Stacking the Bricks Podcast EP15 - Why "Lambo Goals" never keep you motivated
24 min

In this episode…

Hey brick stackers, Amy here.

Last time we talked about resolutions (which are easy). Now let's talk about motivation (which is hard).

Realtalk: How many times have you started a project with a burst of motivation and dream and then it just… fizzled out? Not with a bang, but with a whimper?

(Or dreamt about it and planned it, but never started it?)

Believe me, I'm not wielding the Scepter of Snooty Judgment here. I used to be a total creative flake. My Someday Maybe file was so thick it could have served as furniture. I started everything and finished nothing.

I sure felt motivated… but it didn't last.

I dreamt about riches and acclaim… but they weren't enough to get me off my ass. Much less keep me there.

My life was littered with undone projects and frankly, it felt like shit.

Obviously in 2008, this all changed — I designed, co-developed and shipped my first app (after literally years of telling myself "I should build a SaaS"). Then followed a technical book. Then workshops. Then conf calls. Then this class. Then conferences. And another book.

What made the difference? The right motivation.

The right motivation is a fire under your ass, not a Happy Place you retreat to in your mind when things are hard.

The right motivation is enduring, meaningful, and personal — and often times, painful.

Here's what the right motivation is not:

  • fantasies of acclaim
  • fantasies of riches and luxury
  • fantasies of retiring early to a Mojito Island

They're fun, but actually destructive to your ability to keep going.

Why? Why can't these shiny Lamborghini Goals keep you going?

What will?

Listen to the latest episode of Stacking the Bricks to find out!


Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: What’s going on brick stackers! I’m your host, Alex Hillman and this is another episode of Stacking the Bricks. Today we’re going to be talking about motivation, but before we do, I just want to say a couple of quick things on behalf of Amy and I.

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who listened to episode 14. We had no idea how many people were still subscribed to Stacking the Bricks, but apparently there are quite a few of you, so big, big hearty thank you to everyone who downloaded, who listened, who shared, who tweeted, who emailed us.

The outpouring of support for bringing the show back is overwhelming and awesome. It makes us so excited to be doing this once again.

The other thing is about that little challenge we issued at the end of our last episode about New Year’s resolutions and how to set goals that you’re actually going to stick to. We talked about a way to shift from making goals an aspirational, vague, fuzzy thing that you probably won’t do in the first place, into something vivid and concrete and something that is achievable, but you’ll actually get done. And then when asked you to try it, which was sort of the experiment. Here’s the cool part – we actually heard from some of you!

So, I want to play a quick clip for you of a great example of one of our 30x500 students using these techniques to set crispier goals for 2016. Here you go.

“My previous years resolutions were always, I’m gonna make some product money or launch some SaaS or do some vague thing in order to get to the four-hour work week or stuff like that. This year I’m hoping to achieve a more specific goal of launching a specific product to my 30x500 audience that would earn me the same amount as I earn in one day of work each month, so I’ll be able to clear one day a month. My second goal – which isn’t product related per se – is to work from home so that I’ll have more time to work on my products since I won’t be commuting.”

How cool is that right? We’d love to do more things like that, where we ask you questions and you answer them, and then we can fold your answers back into future episodes of this Stacking the Bricks show. I think that’s going to be a lot of fun.

So, as I mentioned at the top of today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about motivation, which is another layer on top of goal setting; specifically, how do you keep doing the thing that you need to do to reach your goal? Even when things aren’t going perfectly, even when you don’t feel like it?

I think you’re really going to love this, so, let’s just get into the show.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: We got an interesting email yesterday from someone who was in a mastermind group.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Okay.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: She said “In the group you were encouraged to choose a big, hairy, revenue-based goal to chase and that the conversations – when this number was being discussed – were a rousing rally call to descend onto the battlefield. I’d watched and listened to my fellow masterminders yelp and crow, internally sparkle with enthusiasm and gusto”…I like this lady!

