When I was 5 years old my parents bought me a Mighty Tonka Off Road Adventure Buggy. The Tonka Adventure buggy looked something like a Ford Bronco of the era. It was about 14 inches long and about 8 inches high with large wheels. It was great for playing in the dirt, and turned my backyard into an off road race track. I’d stand behind the Tonka, lean down and put my hands on top of it, and push it while running laps around the yard. In my mind I was at the wheel of a life-sized 4×4. It’s my first memory of loving a car.
The next car I remember loving was an early 80s Lamborghini Countach. I’m pretty sure every guy in the world loved the Lamborghini Countach. I first remember seeing one when I watched the movie “Cannonball Run,” and during my teen years I had posters of the car on my bedroom wall. I even remember drawing a Countach for one of my 7th grade teachers to hang on her classroom bulletin board.
I often read copies of Road & Track, Car and Driver, and Motor Trend. I cut out cars that I liked and taped them to my bedroom walls alongside the Countach. But in 1992 a car came out that fascinated and inspired me like none other: the Dodge Viper. The styling of the Viper was unapologetically aggressive, and it was designed to be a call back to the streetrod era of simple cars with massive power. That first generation Viper’s V10 engine produced 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. It had no power brakes, no power steering, no power…anything. I loved it so much I bought a six foot long poster of it and it remained my companion until I got married 7 years later.
Despite loving all of these cars and several others along the way, I’d never owned anything I’d considered my dream car. I’d never even spent any time thinking about actually owning a dream car. In fact, from the time I bought my first car right after high school in 1994 until I was sitting at the Free the Dream conference 24 years later, I’d only owned 3 cars: a 1984 Ford EXP, a 1995 Ford Ranger, and a 1984 Toyota Celica GT. Now, the Celica was a great car and I constantly got compliments on it, but it wasn’t a dream car. I still have it by the way. Now my son drives it.
So at the age of 42 while sitting at Free the Dream, I decided the answer to life, the universe, and everything was to start taking actions that would achieve my dream of owning an MGB GT.
Okay, so how does one get from owning a 2 inch version of an MGB GT to a full size version of the car? For me, the next steps were familiar. That is, I had a conversation with my wife, and I started a spreadsheet.
You can run your life the way you see best, but for me, I would never set out to chase this goal without the support of my wife. As a married couple, we both believe that everything we own is ours. Our bank account is ours. There is no “my stuff” and “her stuff.” There is no “my money” and “her money.” That’s not to say I don’t call her car “her car” and she doesn’t call my car “my car.” It simply means that we make decisions together. There’s no way I was going to go out and spend $10-15k without her approval and support.
I shared with her a recap of all the things that happened at Free the Dream, and I shared my list of things I wanted to achieve in the next 5-10 years. I told her about buying the toy car. I told her that although I’d already purchased the toy car, it did not mean that getting the MGB GT was the first or top priority. There were other things on my list that I wanted to achieve first, and buying the toy car would keep me pressing forward through those goals that stood in the way of me and the MGB GT. Knowing Kari as well as I do, it was no surprise that she was in full support of the list I’d made and my goal of getting an MGB GT.
By the way, how many times now have I said MGB GT. Should we start a drinking game? Probably not. Some of you are driving right now.
Now for the spreadsheet. It’s easy to go out and find and MGB GT, but it’s not as easy to find the right MGB GT. To determine what the right MGB GT for me would be, I created a spreadsheet that tracked 21 different features or characteristics of a car, and created a column to score each item. I also considered how important an item was, and gave it a weighted point modifier if it was more important.
For example, I only wanted a car that was silver, grey, white, black, red, or green. I liked silver, grey, white, and black the best, so those colors were given a higher score bonus than red or green. Other items on my features list included having a clean interior, wire wheels, no rust, air conditioning, 6-cylinder engine, 8 cylinder engine, clean paint, tinted windows, sunroof, overdrive, among others.
I made a few tweaks to my spreadsheet as I started tracking real data, but it was a great start. Over the next several months, I began regularly shopping for MGB GTs on eBay, Craig’s List, Auto Trader, Auto Tempest, and other classic car websites. When I found a car I liked, I put it into my spreadsheet. The maximum score a car could get was 122 points. The spreadsheet would tally up the points a car scored and convert that over to a match percentage. That is, if a car scored 122 points, it would be a 100% match. If it scored 75 points, it was a 62% match. I also tracked the price and geographical location for each car, as the cost to have the car delivered to my location would need to be a factor.
Over the course of time I was able to learn what a good score was, and also learn more about which features were common or even practical to hope for. For example, I REALLY love the sunroof on my Celica, so I was very much hoping to get an MGB GT with a sunroof. In fact, I looked at hundreds of MGB GTs, and only 29 were good enough for me to take the time to chart on my spreadsheet. Of those 29, only 1 of them had a sunroof.
When I worked as the ecommerce director at my old corporate job, we had an internal dashboard of reports that the president established. It was called the KPI dashboard. Many of you are probably familiar with the acronym KPI, but for those who aren’t it stands for Key Performance Indicators. KPIs are the things you want to track so that you can better understand the health and growth of your business. It’s been said and taught in countless books, seminars, training sessions, and workshops. If you want something to get better or grow, you have to track it.
Over the course of this season I’m hoping to inspire and motivate you to identify and reach a major life goal. If you hope to achieve that goal, you need to track it. In my example today, I shared how I tracked different cars, and stacked them up against various features so that I would know a good deal from a bad deal. My spreadsheet became the filter that helped me quickly and objectively discern which car was the best one.
As you think about your goal, think about what you’re going to research and track along the way that will serve as a tool to help you reach your goal. Will you be saving money as part of your goal? How much will you save each month? How long will it take you save enough to achieve you goal? What other items need to be checked off along the way?
Are you starting a business? What resources need to be in place before you can start it? Do you need materials? Will you need a physical location? How much insurance do you need? Will you be taking out a loan? What are the current rates? What is your credit score? What can you do to give the bank confidence in your loan?
Are you paying down debt? Do you have an option to consolidate it? How much will you be able to pay each month? What do you have that you can sell to pay down the debt? What sacrifices can you make, even if only temporary, that will help you pay off the debt sooner? If you can’t consolidate your debt, which debt should you pay off first? What books or seminars can you invest in that will help you pay off your debt sooner?
Just like with my spreadsheet, once I got to the point where I was putting in real data and tracking real cars, I found that my spreadsheet needed to be adjusted. That is, what I thought I needed to track before I started chasing my goal, was different than what I actually needed to track. So I made adjustments based on the new info I learned, and I was able to make better decisions because of it.
While not all goals are equally difficult to achieve, I’m convinced that any practical goal can be achieved. By practical, I mean, it’s not practical for me to set a goal to play in the NBA. I’m 45 years old, after all. But if you’ve set forth a practical goal, YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT. Do your research, track your progress, adjust, learn, and keep making progress. Oh, and keep that childlike inspiration alive. When I ran around the backyard with my Tonka truck, I envisioned myself driving a real one. Our imagination is powerful. It helps us visualize the impossible. It gives us energy and inspiration. Now, reach down, put both hands on your goal, and take off running. You got this!
I’m Darrell Darnell, and this has been Stuff I Learned Yesterday episode 576, “Get to Work.” Next week we’ll be looking at what happens as you near the finish line of achieving your goal
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