Stop waiting for permission to knock someone's socks off

When I had a normal job, this was the time of year when we set our goals for the coming months. Actually, we sometimes didn't do it till March. Then we'd have the end-of-year review in October... Anyway, when I thought of this, it made me think about my own goals for the year, for Agile, and my career (if you can call it that). Here's my list:

1. Knock someone's socks off.

That's it. That's my goal. I know it's completely stupid. It's not SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, or timely. I don't believe in SMART. For a start, it's obviously a backronym. That's why there's attainable and realistic in there—what's the difference? They're equally depressing and uninspiring. Measurable, attainable goals are easy, and I'm going to do them anyway: it's called work. It's the corporate equivalent of saying my goals for the day are waking up, getting out of bed, having a shower, making a list of attainable goals... Maybe those are goals if you're in rehab, but if you're a person with a job or a family they're just part of being a person.

I don't mean we should not make plans and share lists of tasks to help get stuff done. It's important to have everyone working at least occasionally in concert. In my experience people tend to do this anyway, but there's no harm in writing them down for everyone to see. Managers can handle this, and everyone should read them.

Why do these goals seem so dry? You love geoscience or engineering or whatever you do. That's a given. (If you don't, for goodness's sake save yourself.) But people keep making you do boring stuff that you don't like or aren't much good at and there's no time left for the awesomeness you are ready to unleash, if only there was more time, if someone would just ask. 

Stop thinking like this. 

You are not paid to be at work, or really to do your job. Your line manager might think this way, because that's how hierarchical management works: it's essentially a system of passing goals and responsiblities down to the workforce. A nameless, interchangeable workforce. But what the executives and shareholders of your company really want from you, what they really pay you for, is Something Amazing. They don't know what it is, or what you're capable of — that's your job. Your job is to systematically hunt and break and try and build until you find the golden insight, the new play, the better way. The real challenge is how you fit the boring stuff alongside this, not the other way around.

Knock someone's socks off, then knock them back on again with these seismic beauties.Few managers will ever come to you and say, "If you think there's something around here you can transform into the most awesome thing I've ever seen, go ahead and spend some time on it." You will never get permission to take risks, commit to something daring, and enjoy yourself. But secretly, everyone around you is dying to have their socks knocked right off. Every day they sadly go home with their socks firmly on: nothing awesome today.

I guarantee that, in the process of trying to do something no-one has ever done or thought of before, you will still get the boring bits of your job done. The irony is that no-one will notice, because they're blinded by the awesome thing no-one asked you for. And their socks have been knocked off.