Do you have goals that are important to you, but that you haven't reached yet?
Have you ever set a new year's resolution that you quickly abandoned again?
Are you working on a business or personal project and making little to no progress?
Why do you think this is? Or more precisely: what's the story you tell yourself about why you're not making progress and succeeding?
This is an important question to ask, because the story you tell yourself may be what's keeping you stuck.
Asking the Right Questions
If I set a goal for myself and don't reach it, it's comforting to think that it wasn't my fault. It's comforting to make excuses and/or blame the unfairness of the universe.
But is this explanation accurate? And is it useful?
In my case, the answer to both of these questions is a clear "no".
I don't benefit from making excuses or believing in my own excuses.
So instead, I've developed a framework I call:
"Sufficient, Strategic, Consistent" (SSC).
This framework allows me to make a brutally honest assessment of my current situation and fix whatever is keeping me from reaching my goals.
The basic idea is simple: to achieve anything worthwhile, your efforts have to be sufficient, strategic and consistent. In other words, you have to do enough of the right thing on a regular basis.
“To achieve anything worthwhile, your efforts have to be SUFFICIENT, STRATEGIC and CONSISTENT. In other words, you have to do enough of the right thing on a regular basis.”
This is true for a big picture goal like building a successful business. It's also true for smaller, more specific goals like creating a product development pipeline within a business.
And it's also true for goals that aren't related to business in any way.
This framework can be applied to any life goal. To illustrate, let's use a health and fitness analogy.
Example: Health & Fitness
To explore this concept, let's take a look at a practical example. Let's use a simple fitness related goal as our example: I want to build muscle and lose fat.
If I want to be strong, fit and healthy, but I don't do anything about it, I'm going to fail. No surprise there.
Using the SSC model, this amounts to scoring a zero on all 3 dimensions (the effort is neither sufficient, nor strategic, nor consistent):
We can now start looking at different scenarios to gain an understanding of how this model works.
Back to my fitness goal: what if I start going to the gym, but I never make it a solid habit? I'd be doing some exercise, but more or less randomly, not following a training plan and only every once in a while.
Here's what that looks like on our graph:
At this point, I'm doing a bit of everything, but not enough of anything. My exercise is neither sufficient, nor strategic, nor consistent enough for me to make any real progress.
Next, let's dial up one of the dimensions.
Let's say I start doing 5 minutes a day of exercise, every day. Some days it's push ups and squats, other days it's jump rope, other days it's sit ups. I'm still not following a training plan, but I'm doing my 5 mintes every day, no fail.
Here's what that looks like on our diagram:
Does this lead to my goal?
But honestly, this is already worlds better than not exercising at all. I'm now doing something consistently and there are significant health differences between exercising 0 minutes a day and exercising 5 minutes a day.
If my goal is to just gain a slight health benefit and somewhat slow down atrophy and other ravages of time, this is already a good start!
But it's also clear that this won't lead me to that fitness model physique, no matter how long I keep doing it.
At this point, I'm sure you get the idea.
Let's move on to a more compact overview:
Highly intense, optimized exercise, every day... but only for 5 minutes a day.
Intense exercise, for an hour every day... but no training plan, no progressive overload.
Intense exercise, 1 hour a day, following an optimal training plan.
Finally, once we add all 3 components, things fall into place.
If I consistently exercise, I follow a well optimized plan and I invest a sufficient amount of time and energy into it, I will reach my fitness goal.
And if we remove any of the 3 components, it falls apart again:
- 30 minutes of random, unplanned exercise a day will do you a lot of good, but you won't reach fitness goals beyond beginner gains.
- An hour-long, super intense, dialed in workout session is great, but if you only do it every once in a while, you're even worse off than if you just randomly get some movement every day.
We need all 3 components to achieve the desired outcome.
Fitness is a great example, but this exact same principle applies to any other goal. Here's a quick look at another set of scenarios:
Quick Look: Business Goal
Reading loads of business books, taking expensive courses... but not implementing enough.
