May 28, 2007

How To Achieve Greater Success Than You Ever Thought Possible

This is Part 2 of my exploration of the topic of success.

The title of my present post may seem rather grandiose. It really isn’t.

Consider the people around you – your family members, relatives, friends and colleagues. You’ll probably notice that most of them have never really failed in their attempts to achieve big goals.

That is because most people do not even have a habit of attempting to achieve big goals.

So here is the surprise. Looking around us, we actually find very little evidence in the world that if a person regularly attempts big goals, his success rate will be low.

How many people do you personally know, who regularly pursue big goals, and regularly fail? Probably none. There – see my point?

What then is the secret to achieving big goals? If you ask around for people’s opinions, the most common answers will probably be things like “talent”, “luck”, “drive”, “determination”, “hard work”.

None of these answers are wrong. However, the first step to achieving a big goal is actually to have a big goal. And that is what 90% of people lack.

Ask yourself – currently, what are your five biggest goals? Go on, write them down on a piece of paper. Or list them in the comment section, if you like.

What – you don’t know what to write? You need to think about it for a few minutes? Aha, this shows that you didn’t even have any big goals. If you don’t instantly know what your biggest goals are, then you can’t honestly say that you have any big goals.

Back to my title. So how do you achieve greater success than you ever thought possible? Well, the first step is straightforward. You must think that greater success is possible.

Have you got a big goal yet?


Joe Goh said...

My 5 goals:

1) Make my startup (FunkeeMonk Technology) a financial success (instead of just being a good educational experience) by continuing to polish and improve my product, and improving upon the ways I market it.

2) Train up to be able to finish a marathon. Hopefully by year's end.

3) Improve my photography by taking more photographs and showcasing my work online, reflecting on my own work and the works of others. First step though is to process the immense backlog of photos i've built up over the years.

4) Learn to play a musical instrument (most probably a synthesiser keyboard). Its been years since i've last played any instrument, and I dearly miss playing music.

5) Learn Erlang (a programming language) for The Secret Next Big Project.

Anonymous said...

When I read your article, I felt so bitter, not about what you have written but about myself. I too could have done much better if only I wasn't so foolish. But one thing I have learned is that contrary to what people say, failure isn't always the key to success. Sometime its so hard to swim against the current when you have a huge piece of rock tied to your feet. When staying afloat becomes the big goal, reaching the destination becomes an impossible dream. I better stop for I do not want to depress others. So my big goal is to find a second job....cheers

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

It's ok, Anon. Before you die, you always get a second chance. And another, and another, and another.

Actually, after you die, you still get a second chance. And another, and another, and another.

But that's a topic for another day.

Anonymous said...

When I was small I wanted to be a fireman. It was a big goal then. It was everything. Not so now. It's not even registering on my goal setting map.

I guess I secretly still want to be a fireman and drive that oh sooo coool red firetruck.

Borrowing from Joni Mitchell ...

"Ive looked at goals from both sides now
From big and small, and still somehow
Its goals illusions I recall
I really dont know goals at all"

Jimmy Mun said...


I know how it feels like to regret making foolish decisions. Some years back, thanks to the dotcom bust, my niche line of work was in the dumps. The company kept cutting my pay, and constantly threatened with retrenchment. It got so depressing I chose to quit and stay at home, instead of going to work everyday filled with anger and fear.

Which was a big mistake. Things got worse, more pay cuts, more restructuring. But none of my old co-workers were retrenched, and suddenly, the economy turned around and they are hot property, with recruiters queueing up to offer them jobs. One of them found his way to a big MNC and his pay quadrupled. While me, I am left to explain a multiyear gap in my resume doing everything else other than what I was good at. I believe I can climb out of my hole, soon. I hope you can too. Life is unfair, and luck plays a big hand. Only we ourselves know what is the right sized goal to achieve. For people like you and me, climbing out of the hole we dug ourselves into, is already a big achievement. And you have to believe it is possible, or it will never happen.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Heheh, Jimmy, if you email me, I will email you and tell you a secret .... that will help you.

