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We are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.

Do you remember the scene in Raising Arizona where Glen tells a joke, then calls it a “way-homer?” He said it’s because you only get it on the way home.

I didn’t appreciate the brilliance in this quote at first, but it stayed with me. I now put it right up there among the all-time greats.

In Business:

Voltaire said, “Good is the enemy of great,” and James Collins had a bestseller (deservedly so) with Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap… and Others Don’t.

Most businesses settle. They settle for mediocrity and they settle way too quickly — sometimes before they even open their doors.

I love pizza. A couple of weeks ago, a new pizza place opened up down the street. I walked in, ordered the two-slice and a drink lunch special, and proceeded to be staggeringly underwhelmed. Again.

I gave them the benefit of the doubt and they instantly proved to be just another me-too, copycat pizza place serving barely passable, me-too, copycat pizza. What’s the point of even opening if you’re not going to at least attempt to make great pizza? Why do you even exist? To quote Raising Arizona again, “That’s your whole damn raison d’etre, ain’t it?”

But here’s the kicker — double kicker, really:

  1. It was lunchtime, they’d been open a few weeks and I was the only customer in the place.
  2. After he heated up my two slices, the owner was just sitting there, shooting the breeze and laughing it up with the waitress.

You better believe if I had sunk all that money into a pizza place, I’d either be out pounding the pavement with flyers or samples or both in an effort to drum up some business. Or I’d be in the kitchen working to perfect my dough, my sauce, my toppings, and every other element of great pizza.

Congratulations on settling for your lesser goal, Mr. Pizza Owner. Hope your lease is month-to-month.

In Life:

I’m a big believer in the 80/20 Rule. Eighty percent of your results come from twenty percent of your actions.

You wear twenty percent of your clothes eighty percent of the time. When you open your refrigerator, eighty percent of the time you’re reaching for the same twenty percent of items. The list goes on and on.

When we fail to achieve goals in life, eighty percent of the time it’s because we saw a clear path to a lesser goal; only twenty percent of the time did an actual obstacle stand in our way. In our minds, though, we think it’s always the obstacles.

Maybe I set a goal to lose twenty pounds, and when I don’t I think it’s because I don’t know how. My lack of knowledge is an obstacle. Or it was the holidays, or we had company over the summer. Special circumstances were the obstacle that got in the way.

The truth is, I had a goal of losing twenty pounds, but I kept settling for the lesser goal of gaining immediate pleasure by eating that giant piece of chocolate cake, followed by a slightly smaller piece later that evening. There certainly was a clear path to it, too — right from the fork to my mouth.

If there’s a goal you’re not reaching, stop looking for pretend obstacles and start recognizing the lesser goals you’re constantly settling for.

So remember…

We are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.

— Robert Brault

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