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Smart Entrepreneurs Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions — They Do This Instead

Apply the Pareto Principle to New Year’s resolutions and it’s not a pretty sight.

Yes — I am willing to bet at least 80% of resolutions made as part of our yearly ritual do not come to fruition. Could be more like 90%.

And I am a perfect example of this. Last year at this exact moment I wrote down one of my ‘resolutions’ (call it what you want; your goal; your ‘to-do’ for the year, whatever).

It was simply ‘write a book’. Guess what? Here I sit 365 days later with zero book written. And yes — like so many other well-meaning entrepreneurs, I got off to a great start. Wrote 25% of it by March. But somehow, time got away from me and here I sit staring at my Google calendar flipped to a new year wondering what happened.

So what can we do?

Look — if our mission is to create wildly successful businesses which are both sustainable and fulfill our desire for significance, I say we set our goals differently this year.

So I looked into the matter and came up with two powerful ideas. Fuse them together into one powerful 3-step formula and we can crush the failure rate of our New Year’s resolutions starting today:

Step 1 — Choose 3 Powerful Words As Focal Points

As part of this journey, I tapped into the wisdom of my friend Chris Brogan. He is founder and CEO of Human Business Works, and a prolific author on the topics of social media, customer engagement and behavioral psychology as it relates to business.

Sitting in my inbox was an email from Brogan wherein he proclaimed we only really need to break our goals down to 3 powerful one-word statements. It’s like the Pareto Principle in reverse. Only focus on THE most important things.

Brogan explained it like this; “Create three guiding words and use these as representations of three major focuses for the coming year. The concept is simple enough: think of three words that sum up what you want to change or work towards in the coming year. Instead of a goal like “lose weight” or a better goal like “lose 30 pounds in the next year,” you might choose a word like “green” to represent an overall commitment to having more plant-based foods in your life, and to restore your body to a more natural state. See the difference? As an example, in 2006, I chose Ask. Do. Share. It was easy, and yet, the effort of maintaining a focus on what I wanted from those three words gave me tons of success.”

So with Brogan’s advice, I chose the 3 words of: Write, Recruit and Give. Why did I chose these 3 words? Because as Founder and CEO of Mighty Wise Academy, a virtual academy for entrepreneurship, my key activities to move the needle for the business are as follows:

~ Creation of content (for trusted authority and teaching core principles of entrepreneurship)

~ Recruitment of paying members, distinguished mentors, team members and corporate sponsors (for scholarships) for Mighty Wise Academy

~ Nurturing high-level relationships and finding ways to empower less-fortunate aspiring entrepreneurs who just need a boost in the right direction

Your key words of course will be different than mine, because your aspirations, business model goals and key activities to reach them will be different.

Step 2 — Build Systems Around Those Words

James Clear of Entrepreneur.com wrote an eye-opening article entitled Forget setting goals. Focus on this instead. In a nutshell, Clear is saying the problem isn’t us setting goals, it’s the failure to put the necessary systems in place that will deliver those goals.

In other words, if I want to ‘write’ a book this year, ‘recruit’ more members and mentors for Mighty Wise Academy and ‘give’ more of myself to empower struggling entrepreneurs; my path to get there is setting up the systems whereby I habitually write, recruit and give every day.

It’s simply not enough just to choose the words.

Accordingly, here is one example of how I put this into play for my own business and goals:

To steal a quote from Dorothy Parker; “I hate writing, I love having written.” Yes — it can be a chore. Putting pen to paper. It’s the ugly elephant in the room at times. So how do I build a system to ‘write’? Simple. I make sure to have the tools I need (read: a laptop I can take anywhere I go) and combine it with a daily appointment from 1pm to 3pm, Monday through Friday, to sit down and write. Period.

Does this mean I can’t write at other times? Of course not. Sitting here in my pajamas right now in the early morning working on this piece.

But the point is between 1pm and 3pm, Monday through Friday, you will find me writing. Even if I don’t feel like it.

Thereby focusing on my one word to ‘write’, and setting a daily appointment to do nothing else during those afternoon hours, I will surely have written a plethora of content, including my ever elusive book.

Step 3 — The House Better Be Burning Down

So here I am. My 3 words are chosen and I’ve successfully built systems and appointments to follow. But there’s one more thing, which is perhaps the most critical –

I cannot allow the invasion of other people and their own agendas to break my appointments and systems.

