My 3 Year Personal Growth Strategy

Last week I outlined a strategy for writing down goals. This week I am sharing my 3 year, 1 year, and 90 day goals, as well as my strategic road-map to get there.

If you have never written down your goals before you should.

A mentor of mine reached out after reading last week’s post and reaffirmed the importance of goal setting.

If you are serious about achieving your objectives it is imperative that you take the time to write out a plan.

3 Year Goals

  1. I oversee operations of the technical department at my current employer. I manage, teach, and help new employees get on-boarded and integrated in our processes.
  2. I maintain an open source web application with an active and happy user base. I create a platform where others can make an impact on the web.
  3. I own a duplex. I live in one of the apartments, I rent out the other for supplemental income.
  4. I teach a course at General Assembly and participate in local MeetUp’s on the weekends. I am active in my field and help others learn skills that I have mastered.

1 Year Goals

  1. I work directly with the marketing department to create an industry benchmark report. I have a good knowledge of data analysis software such as Pentaho, Mondrian, Saiku, and Hadoop. I help teach other employees how to use these software.
  2. I receive positive feedback and initial traction for my online web application. The start of a community is evident and others have begun contributing to the project I started.
  3. I live at home, and I save my money. I invest passively through an IRA account and maintain a long-term time horizon. I have a credit card and have started building a credit reputation.
  4. I participate in a local MeetUp, and have connections with a few of the organizers. I have built a small network of resources that I can interact with.

90 Day Goals

  1. I improve process for our production department. I contribute with other developers to create protocols and guidelines for code development, testing, and deployment. I have written the first draft of what will become a guidebook for new employees.
  2. I have written a business plan. I have mapped out what I would like to build, how I would like it to grow, and who I want to be involved. I calculate every step I need to take to create a successful web application.
  3. I transfer funds that I am currently actively managing into a more passive account. I have my direct deposit automatically contribute to my long-term investment account.
  4. I help teach interested friends and family how to write code. I work with a few people on the weekends to teach them the basics of front-end development.

The Goals

The list above is the result of visualizing where I want to be 3 years from now, 1 year from now, and 90 days from now. Each goal from the 3 year section correlates with a goal in the 1 year section, and each 1 year goal correlates with a 90 day goal. The overarching goals could be labeled as;

  1. Career advancement
  2. Open source application
  3. Real estate
  4. Teaching.

After this visualization process I wrote out why I wanted to achieve these four goals, and how I would know when I have achieved them.

Career Advancement

I want more responsibility, I want to learn by doing. This goal is intended to help me learn the in’s and out’s of managing others and hiring new employees. I want to take this experience and use it to help me when I start my own company. I want to advance my career over the next 3 years in an attempt to learn as much as I can before launching my own venture.

This goal will be fairly obvious to realize. As the company I currently work at grows, members from the initial team will take on more responsibility. I want to be a  part of this expansion. I will accumulate a wealth of knowledge, and actively share it.

Open Source Application

I want to create something that others find valuable. By creating an open source project I will be giving other people an opportunity to join a community of like-minded individuals. By engaging with people who have similar interests I will grow my network and build my personal brand.

This goal will be realized the day that other members of the community maintain the project. The moment where I am no longer the individual tasked with maintaining the application will be the day that I know users are happy and engaged. I want to spur the creation of something that others find immense value in.

Real Estate

I want to save my money. I want to retire when I am young. Buying real estate is a strategic investment for the future. I intend to live in the first property I buy, and with the purchase of a duplex I will have an opportunity to diversify revenue streams. I will also learn rather quickly how interested I am in becoming a landlord.

This is another goal that will be obvious to know when I have achieved. The day that I sign my mortgage and have a set of keys in my hand will be the day that this goal is realized.

Teaching

I get great personal satisfaction from helping others. Teaching a topic or skill requires mastery of the topic. By helping others I will be getting personal satisfaction as well as further mastery of topics I enjoy.

I will have met this goal when someone I have helped mentor has created or done something they are proud of. My teaching and mentor-ship will have played a role in their success.

Steps to Take

To achieve the above goals I will need to lay out distinct and actionable steps to take. This is the final aspect of a goal setting session, after completing this section you will have a road-map that you can begin to follow. If you struggle with creating these steps, remember that you can always add or subtract a step from your plan. This is a fluid document that you are creating.