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Yeah, me too.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: She goes on to say that she noticed that the ones with the really big, hairy, audacious goals, the big numbers and expensive cars and beach holidays; those guys didn’t exactly follow through and they didn’t fail either, they just sort of disappeared over a few weeks, quietly without fanfare.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: You know, two things are interesting about that to me. One is how unsurprising and common that story sounds.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: I was not surprised at all.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: The other is – that’s not a mastermind.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: No, it’s not!

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: That’s a…

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Circle turk?

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Something along those lines. Maybe a little less disgusting, still pretty disgusting, but a mastermind in my experience that is productive – and I know we both have friends that are in them on varying degrees of formality, but a mastermind is, well, we can talk for a minute about what it’s not, it’s not that.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: No, this is a group fantasy. I just imagine a bunch of little kids lying on the grass and the sun saying, “Well, when I grow up, I’m going to fly in space and land on the moon and we’re going to live together. We’re all going to buy houses next to each other. And we’re all going to drive Lamborghinis. And our wives will be really hot!”

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: That sounds way more endearing than…

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: It’s cute when it’s a seven-year old, it’s less cute when it’s a 30-year old.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: That’s true. So that is sort of problem number one here. In effective mastermind, I think about the fact that it’s not so much about accountability either and we’ve talked plenty about that on the podcast before, you’ve written lots about it and we don’t need to rehash that, but I think the value of a mastermind in contrast to what’s being described here, is sort of a collective forward motion.

That’s useful on all different kinds of days, but maybe most of all on the days where you get up and you’re like, I don’t really want to do this today. I need someone else to remind me what I’m in this for, but in order for that to even be possible, forget the other people, you need to know what that is for yourself first, right?

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Yeah. The scene as described is a bunch of people who don’t know anything about themselves. They’re picking goals out of the air because they think that’s what they should be doing. I actually really hate the phrase, “big, hairy, audacious goal.” One - it’s BHAG, two - the word hairy is sort of disgusting, and three - you should come up with a goal that’s good enough for me. It’s a dare. So you’re like, “Oh, well your porno fantasy was way richer than mine. I’m bowing before you, well done.” It turns it from action to imagination, which is not how anything ever gets done.

But our culture really talks about goals a lot, because it’s easier and more fun than to actually do the work.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I don’t know. I feel like there is a lot of room for even just a tiny bit of, I mean, I’ll call it introspection, but that sounds more woo woo than we really mean. Just a little bit of self-evaluation and saying, what do I want to get out of this?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting money, but the question becomes, why do you want that money? What are you going to do with it? Is your life going to be better because there are a bunch of extra commas in your bank account, or is that going to be there to serve some purpose to allow you to live a certain kind of life that you want – whether that is to travel luxuriously or whether that is to simply be comfortable and secure, or to spend more time with family, or whatever it is.

I think something that you and I have in common, Amy, is like a big priority for us is time with people that we care about.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Absolutely, more than the money. The money is great, and the being able to buy stuff with it and travel and live in a certain lifestyle is really awesome but being able to control how we spend our time is really the biggest thing. The rest is cream.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: The biggest driver in my career is the people that I work around, that I know that a lot of people that are in our community find themselves surrounded by coworkers and bosses and people who not just aren’t adding value to their lives, but are detracting, distracting and making them miserable. Personally, I was there. That was one of the biggest driving forces in one of the first major career shifts that I had. The job that I thought I wanted, I learned that I could not do – not because of the work, but because the people that I was forced to work with were just like…I don’t have a word for it, I have a physical reaction.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Were they big and hairy and audacious?

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: They worked at – it was a bank.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: So they weren’t very hairy?

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: No, they were mostly clean shaven, but they were intolerable. I wanted to be there – rather, I wanted to want to be there and they would rather be anywhere else in the world. Them being there was a chore and therefore their misery was my problem.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Uh, I hate people!

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: So every career choice that I’ve made since that, I think about that, I think about what it was like to go into work, to do a job that in theory I love, but made me miserable all day long.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Yeah. It’s a touchdown for you.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I look at every decision I make, and I go, is this preserving my ability to never, ever have to worry about that again?

