My secret to goal setting

Rob Liu

Rob Liu,
Founder ContactOut

3 mins read


Goal setting is something many people do. But most people set small goals in life. We don’t dream big because we’re afraid we’ll fail. But big goals are actually easier to achieve than small goals. People are inspired by big goals and will go out of their way to help you. Investors will give you money. Setting big goals create movements and bring together teams. 

Small goals may be easier to accomplish, but not as many people will help you do it. Also there’s much less competition with big goals. How many of your friends are trying to cure cancer or solve cold fusion? How many friends work in accounting? Sure curing cancer is a million times harder than working in accounting, but there’s a million times more people that your competing against if you choose accounting. Effective goal setting means dreaming big.

When I started my coupon site 7 years ago, I just wanted to earn enough money to support myself and travel. This wasn’t going to become a big business, so I had trouble attracting investors. When I pitched at startup conferences, investors would be like, “cool story bro, needs more dragons.” I had no money, and my goal wasn’t very inspiring, so I had trouble hiring great people. I ended up spending 4 years figuring out marketing by myself and building the business to a level where it supports my lifestyle – yay, go me.

Meanwhile, Tim Kently-Klay managed to build Zoox into a 1.5 billion dollar business in the same time frame. Right… So wtf am I doing with my life? Here’s Tim’s goal setting process. One day Tim woke up and was like, “I want to build fully autonomous self driving cars”. No, not some half-hearted version like Tesla. Tim explains that by completely removing the steering wheel, driver’s seat and components needed for human driving, you can make a much more efficient self driving robot. A fully autonomous Uber – that was the dream. A slight problem was that Tim knew nothing about self driving cars. But Tim was a hella smart guy who had started a successful graphics design company in the past, so he set about reading everything he could on self driving cars. After a year of intense study, he drew out some blueprints for his self driving car which he displayed at some conferences.

His plans were given the honorable title of “Vaporware Horsecrap” by critics. However, Tim hustled on and met Niki the venture capitalist.

Tim took that million dollars and went to the self driving car team at Apple. He said to them, “hey so you know… you guys are all screwed because Apple is shutting down their self driving car project. So come join me and we shall conquer the world.” And the self-driving car team is like, sure, seems legit, why not? Then Tim went to Lord Draper, the greatest venture capitalist of them all, and was like, “Hey I am building a self driving car and have the best team in the world to do it, you should give me 30 million dollars.” Draper thought for a while and then he’s like, sure why not? Tim took that money and convinced more people to join his jihad. Then he goes and raises 250m at a $1.5bn valuation. Tim does all this in 4 years.

I set a small goal; build a coupon site. In 4 years I accomplished it. Tim set a big goal; make fully autonomous self driving cars. And in 4 years he has built a $1.5bn company.

What would you rather be doing?

If you could achieve anything, what would you be working on?

This page about following your heart is part of a larger theme on finding your life’s purpose