Tag Archives: Jim Collins

Life in a list

“Reach for the moon, if you miss it, you will land among the stars”


As I look ahead to 2014, I can’t help but wonder where to devote my energy in the year ahead.  While I am not the biggest fan of the New Years hype and parties, I am an avid goal maker and tend to take my New Years resolutions obnoxiously seriously. I make sure my goals strictly adhere to the SMART goal requirements (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) and to the dismay of my friends and family, am often the first to point out that their goals do not in fact meet the appropriate standards to be successful. Mom – no matter what you say “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing” does not count as an appropriate year-end goal. 

However, if we break down our resolutions, year after year, what we’re really left with is one giant to-do list. At first this sounds really depressing, but in reality that is how we measure our own lives and those of others. In reflecting on why the life of Nelson Mandela is so remarkable we read off the to-do list of his life – the virtues to emit, accomplishments to overcome and words to influence others with.

According to philosopher Umberto Eco, that is exactly what life is. A to-do list. I came across this Fast Company Article a couple of weeks ago which quotes the philosopher on the power of list making:

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists . . .” 

I love this quote because it attributes the simplistic act of list making to solving the grandiose task of understanding our realities and futures. Lists act as a means of creating order out of chaos. If we expand our definition of what constitutes a list, we will find that lists play an even larger role in providing direction in our lives. They come in the form of mind maps and diagrams, recipes and workouts, each form identifying small wins as a means of ultimately accomplishing what Jim Collins calls a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, whether it be a change initiative or mastering a crème brulee.

However, in the same way that you may forget an ingredient for the crème brulee if you don’t write it down before heading to the grocery store, the same is true with any item on a to do list or any goal on one’s life list. Let’s reframe our goals so that the fear of failure or the intimidation of the task ahead can be broken down into small harmless bullet points – itty bitty small wins, checked off by the day.

 Break it down. Write it down. Take it with you. Cross off your goal, one small win at a time.