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Well, almost no one is going to be motivated like that by the idea of owning a Lamborghini, not that Lamborghini’s are lame or anything, or that wanting money is bad because I love money, but you have to really, really love money – or cars – to be motivated to keep showing up day after day and working towards that specific goal. Actually, it’s easier to do that when you’re in a job, because most of the decisions are made for you. You literally just have to show and grind it out. Whereas when you are trying to create something new, a new business, you actually have a lot more freedom and that makes it harder to stick to some goal that actually doesn’t matter all that much to you.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: The freedom cuts both ways, right? Freedom is not just the ability to do it. It’s also the ability to choose not to do it, and if you wake up and you’re like, you know what? This is hard. I don’t want to do it. You don’t have someone else there saying, “Too bad. It’s your job to do it”, because the other person who’s got to say that is YOU. That is the truth in entrepreneurship.

The joke is, “I work for myself. My boss is an asshole.” I think there’s some truth in that, where there are some days where you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “You don’t want to do this work today. That’s okay. But there’s a reason you should do it anyway.” Or there’s a reason that you should evaluate why you don’t want to do the work and make a change either way. But again, a Lamborghini, fat stacks of cash are not going to be the kind of thing on the other side of that decision, that’s going to make you make the decision that is in your own best long-term interest.

That’s the other thing here. We’re thinking about long-term interest. It’s not just, how do I get a Lamborghini so I can put it in my driveway next year? It’s, what life do I want to live for the foreseeable future of my life?

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Very true.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Not to make it too heavy here on the Stacking and the Bricks show but I think that’s real.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: No, no, I completely agree that it’s real. I mean, we’re talking about the fuck this moment, basically. Fuck this, never doing that again. This is not going to be my life anymore. I’m never going back to that. That’s a really important thing and I mean, that’s one of the deciding factors of success that we’ve seen in our students and our friends and ourselves, is that you have a touchstone moment, like your bank story.

For me, it was consulting. I finally got away from consulting for a month – accidentally – and I realized I hated it and I never wanted that to be my life anymore. I had to go back to it for a while, but that’s when I finally decided to shit or get off the pot with the product business, I just don’t want to live my life this way anymore. I was making good money. I could buy what I wanted, but I didn’t want to live that way anymore.

So, if you’ve been following me on Twitter recently, then you probably are thinking, “Well, Amy, you keep saying beach house won’t keep you going. What a hypocrite, you tweeted that your goal for 2017 is to buy a beach house.”

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I was gonna ask you about that, but I didn’t want to break up our flow!

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Yeah, so I want a beach house because I love the ocean and I am seriously debilitated by cold weather. I’m basically an extremely old person and I value ownership tremendously, not because I’m proud of what I own house wise, but the fact that we have a cabin in the woods and we can go there any time because of my job. I have a mattress there that does not leave me screaming in pain, and I can leave my clothes there and I can leave medicine there and I can just go there and it’ll always be the same location. I know where it is. I know how it is. I get to sit there and enjoy my trees. And I Love that. I love that more than traveling to new places, because with my medical condition, there’s a lot of stress in the unknown, especially beds.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: There’s a lot of that that’s resonant for me, especially as we sit here on the brink of February in Philadelphia, and it’s not as bad as it’s been in the past.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: No, it’s been a cakewalk.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: But, we had the snow last weekend, we had like 30 inches of snow last weekend. Every winter I think we say the same things to each other, which is why do we stay on the East coast for winter? I mean there are some very specific reasons why.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Why do we stay in the Mid-Atlantic for winter?

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: So, having that place to go and I think about that too, I don’t have as clear of a picture of it for myself as you do because of other factors in my life.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: You’ve been building your own real estate empire.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: do. And also, my partner Patterson has a job and a career that she’s very dedicated to and that’s a busy time of the year for her as well. So when I think about what drives me, if not the ability to travel – although that is a big part of it too – the ability for her and I to go on trips and indulge food and wine and things like that. Those are experiences that I’ll never forget and they’re just a big part of our life and our partnership and our friendship together.

But for me, the ability to very specifically never have money be the reason I don’t do something that I want to do, that’s sort of the daily motivation, which is I will do everything in my power and my business to make sure that that is not going to be my limiting factor.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Yeah. Did you grow up poorish? I did.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I would say we were probably lower middle class, but my parents stressed about money a lot. I’ll say more specifically – and this is getting very personal, but I don’t mind sharing – a big part of the tension in the relationship between my parents was that my mom stressed heavily about money and my dad was more like me and that he was a business person. He was able to look and say, “I can always go make more money.”

