Are Your Goals Actionable And Are You Ready To Act?

We all have dreams we envision for ourselves – some we organically create, and others materialize as a result of promptings or suggestions of others. It’s interesting to consider when a dream becomes an actionable goal – or not. The truth is, most anything is actionable, you just need to be ready to silence the naysayers in your head.

I recall early in my career when I was a part of an advertising account team in NYC working on one of the most popular candy brands in the world, Snickers. The 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games were on the horizon and, as a sponsor of the games, we were tasked to develop the Snickers Olympic advertising campaign, working alongside the brand management team at M&M/Mars.

After an important presentation to the top brass, the lead brand manager on Snickers pulled me aside and asked if I had ever considered getting an MBA. The thought of pursuing an MBA (master’s in business administration) had not really crossed my mind, although it was a common “next step” for a lot of ambitious young businesspeople. My thoughts had been to continue to work my way up in the ad agency business. Yes, I was fascinated by the broader aspects of business-like product development, pricing, sales, and strategy on what is often called the “client side.” But an MBA? That was a big (and expensive) step to consider.

“Are you suggesting that I move back home and go to school?” I remember asking him. He looked at me like I was nuts adding, “You could go anywhere but why don’t you stay in the City. Your GMAT scores are still good, right?”

The city? What city? Was he really talking about New York City? I should get my MBA in New York? And GMAT scores? I hadn’t ever taken the Graduate Management Admissions Test like so many do their senior year in college. So, no, my scores weren’t “good.” There were no scores. He continued, almost nonchalantly. “Yeah, apply to Columbia. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting in, given your track record.” Columbia University? The Ivy League school established in 1754, with alumni like Warren Buffett, Jack Kerouac, Amelia Earhart, and Alexander Hamilton? This was the college he thought I “shouldn’t have any trouble” getting into?

The idea bounced around my head for days. I got in an argument with my internal voices. The conversation morphed from “You’re not nuts, he’s nuts” to “You’re underestimating yourself,” from “You can’t afford that” to “Just worry about getting in first,” from “You won’t get a good enough score on the GMAT after being out of school this long” to “You never know until you try.”

Was it possible that I could get into Columbia? Well I would never know unless I was ready to quiet the critics in my head, work to make it possible, and try. I took a prep course for the GMAT. I took the GMAT test. I got my Columbia MBA application. I filled it out, wrote and then rewrote my essays and then rewrote them again. Each phase of the application deadline passed, until finally I submitted it – on the last day possible. (I’ll let you in on what happened – I was accepted.)

Our goals, no matter how they originate, are opportunities waiting to be achieved; we need only to decide how hard we are willing to work, how to silence the negative voices and then take action.

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