Cannot say it here, ok. It's a Secret. ;)

Quirkz said...

Hi Mr Wang,

The thought of setting big goals is setting off lots of synapses in my mind! What is MY big goal? Are my current goals too small, too simple? I guess the reason for aiming low is sometimes steeped in fear--fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of incompetency. Perhaps a place to start is also to face our fears?

Care to share what are some of your big goals that you have set for yourself and have achieved?

Anonymous said...

- Run a marathon (I see someone else wants to do that too!)

- Spend a significant time working overseas and/or migrate

- Backpack to Ladakh + Taj Mahal + McLeod Ganj on my own

- Complete a masters degree

- Put myself into some sort of religious commitment

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"Care to share what are some of your big goals that you have set for yourself and have achieved?"

1. Win a national literary award. (DONE).

2. Act in a musical. (DONE).

3. Graduate on the Dean's List. (DONE).

4. Do an MBA and enter investment banking after that. (Somewhat DONE - entered investment banking without an MBA).

5. Raise extremely bright, happy kids (ongoing project, good progress so far).

6. Earn, save and invest enough to retire by age 40 (ongoing project, good progress so far).

7. Complete a biathlon (DONE).

8. Make my blog one of the most well-known blogs in S'pore (goal set in 2005 - I consider it DONE).

9. Get promoted (a recurring career goal - I have had 3 promotions in the past 4.5 years).

10. Run 10K under 45 min this year. (ongoing project - it is my New Year's resolution for 2007, actually. Still sticking to it).

I have some other esoteric goals of a semi-spiritual nature - I shall not mention them here.

Remember - the worst thing that will happen if you try and fail, is that you'll be right where you would've been, if you had never tried at all.

Anonymous said...

Dont laugh ok. I got 2 very big goals

1. To have a billion dollar (USD) portfolio.
2. To become the Prime Minister of the country.

choaniki said...

Yes I do. Here are some of my BHAG (big hairy audacious goals):

1) Mastering the Japanese language. (Good progress so far).

2) Career switch out of the IT line. (Working on it now)

3) Get my class 3 license. For some it may not be such a big deal. But personally, finding the time and finances to do so make it quite a big deal to me. (On hold due to limited finances)

4) Start my own online business. (Have some ideas but limited success so far)

Anonymous said...

1)Become Prime Minister

2)Make Supreme Court appointments lifetime and subject to a public confirmation process

3)Nail down electoral boundaries and remove the annex to the PM's office a.k.a the Elections Dept

4)Begin the process of building a great society. One that exhibits prudence, propriety and benevolence; where self love is tempered by sympathy and sentiment.

5)Retire after two terms, relek one korner and read the books that I hadn't by then read yet.

Anonymous said...

Suddenly I realise that I have never really chosen any goals for myself. All the goals I have been pursuing are goals which the system has picked for me. Like, doing well in school etc. I feel a bit ..... stupid.

Anonymous said...

"Care to share what are some of your big goals that you have set for yourself and have achieved?">

some of these are more spur of the moment thingies than big goals.

1) learn to play saxaphone
- bought sax when friend showed me taiwanese saxaphone industry.
- attended 3 months yamaha classes.
- learnt to play "autumn leaves".

2) downgrade to HDB
- realised that i didnt need nor enjoyed living in a condo.
- sold condo at a loss.
- looked for a good HDB unit
- very happy with HDB.

3) meditation
- meditation is about "expecting nothing" contary to goal setting.
- on/off practise with little progress.

4) own business
- like everyone else, wanted to make big money when I started.
- didnt happen. business continues to bleed.
- goal scaled down to "survive".

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

meditation is about "expecting nothing" contary to goal setting.

Aha ... That is going to be Part 5 of my upcoming series of articles on Success.

Anonymous said...

Haha, Wangi! U're now attempting to write self-help books?
Let me give u a great example of someone who didn't have big goals but ended up really big. Once upon a time there was legal officer who didn't like prosecution work (becos he cldn't bear to see the judge put on the black cloth as a result of his persuading) and somehow got a transfer to the tax dept. He looked at the civil service grades and dreamed of the day when he would be at the top of the legal service with a max pay of $3,600 per month (today, some even get more for starting pay). So his goal was decidedly miniscule. Yet he eventually left the service, set up his own law firm and with one thing or another he is now probably close to being a billionaire, retired from the law firm that still bears his name and he not yet even 70. So there goes yr theory.