The rift between that and my mom’s outlook of, “But where’s the money coming from?” was a constant sense of stress in their relationship. That translated to me subconsciously or consciously, I can think of very specific times that it happened, but I had enough experiences doing things that I wanted to do and having the money problem sort of erased from the equation, brought the enjoyment out of whatever the thing was.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: It makes a huge difference.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: The ability to say yes – and there’s lots of other reasons besides money I’ll say no to something – but if the last thing that would make me say no, is the money, or I might not have the money now, but give me a year I can probably figure out a way to make as much money as I need to do just about anything that I really want to do today. Knowing that, knowing that I’ve already got the assets and the resources, as well as the experience to know I can do it again, that is a freedom that is indescribable in so many ways.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: You need to find something that will actually drive you forward or help you pull yourself forward, I think more accurately when you don’t want to do what’s in front of you.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Yeah, that’s absolutely true.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: We just spent a year working our asses off on the new 30x500. That doesn’t mean time wise, we weren’t working 40-hour weeks. I can’t physically work a 40-hour week anytime, but it was constant top of our game, intellectually thinking everything to the greatest detail, reinventing systems, how are people going to understand this lesson? Recording rerecording, editing, rerecording again, et cetera. It’s really tough work, demanding.

There were times when I was talking to Alex and I said, “I can’t do this, and I don’t want to do this.” He’s like, “I understand.” And I said, “I’m going to sit here until I do it.” And I was up at two in the morning, finishing recording, I did that few times. I really didn’t want to do it, but I did it because I wanted the result and it wasn’t that I was going to buy a beach house with it, I wanted to have it done. I want to do have done it. I wanted to produce this. I wanted it to be amazing and I wanted it to change lives for people. And that kept me going.

If you told me that I had to go through that year, and I would get this $3 million beach compound I saw for sale. It was huge! It’s six acres of beachfront. Private. It’s amazing. Anyway, if you told me I had to go through that one more year but I wouldn’t be able to interact with anyone, or know who my work helped, or ever hear the outcomes, or show it to people – there is no way in hell I would do it for that amazing beach compound, which by the way, is out of my price point, just so you know, but I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it for that. To be able to work with the people who are being helped by what I do, that is what makes it worth it. It’s not just the beach house or the money or the impact.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Yeah. I think that’s one of the most important, and we might understate it in the way we present 30x500 actually. The fact that this entire model is built around helping people. When you learn the satisfaction of helping people, that in itself becomes a completely different motivator in your work than you’ve probably ever had in your entire life.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: It is really a major reason that I hated consulting and also the jobs that I worked on.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Because you were helping people that didn’t really want your help?

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: No, that’s not, I mean, yes, but no. The real thing that made me just hate it so much is that I knew that most projects I ever worked on would never even get out into the world because that’s the way bureaucracy works. Like abandoned IT projects, the budget people spend every year on abandoned IT projects is insane.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I have to buy a Lamborghini or two.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: it’s enough to fund the war department.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Amy’s eye just twitched.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: By the way, I hear a Lamborghini’s are really uncomfortable. It’s one of those pure, perfect fantasy examples that when you actually have one or drive one, you’re like, wow, this is overrated – from what I understand. I’m not really interested in sports cars.

We got other emails recently from students. One of them said that the first year after he took 30x500, he made what, $24,000?

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: It was around that range, $25-30,000, yeah.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Last year, he was surprised to find it was $130,000. So he’s done like $160,000 in revenue. This is one of the students we almost never hear from, and his business is not exciting. I’m not gonna tell you any details, but it’s just like, “Oh, you are out there just making it awesome.” He said that it was a life changer for him, and that is the kind of email that I live for.

