Want to Achieve Something Big, Be SMART About It

By Ryan Houmand

“30 seconds!”

I’m on a couch made to promote good posture, not comfort. The lights are bright, the room seems bigger than it needs to be, and it’s cold in here. I’d always heard about the hot lights, what’s going on? There are two television cameras, one directed at me, the other directed at Samantha, my interviewer. 

Even though I’ve put hundreds of hours of preparation into this, I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been about anything at any time. I’m in a freaking news studio about to be interviewed on live television in front of tens of thousands of people. Who am I, and how did I get here?

Random instructions from my coach are flashing in from the sidelines of my mind, and I can hear his voice. 

“Don’t look at the camera!” 

“Sit on your coat tail!”

“No good-boy hands!” 

“No throwaway words!” 

“Smile! If they can’t see your teeth, you’re not smiling!

“HIGH ENERGY, over the top enthusiasm! Remember signal loss!”

It’s too much to remember now. I can’t hope to be deliberate about any of this. I’ve rehearsed it more than a hundred times (another demand of my coach). It’s all muscle memory now.

The camera operator counts us down while the intro music must be playing for the viewers. It’s live TV, I’m the interview, and it’s go-time!

How did I even get here?

Six months earlier. 

I’m on a walk, a hike actually. I do this every day on a trail I can reach by walking from my house. Hiking is what I do to think. I’m thinking about my goals, what I really want to do. The big main goal is that I’m trying to get into companies. I’m trying to help managers make work a better place. Because I’ve been to work, and it can be a pretty miserable place sometimes–maybe a lot of the time. All my studies and all my experience indicate that the key to making work a better place is the manager. According to Gallup, as much as 70% of the variance in employee engagement is attributable to your direct manager. And 70% of people with jobs hate Monday. Today, I’m contemplating how I can reach even more managers who are struggling to engage their teams. I’d been invited into several organizations, but it’s going too slow. Today, on this hike, I want to expand my reach, but how? 

Video. As I’m walking along, that’s the thought that comes to mind. I could make videos and start a Youtube channel. Yeah, but I’m not really comfortable on video. I’m awkward, and well, kinda dull. Still, that’s the thing that resonates today. If I can get comfortable and even watchable on video, then I can expand my reach.

I start immediately, I mean right there, on that hike. I took out my phone and recorded myself saying something just to see how I looked. 

Just as I thought, it was horrible. But it was a start. 

Fast forward 3 months.

I’m in Scottsdale, Arizona, at a seminar for entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s all good stuff, but none of it’s really grabbing me. Then, at the end of the first day, the final speaker got my complete and undivided focus. His topic was all about expanding your reach through live TV appearances. Though that’s not really anything I would ever consider an option, especially for me, I was compelled by what I was observing.

Live TV appearances? Who does that? I mean, I know celebrities and authors and politicians do, but I’m not any of those. Now this guy is telling me that it doesn’t matter. I have no idea who he is, his credentials, still the energy is welling up in me as I listen.

When it was over, I felt like I’d been hit by a freight train of motivation, and I was buzzing all over. I didn’t know what to do with that feeling. My brain was telling me, “Well, that was interesting, let’s leave now.” But every other cell in my body was screaming, go find this guy and find out more. I actually followed my brain and walked out of the building, but then my screaming cells got the better of me and turned my feet around. I went back in and found him.

I hired him on the spot to be my coach, and what he said next emboldened me. He said, “I want you to attend my next weekly webinar on Wednesday, but here’s what you should know, Ryan, you don’t have to wait until then to book yourself on television.”

Well, I wasn’t that bold, and my cells gave me a break, seemingly content that I took the first step. I didn’t book myself on TV before Wednesday, but I went to the webinar. It was a group of about 8 people. All but one of whom had been on TV multiple times everywhere from Grand Rapids, to Good Morning America, from Memphis, Tennessee to the Today show. “Wow, I thought, “this is legit.” The people in this cohort were actually making it happen. That was all I really needed to tell my brain to shut up and listen to my cells.

I kept going to the webinars, then drove myself to Hollywood to a two-day, weekend boot camp where I wrote my segment and pitch. The pitch is what I would use to start cold-calling TV news producers. Yeah, I know, it sounds crazy to me too, but by then I was on a mission. I had no doubt I could do it. 

With my pitch in hand, I came home and set a goal: Within 90 days, I’ll write a book and be interviewed on three different broadcasts in three different cities. Though that sounds like a stupid goal, It was actually a SMART goal, and I didn’t even know what a SMART goal was.

SMART is a now better-known acronym that asserts that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

Here’s how SMART my goal was:

  • Specific: Write a book and be interviewed on live TV (yeah, I know what you’re thinking)
  • Measurable: Write and publish a book and do 3 TV interviews in 3 cities.
  • Attainable: I knew how, I just had to make it happen. (though admittedly, it still sounded kinda crazy)
  • Relevant: I wanted to use video to expand my reach.
  • Time-bound: I had 90 days to do it all. (When you’re on fire, 90 days seems reasonable)

There are many ways to set goals that will work, but for me, the real benefit of the SMART process is that it keeps me on a time schedule. It sort of stops the tomorrows.

Back to the TV studio, the countdown, the red light on the camera, and go-time.

Somehow I made it through. I don’t even remember most of it, but I did it, and it was good. I mean, the people who love me would tell me that anyway. But the real proof would be in taking it the next Wednesday to the cohort of people who knew what the heck they were doing. Even they said I did a good job–there were definite suggestions for improvement– but I got the stamp of approval. Even from my coach, who is one tough customer.

My SMART goal worked for me. I set the plan on October 18. I did that first interview on November 30. I did another on December 14 in city number 2. On the morning of January 18, exactly 90 days after I set the goal, I managed to secure two more interviews in city number 3, one at the CBS affiliate, the other at FOX an hour later. In all, it was 4 TV interviews in 3 cities in precisely 90 days.

My SMART goal kept me on pace, focused my vision and helped me overachieve the objective by one whole interview on the 90th day. I look back now, and people tell me how crazy that goal was, and my brain tends to agree with them. But all my other cells call out, “What else can you do in 90 days?” Challenge accepted, cells.

Join Ryan Houmand, Bridge Employee Development Consultant & Trainer, at our next Bridge Academy for Managers. These webinar trainings will share industry standards and best practices for a manager’s role, specific to one-on-one meetings, career drivers, skill feedback, and goal setting. 

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