Set a goal in private; bask in the gentle warmth of knowing that, someday, you may accomplish it. Set a goal in public; cower in the harsh fluorescence of looming failure until, driven by fear, you succeed.
I started this year with a New Year’s resolution: 52 blog posts in 2016. Then I took that goal public. First at a family dinner, later in my first blog post of the year.
The result? Anxiety on Sundays where before there was none. But two months into 2016 and it has me thinking, going public with goals might be the world’s greatest secret to getting things done.
I’d be lying to you if I said going public was an idea of my own making, but I will lay claim to the concept on behalf of my kin. In our family, there are two stories of people going public with a goal, and emerging from the other side in one piece.
The first starts with my Great Uncle Hoyle. In the late 60s, Hoyle had an idea for a new type of surfboard. It would include a mast and centerboard that enabled the surfer to stand on the board and steer by shifting the sail fore and aft. As my mom tells it, Hoyle and his friends sat around, talking about the idea often, but designs were always put off to the next day, or the day after that.
Eventually, my Great Aunt Diane, tired of the talk and proverbial lack of walk, set the date for an official launch party, and invited everyone to attend.
Hoyle’s “oh shit” gland kicked into gear. He scrambled for months, hacking away at the idea he’d been talking about for months. On the scheduled launch party date, he presented the first prototype for what would become The Windsurfer, the original windsurfing board. (The link goes to a site my Uncle Ted keeps on the history around Hoyle and Diane and everything that followed the first launch party. Check it out. They sell great shirts.)
Hoyle and Di in 1969.
This story has become canon in our family. Diane sending the launch party date to a larger portion of Los Angeles before designs of the board had begun. Hoyle scrambling to get the prototype finished in time. The moral: if you want to get things done, go public. Make your goals known. If you want someone else to get things done, go public for them. Set a date.
It’s a nice transition to the second “going public” story, when, in recent years, upon hearing the original windsurfer origin story, my brother and his friend, Greg, elected to set a date for their own sort of launch party.
It was in their sophomore year of college when James and Greg formed their two-piece band, Baby Shower. They played in the private comfort of their garage. An open mic here and there.
A quarter into their senior year, they decided they were ready for a grander stage. The week before winter break, Baby Shower’s inaugural concert was announced. The show was in a month. I think they had one song written at that point.
I remember the ensuing winter break well. The whole family was in Idaho together, enjoying good tidings and cheer. Except for James. James was in the basement. Things were a little tense. He had two weeks to write a concert’s worth of material. The rest of us were probably a little tense, too. By proxy.
Two weeks later I was back in California, driving down to the show in display of my support. I wasn’t sure what material they had scraped together for the concert. On my way to the backyard where they’d be playing, I stopped in at James and Greg’s apartment -- the greenroom. They seemed nervous.
But then they came on stage. They opened with the James Bond theme. They closed with a solemn Britney Spears cover. ("Everytime" for the appropriately curious.) There were fireworks. Literal fireworks that shot from a mortar hidden behind the stage. It was glorious.
Ze Baby Shower.
Baby Shower went public with a goal. They set a date. They emerged victorious.
February is the month where New Year’s resolutions go to die. If you’re out there reading this, try the route of The Original Windsurfer. And of Baby Shower. Tell people what you're working on. Set a date. Go public.