We have students we’ve come very close friends with, and we can just see what their money does for their families, and their ability to work from home is amazing.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: There was something in the water yesterday and the day before. I think we had like four completely unsolicited, “Hey, I just want to update you, Alex and Amy on what happened in 2015” and every single one of them out of the blue was talking about the specific changes that they made. One of our students had an existing business, but it was growing very slowly inside of a year he like four X’ed revenue specifically from applying the copywriting techniques from Sales Safari, and he’s been sharing feedback from new customers coming on board along the way. So we knew things were going well, but we didn’t know how well.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: And it’s easy actually, when you have these other motivations to get to the end of the year and not realize how much money you made, it sounds ridiculous. If you’d told me that before I got to this point, I would not have believed you.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Literally two of the people that wrote in, in the last couple of days said “I was doing my year end books and I realized how much money I made”, like that sounds so silly, you’re right.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Money is great, but I think it’s a lot like the Lamborghini. If you don’t have any vehicle and you have to get around, then you really acutely feel that if you don’t have enough money to live a comfortable life, if you’re always worrying about money, it’s on your mind all the time. The most attractive thing in the world, if you have enough and you’re doing something that you really get a lot of fulfillment out of, you don’t pay attention to it nearly as much as you might think.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: So how do we want to wrap this up?

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Well, this is about motivation. And the traditional sort of model of motivation is to pick this big, hairy, audacious goal, and then announce it to people who will probably be impressed by your goal, or they’ll be rolling their eyes behind your back.

Then you pin it to your mirror and you’re like, “I’m going to buy that Lamborghini.” You will theoretically somehow through the power of editing, go through some sort of montage where you’ll do all the work and then at the end you will drive away into the sunset in your Lamborghini, but that’s not the way that it works.

You have to know yourself and what will actually keep you going through things that are difficult. It’s not that entrepreneurship or building a product or writing a book is actually all that innately stressful. It’s all internal struggle. There are going to be days when you don’t want to do it. That whole line about “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” is a load of crap!

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Total bullshit!

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Total bullshit. There is literally nobody on the planet who loves every aspect of running their business. For example, bookkeeping. Gross! When you hire people, that can be wonderful, but eventually you’re going to have to fire someone.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: There are some sociopaths out there that really enjoy firing, but that will probably be one of the worst days of your life, the first time you fire somebody.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: I nearly vomited the first time.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I vomited twice the first time.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: You did vomit? Okay.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I did. It’s true.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: It was very stressful. I’m not much of a crier, but like the night I realized I really had to fire this person, I sat down and I cried. It was very stressful. But you have those downsides as an employee, and you have zero control over them

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: That is, I think, the key. Really at the heart of all of this is you making a choice to take control over a part of your life that maybe you don’t currently have control over, or you don’t have control in the way that you want or need it.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: When you’re there as an employee and you don’t like your job and it’s draining, your desire to do the thing that you really enjoy, for example, web development like you were doing at the bank, you try to grasp onto things that are uncomplicated, like a car. Actually, what you really need is what you can’t even imagine, which is the freedom to set life from day to day, week to week, month to month – and get what you want out of life.

For me, when I did this exercise several years ago, when I was in Vienna, I was like first of all, I have to get the hell out of Vienna because what I envisioned was working with people that I enjoyed on projects that impacted people and hearing from those people whose lives I touched. That was such a seemingly small goal, but that is really what has kept me going this entire time.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Yeah and it’s a goal like that becomes a through line through every aspect of the work every time. You can do so many different kinds of work and fulfill that goal for the rest of your career, for the rest of your life.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Absolutely. It was neither big nor hairy nor audacious. In fact, it was really achievable, but it was really important to me and that’s what kept us going.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: So question of the day is what’s going to keep you going? What’s the thing in your life that matters more than anything else? That when you wake up in the morning and you don’t want to do the hard work because you’re tired or you’re frustrated, you’re just having a bad day, what’s the thing that matters enough that you can use as a reminder to say, “You know what. I should probably do this anyway”? That’s the kind of motivation you can do a lot with.

So, we want to hear from you just like last time. You can write it out and shoot us an email at [email protected] or if you’d like to fire up the voice recorder on your phone and tell us what your motivator is, we’d love to hear it.

Looking forward to hearing from you guys and hope you have a great week!

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