You Need to Get Better At This NOW


When’s the last time you completed on an open-ended task with no true deadline?

That means:

No external human reinforcement — punishment or reward — coming from a boss, a client, a teacher, a parent, a family member, a community, or a friend.

No impending do-or-die imposed by the calendar (like a live event, a meeting, or a contractual obligation).

If you’re like most of the folks who create for a living, your answer is probably “Not recently.” or “Gee, I don’t remember.” Or maybe it’s even “Never.”

This is a problem.

This intrinsic goal-tending is one of the core skills you’ve just got to have in order to succeed at creation your own baconbiz.

Without this skill, you’ll never be able to:

  • build a product on the side
  • engage in ongoing marketing
  • grow your feature set / product basket, except in response to customer demands…
  • … determine your own future

You’ll always be waiting for something to force you. You’ll always be hunting for somebody to make you. You’ll always be looking for a boss.

So if you haven’t got experience defining, speccing, and finishing open-ended tasks without a true deadline, you better start now.

Pick a side project this week to build your intrinsic goal-tending skills.

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  1. Mark Keating

    Well said, more succinct, clearer and apt than some of the ‘inspirational’ business talks I have attended.

    (Got to say that I also like the use of the narwhal impaling a unicorn – nice touch with a good reason)

  2. David looks like it belongs to Amy Fuchs…still you?

    I’m only asking ’cause I’d rather bookmark it & check later if I don’t know who’s behind it…my real-business inbox is remarkably spam-free so far.

  3. Gabor

    I think this boils down to realizing that nothing at all will move forward if you don’t make the necessary steps. And you have to do it over and over again, for every small step.

  4. Rob Jefferson

    I love this post. Saw it when I woke up this morning; it puts what’s been bothering me about myself and my work into sharp, almost painful focus.

  5. Steve O'Brien

    I agree this is important… However, for me, personally, I think that there is some other stuff I need to work on first before I can even take advantage of this skill.

  6. Vanessa

    The learning challenge here is how to nurture curiosity so that intrinsic motivation is stronger than extrinsic–much of our culture is extrinsic (contests, bonuses, performance goals, leaderboards).

    I think supporting the process of play, workshop formats, and being understanding when others fail is all super important to changing culture in this way.

    Amy it would be cool if you featured “projects on the side” in some gallery-type way. Maybe a showcase of 30 x 500 folks who have side projects (even if they aren’t biz-related).

  7. Ryan Corradini

    This hit VERY close to home for me, and is exactly what I needed to kick me out of the creative / professional funk I’ve been in for the past few days. Thank you for being awesome.

  8. Jonathan Hinshaw

    This is a great article. I truly couldn’t remember the last time I did something just open. I think we get caught up in projects and working for clients and we forget that it’s OK to stop working at a reasonable hour and do the things that got us interested in our field int eh first place!

    Thanks – ps, your blog is fantastic!

  9. Giancarlo Valente

    This is exactly what I’m fighting 2 years from now, since I’ve decided to ‘build my own thing’ and I’ve ended accomplishing only many and many freelance gigs, that gives me very little growth perspectives for the future.

    waw, great post! What I like most, is just the call to action in the end, I’m going to start with that … thanks


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