Working hard, banging your head against the wall trying to make it with a product no one wants.
Working hard, following a good system, but jumping from one idea & project to the next all the time.
Sufficient, stratic and consistent work: a well executed, strategically sound business plan.
How SSC Helps You Reach Your Goals
I'm sure by now you can see how this model applies to all kinds of life goals. But how do we actually make use of this? How do we turn this into more than a mere thought experiment?
Brutally Honest Self Assessment
The SSC model is excellent for providing a brutally honest assessment of your own trajectory towards a goal.
Using this model, you can get a clear picture of your own trajectory towards a goal. Grab a notebook, sketch the triangle above and jot down some notes on each of the points:
- How much action am I taking? How much is probably required to reach my goal?
- Am I following a clear strategy? Am I measuring my progress, so I can change course if it doesn't work? How strategic could I be and how close am I to an ideal strategy?
- Am I taking action consistently? How long have I been consistently pursuing this? And how long does it typically take someone to achieve the goal I've set for myself?
When you've answered these questions, you can fill out your sketch and see where you have work to do.
One of the key benefits is that this helps you be honest with yourself. If you find yourself complaining that life is unfair and that you're trying so hard but not getting any results, ask yourself: "is what I'm doing sufficient, strategic and consistent?"
The Tinkering Entrepreneur
We can easily fool ourselves. I've seen this in my own life as well as in countless entrepreneurs I've worked with, through my businesses.
In the entrepreneurship space, a common issue is that people will work "all day", but they're really just sitting in front of the laptop for hours on end.
They're answering emails, checking their social media stats, browsing Facebook and Reddit ("for work" of course), installing and uninstalling unimportant plugins on their WordPress site...
...they're putting in many hours and doing it every day, but the work is not strategic.
No amount of this kind of tinkering about will ever move the needle.
Here's what this problem looks like in our diagram:
The tinkering entrepreneur tells themselves all kinds of stories about why they haven't succeeded yet.
But there's a simple truth behind it all: the reason you haven't succeeded yet is not because the world is unfair, but because you're missing at least 1 of the 3 critical components in the SSC model.
Find Your Tendency
Everyone has a tendency for fooling themselves one way or the other.
Maybe where we fool ourselves the most is when we only look at "sufficient". You can easily be in a situation where you feel like: "look how much I'm suffering! Look at all the hours I'm putting in, all the pain I'm going through!"
Well, contrary to what many people believe, you don't get rewarded for suffering.
You can suffer your way through terrible diets that are impossible to keep up, suffer your way through hard but ineffective workouts, suffer your way through many hours of work that accomplishes nothing of importance...
It doesn't matter. If you're doing a lot of stuff, but you aren't doing it strategically, you won't achieve anything.
Hustle culture teaches us that to get better outcomes, we must work harder, work more and suffer more.
But guess what: if the problem is strategy or consistency, then adding more input won't make a difference. It makes a good victim story, but it doesn't get you closer to your goal.
On the other hand, maybe your tendency is to over-emphasize strategy. You spend more time planning than doing. You keep telling yourself: "I can't start until I have the perfect plan, the perfect system, the perfect equipment..."
You're telling yourself a story that sounds plausible. Planning is important. The right strategy, tools and systems will help you succeed... but really, you're just making excuses so you can keep procrastinating and feel good about it.
Find your tendency and use the SSC model to make sure you aren't fooling yourself.
Over to You
Here's my challenge to you: think of your most important goal. Something you're actively working towards, that's important to you.
Then, take a piece of paper, draw the simple triangle diagram and assess yourself: are you working towards this goal strategically? Are you doing it consistently? And are you doing enough?
What strategies have other people used, who have successfully achieved this goal? How much time and effort did they put into it? Do people who succeed at this work on it daily, weekly, monthly?
Are you matching people who succeed in your field in these 3 dimensions, or are you behind?
Do this as a thought experiment and let me know what answers you come up with, by leaving a comment below!