It’s of absolute zero profit for you and I to carefully select our key words, and to spend time and energy building the right systems to support our chosen 3; to then let someone (or something) steamroll it to oblivereens.

We must keep our boundaries. Can I peek at my email during weekdays between 1pm and 3pm? No, I cannot. What about if I just take a quick peek at Twitter during those times to see what’s up? No way.

In other words, the house better be burning down for me to allow interruption. And that is simply discipline. It’s a proven fact those with focused discipline make far greater progress than those without.

Let’s flip Pareto’s Principle on its head for this New Year. Jump ahead 365 days from now with me and let’s look back with 80% of our goals actually met. Only 3 steps and you’re there…

Hey, tell me something — what 3 words did you choose? Share in the comments section below…

Also, check what entrepreneur Austin Jones just did. Extreme commitment to the right words will power you forward. Nicely done Austin…

(You can also find me hanging out on Google+ , LinkedIn or Twitter @MightyWiseMedia.)

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About the Author: Eric T. Wagner is a husband, father and life-long entrepreneur. After starting multiple businesses, Eric is now focused on helping other entrepreneurs find the path to success in business and life. You can also catch his gig on Forbes or connect with him on Google+.


  1. * EXPOSE!
    * NURTURE!
    * TRAIN!

  2. Great article. Thanks for the inspiration and the wisdom!

    I do freelance film work, and my 3 words would be:

    1. Collaboration
    2. Learn
    3. Do

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Josh. Great words too. Remember to put systems in place so you can execute on those words everyday. The power is in the systems…

  3. Thinking of boundaries – the first is flexible/act/connect.

    The last I am taking advantage of in this e-mail!

    Happy New Year Eric…

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thx Janice. Yes — connections and collaboration are hugely important for entrepreneurs. Be sure to put a system in place for yourself to actively connect with high level relationships on a consistent basis.

  4. Triathlon

  5. Execute

  6. #1. Prioritize
    #2. Execute
    #3. Follow-up

  7. DO

  8. WRITE

    I started my business right about the time I began reading your stuff. It’s been a nice read to remind me of good entrepreneurial practices. We are going slow but steady.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Awesome Fernando.

      Small connected steps are what gets climbers to the top of Mt. Everest.

      Small. Connected. Steps….

  9. Thanks for the advice… Interesting key words hook approach

  10. Great advice. I have adopted these as my “powerful words”:
    Nurture current clients
    Recruit new clients
    Thanks for the motivation!

  11. Thanks a bunch, Eric! I’m still working on my ‘words’. However, in this article you suggest “read: a laptop I can take anywhere I go”, however, there is no link. I’d love to read your advice on this ‘tool’ as well.
    Happy New Year!

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Hey John.

      Oops, didn’t mean there was anything to actually ‘read’. Just meant to highlight one of the tools (my laptop) I use to execute on my word ‘write’.

      Make sense?

  12. Hi Eric,
    What I am doing is based in these words…
    Advocate (for change)
    My goal is to help people realize they can easily do more themselves to improve their homes and their net worth.
    This will be the Year for this biz!

  13. Strive

    Those would be my 3Words, Thanks Eric for such informative advice.

  14. Learn – Code – Connect
    Thanks for your advice Eric.

  15. Create

  16. Play – This primarily applies to wanting to learn to play bass guitar this year but it is subsumed under a greater guidance to be inventive, creative, and have fun.

    Relate – This is prompted by the desire to be in a band of amateur musicians, a group of people contributing individual talents to a joint endeavor. So the greater guidance is to recognize my contribution to group efforts.

    Work – I finally started a new job this year after seven years of unemployment so I must focus on the return to that arena. The greater guidance is that effort is required to achieve something, whether it is learning to play bass guitar, have satisfying relationships, or be successful in my current job position.

  17. Great article, Eric!! I had the similar plan to track this year performance but I had no idea that 3 words formula can be that much helpful.


    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Yes Adnan. It actually works great, but don’t forget to build the systems around your words. The words themselves are less powerful without the system…

      • Adnan Fasih says:

        Eric, thanks for the reminder :). I read you blog twice to clear the thought process and now working to build the system around it along with full commitment. Will share the details when I succeed!

  18. Thanks for this site with a wealth of information.

    Kaizen = continuous Improvement
    Recognize change
    Modify and Execute

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