graduating from college (and accomplishing my other two goals), I came up with a new set of beacons that centered around building a strong family, finding success in my career, continuing my education, and finding additional ways to serve.  As I’ve found myself approaching fifty, I’ve wanted to find an additional beacon that would motivate and guide me in ways that transcend the businesses I’ve been involved in building and the financial goals I’ve established for myself and my family.