Anonymous said...

I feel that one reason why people do not make big goals is because of FAILING as it is deem negativity such as losing face, lost of pride, feeling bad, being laugh at, etc, which if one looks from another perspective like telling yourself that you do not want to be in those positions and/or situations again, you will ensure it wont happened - and even if it does, one would grow accustom to it.

Nobody likes failing but if you dont fail, how would you know if it is good or bad for you. In fact, there is a saying ,"if it doesnt beats you, it will make you stronger - something like that"

My Goal is to see real peace in the world for one day.

Anonymous said...

My goal: To be happy.

Everything else is secondary.


Anonymous said...

Aha ... That is going to be Part 5 of my upcoming series of articles on Success.

Mr Wang, can you please fast forward to part 5? lol

I am thinking of starting a self-help blog. But you are doing such a decent job that I'll leave it to you for the moment heheh

Rush said...

1) Graduate summa with a double degree (on-going, not looking too good :( )

2) TA and RA for awesome professors

3) Work overseas upon graduation (good progress :) )

4) Develop upper body maintaining weight, completing a half marathon (partial success, back injury healing slowly)

5) Pass instructors examination for classical guitar (first try not too successful, perhaps next year)

6) Perform solo at a major event (DONE!) and for a major personality (DONE! - in ensemble but I'm counting it anyway ;)

6) Live independently overseas (DONE - in Vancouver and New York, self-funded :))

If the opportunity presents itself - not actively seeking it:
7) Drive from Singapore to Paris, documenting south asia, the middle east and eastern europe (incidentally, discovered my dad wants to do something like this too!)

8) drive the great ocean road and the big sur

Look like most of my goals are fun based. I'm an escapist ;) It's weird, I like (the rigour of numerical) accountancy (where I am studying at right now), but at the sametime I'm sure I would be satisfied doing a course in music (performance or theory), geography or computer science.

Wonder if Mr Wang has any advice on how to narrow your personal scope and still stay satisfied? ;)

I probably have to sit down and re-evaluate my realities one of these days, and prioritize... honestly I'm always scared to set myself big goals and try not to tell people about them because I feel kinda loser-ish if I miss my goals... Heh.

Anonymous said...

hey mr wang, do you mean to say that you believe in reincarnation? I'd be very surprised to hear that from such an analytical person.

Anonymous said...

i wanted to be one of the best in sg in my niche area of IT work, i've done that but alas didn't pay me well enough. now i just want to earn more $. so sad...

Anonymous said...

My big goals...

1. Earn SGD50K or more per year (goal set as when I was a young grad). Done in mid-20's.

2. Become a project manager. Done in late-20's. Then I realized I did not enjoy the work, quitted within half-a-year, took stock and decided to eventually... (see goal #3).

3. Have a second career more in-line with my value system. Working on it.

4. Own my home fully paid up. Done, albeit a small and old HDB.

5. Emigrate. Working on it.

6. Do business. Tried MLM, partnership with friends, own consultancy, etc. Made some, lost some. Can consider it done, but will come back to it again when goal #3 is more stablized.

7. Have a 3rd career related to using my other creative skills. KIV after emigration goal.

Other goals of learning various stuff, travelling are not quite major but plays a part in making my life interesting.

Anonymous said...

1) Transfer to Tokyo. (halfway there)
2) Enter Honda 2wheels R&D.
3) Internal transfer to HRC, work on motoGP bikes.
4) Leave and open my own consultancy.
5) Start up a toy company. (halfway there)

Anonymous said...

Recently my daughter was called to the Bar. I am also aiming to be a practising lawyer one day. Well, she felt I have what it takes to get through law school and offered to sponsor me through. You see I am 53 an age most are thinking of retiring and relax a little. I have only a Poly diploma and am now working as a Tour Guide. Mr Wang, when Ive achieve my aim, you will be the first I will inform.

