Sometimes stating a goal out loud is scary. I felt abject terror when first telling my friend about Uzume.
Now let’s be clear, I’ve had boatloads of terrible ideas in the past in addition to the great ones. I’m not afraid of debate, or being told I’m wrong, or even being told my ideas are dumb. My ego doesn’t depend on external approval of every idea I share. I’m only happy when I’m creating, and if you’re going to make a lot of stuff, sometimes you will miss. You get used to it.
But Uzume felt different. Most of the time when I was creating it was for an existing organization, trying to move their mission forward. Uzume felt like the synthesis of all kinds of big ideas and philosophical musings I’ve had over the years. In essence, it felt like me. And so I didn’t really talk about it for two years. I also got absolutely nowhere toward launching during that time.
Any cursory review of goal-setting articles and advice will quickly lead you to one key element almost everyone can agree on – your best chance of success comes when you tell people about your goal. This is because phoning a friend creates two kinds of accountability – identity accountability and time accountability.
We are social creatures. And we understand our identity not as some list of immutable internal characteristics but rather in relationship with others. Most goals are, at their core, not about things we want to do, but ways we want to be. A goal of meditating every day is not about the process of sitting still, it’s about valuing the peace and connectivity one gets from the practice. A goal of learning a new instrument is not only about being able to create music, it’s about being able to join a band, or seeing yourself as still committed to ongoing learning and growth. A goal of going paleo is not about preferring low carb diets, it’s about seeing yourself as worthy of discipline and care.
And this is why talking about your goal can be hard. Our goals are reflections of our values and our identity. Sometimes that means being quite vulnerable, which is scary, even with people who love us. But the process of telling your community about your goal is incredibly important to finding your path to success.
In his book Indistractable, Nir Eyal writes about a service called Focusmate that pairs people with online partners to help hold one another accountable. It’s kind of astonishing, isn’t it? We are such social creatures that even when our partner is someone half a world away who we’ve never met before, the urge to show up for them is strong enough to keep us accountable.
That this works at all speaks to the power of time accountability. The American Society of Training and Development found that publicly committing to a goal increased one’s odds of success by 65% while engaging an accountability partner who you schedule time with raised the success rate to 95%.
I did, eventually, work up the courage to talk about Uzume. I quieted all the voices in my head that were saying this was too tender, too personal, that I wasn’t an entrepreneur, that I wasn’t qualified, and I just told a friend about my dream. He was thoughtful and enthusiastic. And to my surprise, he became not just an identity partner, but a time partner as well.
Saying my goal out loud was almost magical. It felt like turning on an engine. Once I said I was creating Uzume, suddenly words, ideas, and plans started spilling out. Through my friend, I found amazing collaborators – designers, accountants, and programmers – and my support ecosystem expanded exponentially. That first discussion helped me find the courage to talk with other friends and get their feedback on the project. Uzume wouldn’t be where it is today without the support and encouragement that only really began when I started talking about my dream.