How Goals Help Us Under-Achieve

How Goals Help Us Under-Achieve

May 8, 2020

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Jack Nicklaus won 18 Major titles (the most in history) and 117 professional titles (the 2nd most in history).

He is considered by many to be the greatest golfer of all time.

He’s also an under-achiever.

The Golf Channel recently ran a special on Nicklaus, and he said it himself.

When he was coming up, Bobby Jones was the man to beat. Jones had won 13 Majors in his career, and that was the most in history.

Nicklaus, being fanatically driven, put his mind on that number. He needed to get to 14.

And, in 1975, he did it. He broke Jones’ record.

He was the greatest golfer of all time.

Now what?

His goal had been to get to 14. Once there, there was nothing left to do. He said it probably cost him a lot more Majors.

That’s the insidious nature of goals. They give you the what but not the why. They drag you mercilessly to the finish line and then leave you high and dry.

I made it, Goals! I did everything you asked. Now what should I do?


Goals? You still there?

Many champions have reported being hoodwinked by goals. All along, goals promised to take care of them.

Just do what I say and you’ll be happy.

Instead, champions are lonely. John McEnroe pursued his rival Bjorn Borg all over the world in an attempt to achieve his goal of being #1 in the world.

Then, the McEnroe finally got there, he said he found himself alone in a hotel room, empty and a bit sad.

Once it was over, Goals were nowhere to be found. Neither was happiness.

There’s a way out, though. There’s a way to get everything Goals promise and be happy, too.

That way is to have rules. A process.

If we’re goal-focused, there are no instructions for afterword. We get to 14 Majors and wonder what to do next.

If we have rules and a process, we’re fine.

I love playing golf. I want to play it at the highest level possible. So I’m going to practice “x” amount of hours every day, eat a certain meal plan, play “x” amount of tournaments per year, and analyze every win or loss to increase improvement.

If this is a player’s life, winning #14 makes no difference. Rules are in place. Protocols need to be met.

Yes, it’s fantastic to win a Major. It feels incredible. But I have practice in two days. I have to discuss this tournament with my coach. I still want to improve. I want to get back to work. 

With rules, nothing is over. No mountains have been climbed and now are missed.

With rules, it’s a lifestyle.

This is my life, and I love it. I want to live like this for many more years. 

Goals can be magnetic and powerful. They can drag you places. But once they’re achieved, the achievement stops

A lifestyle can get you to the same place Goals can.

Any many more places after that.

A lifestyle never under-achieves.


My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.