Anonymous said...

thought it would be related.

utwt said...

my goodness.

now Mr wang sounds like Brian Tracy. Or Zig Ziglar. Or Tony Robbins

Anonymous said...

1) To enter Parliament (and I don't mean the viewing gallery). I'm only 19 years old and I've been attending parliament sessions on my own accord. I don't know if this is just weird, because I don't know anyone else who does and I haven't seen anybody my age watching parliament sessions except on school field trips.

2) To send my kids to Ivies, Little Ivies or just any top university in the US or UK if they want to go, and be able to pay for it. so they won't have to end up like me, getting a place in Duke and not being able to go because my parents can't afford it. (i'm still trying for scholarships)

3) which leads me to this: to earn lots of money, not for an extravagant and hedonistic lifestyle, but as you said, for financial freedom for my whole family, especially my kids.

4) to read one book a week for the rest of my life. preferably Chinese books too.

5) to somehow change Singapore for the better, whether I'm in the civil service, Parliament, or a lawyer/judge.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you totally. My goal is to live happily everyday.

Henry Leong said...

To be successful and happy: Good health, sufficient money, good spouse & a happy family.

Anonymous said...

Laugh at me folks; my only goal and a very big one, the bigger the better, up in the mountain to live with the monkeys and the birds!

chwy said...

Simple. Win the DSTA TechX Challenge.

Anonymous said...

Hi, would like to share this article: Coffee break

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together
to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned
into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and
returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups -
porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some
expensive, some exquisite --- telling them to help themselves to

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor
"If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up,
leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for
you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your
problems and stress.

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you
consciously went for the best cups and were eyeing each other's cups.

Now if life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society
are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, but the
quality of Life doesn't change. Some times, by concentrating only on
the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it."

So, don't let the cups drive you... enjoy the coffee instead...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang, Congratulations. U seem to have achieved most of your goals to date.
I wonder, did u have a goal when u joined the Legal service as a DPP ?
Did u have a goal when u resigned to join a leading law firm ?
Do u have a goal in your current position ?
I am not refering to u but I do know of people who brag about their achievements and claimed that they set their goals before they achieve them. I really wonder.
Human unhappiness is the result of the deficit between their goal and what they have achieved. So the higher the goal they set for themselves with regards to their own capabilities, the greater the chances of unhappiness.
A little note on chasing $. There is a wise saying that man has two legs and $ speed on wheels. Is it not better to use ur brain to make $ chase after u ?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"Human unhappiness is the result of the deficit between their goal and what they have achieved."

"So, don't let the cups drive you... enjoy the coffee instead..."

I will address these points in my future posts on the topic of success.

Anonymous said...

My own 5 goals:

1. Not to be a slave to my own CPF (as a result of 'buying' public housing)

2. Not to contribute to CPF and have control over my own money instead

3. Start my own business before I turn 30 (I'm 27 now)

4. To visit the wonders of the ancient and modern world (achieved some.. but still in progress)

5. To work in the entertainment industry (that I've already achieved)

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I am not refering to u but I do know of people who brag about their achievements and claimed that they set their goals before they achieve them. I really wonder.

Do you? Actually, to me, the bigger the achievement, the likelier to me that the person had consciously set that goal.

Eg take a sportsman who makes it into the national team; qualifies for the Olympics; goes to the Olympics; makes it to the finals; wins the finals.

Do you really think that all that happened, without him aiming for it?

Anonymous said...

Goals, objective, purpose, direction - they all means the same.

How many people truly sit down and ponder over it?

But I can tell you that when I know that I had been a compass without a needle for many years, It's very painful and frustrating.

I don't know which is more painful:
1. Know that you do not have a goal in life
2. Don't even bother about it

Now 46, unemployed graduate, I trying to put my life together so that it can be more fulfilling with a clear direction.

