Hayes_snowTo my Ohio State creativity students:

Maybe I haven't been asking the right question.

Each year, I ask my creativity students to list their goals. But, well, something isn't happening.

It's not just you. The same thing happened last year. It seems I rarely get the answers I'm seeking.

So I'm going to ask it differently. Right here.

Why Am I Asking?
Anyone old enough to look back sees some missed opportunities.

I sure do.

I don't know where fully formed adults place the blame, but I place mine squarely on the person who never made goals for me. That, awkwardly, is: me.

Somehow, I slid through the Socratic hands of some of the best teachers this world has ever offered. But none of them asked me — at least, in a way that I actually heard — and answered — "What are your goals?"

So I feel obliged to ask you for your goals.
Because your college experience has to be more than education for the sake of enlightenment. It needs to be that and it needs to have some purpose.

You get to choose the purpose.

But I'm making sure that someone — right now, right here — asks you to consider: "For what am I investing all this time, money and effort? What is my goal?"

Are Goals That Important?
Having goals isn't everything. Living a rich, engaged life is more important. Loving others and being loved is more important.

But goals are also important. And they need to be written.

Writing down your goals down doesn't make them happen. But it's funny what happens when you write them down.

What Am I Asking For?
I'm asking for goals in four areas: business, community, family and personal.

How big a goal? Big enough that it's not easy to reach. Big enough that you might not reach it.

Big enough that it answers Ohio State's call to action: Do Something Great.

So What Goals Am I Receiving?
Without betraying any confidences, here is a complete rephrasing of some of the goals I'm receiving:

  • Business: generates enough profit that I can afford the
    life I want.
  • Community: respects and seeks me as a leader.
  • Family: loves me and each other.
  • Personal: …I want to be happy and play golf.

Happy, shmappy.
Being rich, fertile, loved, and happy is important. I don't want my students to give up on these ideals.

But these aren't the goals I want them to list.

I'm looking for goals that are worthy of a headline. In The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times? Fine. The Columbus Dispatch? Fine. Field & Stream? Fine. Local suburban newspaper? Fine.

Just imagine the headline. That's a good test for your goal. In fact, write your goals as if they are news headlines. (Think: obituary.)

If your goal isn't newsworthy, it's not ambitious and nutritious enough for this assignment.

Is Fame The Goal?
No. I wouldn't wish fame on anyone.

This isn't about fame. The world has enough celebrities.

This is about being worthy. Skip the fame, if you want.

I just ask you to have goals that, if achieved, would be worthy of fame.

What If You Fail To Reach A Goal?
I'm not going to hunt you down and slap you. (I'm not that good a teacher.)

But we can't let the fear of failure rob us of the thrill of ambition.

And if we don't have goals, we can't be surprised if we don't reach them.

What Else?
Without a plan, goals are just hopes. And dependent on luck for success.

So, for each goal, outline a five-year syllabus for personal creative development: the people you need to meet, the books you need to read, the places you need to go, and whatever else you need to learn so you can reach each goal.

Sounds like a big deal?
It is. But if you don't do this for yourself, you are delegating your learning and life planning to your teachers.

And we simply aren't going to do it for you.

I'm too busy messing up my life to spend time messing up yours.