Career Advancement

Steps required for achievement Deadline for each step
Master and innovate upon existing processes at work. 90 days
Create and implement new processes that help improve productivity and reduce costs. 1 year
Further gain the respect and trust of my peers and coworkers. 1 year

Open Source Application

Steps required for achievement Deadline for each step
Conduct market research and narrow down the possible application ideas. 90 days
Search for others who are working on similar projects or who share a similar vision. 1 year
Reach out to my network and actively share what I have been working on. 1 year

Real Estate

Steps required for achievement Deadline for each step
Don’t wastefully spend money. Immediately
Save and invest my money passively. Immediately

Teaching

Steps required for achievement Deadline for each step
Meet up with peers that share similar interests in programming and development. 90 days
Learn and be aware of the foundations of Computer Science 1 year
Master HTML and CSS, the dive deeper into JavaScript, and JavaScript framework. 2 years

What Happens Next?

Obviously I have a lot of work to do.

I have already gotten started on a few of the objectives I laid out above. Now, and over the course of the next 90 days is the time to buckle down and hit some of my milestones.

Please feel free to mimic the content above. This strategy has helped me immensely, and I hope you can use what I have written as a model to create your own plan.

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Don’t Trade Time For Money

How much is an hour of your time worth?

As an employee I am engaged in a trade with my employer. The employer and I have an agreement, a mutual understanding that my time is worth a certain amount of money. As an employee I am in the business of trading my time for money.

The business engages in a different trade with clients. Rather than trading time for money, the company trades value for money.

Trading value for money

At the start-up company I work for pricing is determined by value provided. A client purchases one of our companies services for $xx,xxx. This price is representative of the value that the client is receiving.

If billed hourly the clients price would have only been $x,xxx.

If it takes our company 20 hours to produce or provide a service, and we charge an hourly rate of $100 our cost would have been $2000, and the clients price would end up closer to $5,000. That $5,000 figure is far below the price our company has determined based of value.

When trading value for money the client is generally unaware of the time associated with producing or providing their service. They tend to think it takes a considerable amount of effort, planning and organization to produce or provide their service. The client focuses solely on the value they receive from their purchase. If the client receives that value then everyone is happy.

Starbucks Coffee example

Think of Starbucks Coffee Company and their pricing scheme. A large latte has a price of $3.95. Consumers spend that much for a cup of coffee from Starbucks because of the value they feel they are receiving.

Starbucks has mastered the idea of process (a topic I covered recently) and can produce your latte in under 5 minutes. The cost to make the latte is under $1, and Starbucks churns out hundreds of thousands of these coffee’s everyday. Amazing, right?

The employees at Starbucks agree to trade their time for money. Starbucks takes advantage of this by creating a simple enough process that the employees can create value. Then, Starbucks profits.

Why it works

Scaling a business in this fashion has two immediate and obvious benefits. First, with process in place a business can function with less employees. Second, with value based pricing the business ensures they are charging a high/justified amount to every customer.

Greater margins on every sale, and operating with a leaner staff is a perfect formula for long term success and sustained growth.


Read more about this subject on Patrick Mckenzie’s blog.

Creating Process in Business

Scaling a business requires process. Large, highly profitable organizations master their craft and charge a high premium for their services. These companies minimize cost by creating systems for which things get done.

Creating process is a milestone for a start-up company, because process implies that you have a product or service that is in demand. To increase the likelihood of successful growth and development the organization must standardize the way it produces their products.

Process also reduces and minimizes error. When something is done incorrectly and a mistake is made it is easy to place blame on an individual person. The organization as a whole bears the responsibility for an error made by one of its employees, yet internal mistakes tend to be placed directly on one person. Process helps eliminate this while also exposing the true reason why errors in production occur.

Process in Practice

Recently I have been working on producing a plethora of HTML email templates for a large client. Frequently I have been making errors in production: typo’s, line-spacing issues, cross email client compatibility – each of these errors has plagued my work. In an attempt to reduce these errors and create a more efficient production flow, I have employed the 5 Whys Root Analysis technique.

The 5 Whys is a simple, straightforward and easy to use technique that helps individuals and organizations find the root cause of an issue. As Wikipedia states:

The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each question forms the basis of the next question. The “5” in the name derives from an empirical observation on the number of iterations typically required to resolve the problem.

Here is how I used the 5 Why’s to find a solution for my problem.

1. Why did the email template have errors?
Because our developer overlooked his errors.
2. Why did the developer not find his errors?
Because the developer relied on the account managers to find his/her mistakes.
3. Why do developers rely on account managers?
Because developers do not have a procedure for testing.
4. Why do developers not have a testing protocol?
Because testing takes away time from development.

After the first four questions, it became overwhelmingly clear to me what the issue and subsequent solution were. Both developers, and account managers need a testing protocol.

Since time is hard to come by, developers should have a concise testing protocol and checklist that aims to find technical issues with the code. While account managers should have a similar checklist that looks for grammatical, spelling, and design errors.

Before any final file is sent to the client it must go through these two independent tests. This will initially be a time consuming and tedious procedure, yet over time it will become a part of the process, one that ensures that the company’s reputation maintains its form.