Retrenched 46

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang, for each person who made it to compete, let alone win, in the Olympics, there must be
hundreds of thousands if not million who aspire to that. It is wise for the average person to bear that in mind. Most champions are born and indentified early in life. Goal must be realistic and commensurate with one's ability.
Otherwise, many will end up with miserable lives.
The vast majority of successful business people don't set out to plan for their success. They just happen to float along and end up in the right place at the right time. Peter Fu Sn. happened to have a wife who was the secretary to the boss of caltex and he got the concession to set up shop at the Pertamina base when he befriended Ibno Sutowo. Ong Beng Send happened to be his son-in-law.
The popiah king was taking care of the machinery when the owner wanted to sell and he seized on the chance to buy it. Lien Siow Liong was selling provision in the camp whose commander was Suharto.
Bill Gate was given the contract to write the operating system for IBM. He has to buy the system from someone to get it going. I have yet to come across an empire builder who set that out as his goal early in life.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but I don't agree.

If you want an example of an empire builder, you can check out Ron Sim's story. He was a teenager from a poor family, when he decided that one day he would create products that would carry his name and sell around the world. That was why his very first company, with a paid-up capital of $2, was called Osim. "Sim" is his name, and "O" represented the world.

Bill Gates quit Harvard because he had already got much bigger goals than just being another student from the world's finest university.

Neil Armstrong was eight years old when he wrote an essay in school saying that his ambition was to travel to outer space. His teacher failed the essay because at that particular time in the history of mankind, there wasn't even such a thing as a space shuttle. Nevertheless, when Neil grew up, he became the first man to travel to the moon.

As a young man just out of his teens, Arnold Schwarzenneger could barely speak English, but he announced that he would be going to Hollywood to make blockbuster movies; and then enter politics and become the US President. Indeed his first blockbuster movie was one where he was not required to talk very much at all (he was the Terminator, in the Terminator movie). He hasn't become the US President, but he is now the Governor of California.

I know you don't mean it that way, but I actually found your post very disrespectful. For example, your comment about Bill Gates basically says that it was just mainly by luck that he became the world's richest man.

I do understand that you probably have some positive intentions behind your post. You wish to save the average person from the disappointment of failure. I suppose we just have different philosophies in life. I've mentioned before that when I look at people, I always believe that they have great potential. The real question only is how far they are willing to go to develop that potential.

Some of my old posts on these lines:

On Human Potential.

Come On, Everyone. SHINE.

In future posts, I will also comment on this point of yours:

"Goal must be realistic and commensurate with one's ability.
Otherwise, many will end up with miserable lives."

This is the fear of failure - and the single greatest obstacle to success. It shows up every day in our lives - even in school, we see little kids who dare not raise their hands to ask questions, because they are afraid of appearing stupid. Very unfortunate ....

Lest you are mistaken, I should say that I don't expect everyone to be able to become an Olympic champion, or a Bill Gates, or a Ron Sim, or a Neil Armstrong. I -do- think that the vast majority of people - that means you, your family members, your friends, your neighbours - has the potential to achieve much more success in their lives, than they currently enjoy. Simply because human potential is so vast, and every day we are already wasting so much of the resources available to us. Like time - eg on things like watching TV.

Anonymous said...

How do u account for the fact that Steve Job has a much better product but Bill Gate Eclipsed him ? Smart ? Setting Goal ? Luck ?
I am all for setting of goal to help one to stay focus. I am all for having a positive mind. However setting of goal is not the be all and end all of success. Many successes emerge from the blue. Success is meaningless if it does not bring one lasting happiness.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Goodness. I'd hardly consider Steve Jobs an unsuccessful person. Do you?

If your idea of success is that you have to surpass everybody, then yes, I agree with you - success IS meaningless, and it cannot bring happiness.

My idea of success, however, is different. I just like to improve myself and my own situation - and yes, when I see improvement, I feel happy.

Unknown said...

1) Become proficient in Japanese (DONE - passed my JLPT Level 1)

2) Become proficient in French (work in progress)

3) (like Mr. Wang) Earn, save and invest enough to retire by age 40 (also work in progress)

4) Learn to play the piano (after I retire at 40 ^_^)

5) Publish a collection of my photographs someday (working on it)