Melanie Perkins believes in setting goals so big they frighten you. Goals so enormous that you can’t always articulate them, can’t always see the path ahead, and you’re unsure whether it’s actually achievable.

After all, she has first-hand experience setting these types of goals. Perkins is the CEO of Canva, a design and publishing tool, and is the youngest female to run a billion-dollar company.

To get Canva off the ground, the university dropout took a chance and flew from her Australian home to Palo Alto to pitch investors. Her first meeting didn’t get her the funding she needed. Eventually, she pitched 100 investors, getting rejected again and again. But she persisted and eventually got her first round of funding.

If I don’t alternate between feeling like [the goal is] the inevitable future, to feeling like it’s too big and impossible, it’s not big enough.

– Melanie Perkins, Canva CEO and co-founder

What can be more of a crazy big goal than “get funding for my idea”? Or “building a billion-dollar company based on my solution for a pain point”?

Let’s take a look at how you can set crazy big goals for yourself, make them manageable and achieve them.

Goal Setting: Think Big, Think Crazy

Perkins’ goal setting philosophy helped her go from living on her brother’s floor to building Canva into a $2.5 Billion dollar company with a team of 600 and 15 million worldwide customers.

Melanie Perkins discusses goal setting for Canva and her team (Courtesy of YouTube)

Setting big goals is ingrained into everything Canva does as a company. The team is broken up into smaller “startup” teams of three to six people. Each team sets its own huge goals and vision, pitching them to the larger team and celebrating success when those goals are achieved.

Let’s breakdown some key concepts from Canva’s goal-driven philosophy:

  • You grow as big as your goals. Think of what wild success looks like for yourself. Also what failure might look like. The more you’re able to visualize that success, the more it’s possible to work toward it.
  • Communicate your goals with your peers. We can’t always achieve our goals without a little help. Seek your peers for feedback and advice. They might have insight or experience that can help you as you work incrementally toward your goals. And you can check in with your peers at every step as a gut check.
  • Break your goals down into smaller chunks. In order to work toward your ultimate goal, you need to make it manageable. Creating smaller steps toward it allows you to have smaller wins along the way. It also prevents paralysis through analysis and reduces the amount of anxiety a huge goal could create.
  • Measurements of success and celebrating it. Once you define success, then you must also define the metrics of that success. How do you measure it? Is it in a new title? Is it in more responsibilities? A new project? Learning a new skill? When you hit those metrics, celebrate it. You’ll feel more motivated to keep going if you occasionally bask in your accomplishments. And you’ll have the resilience to see it through to the end.

It’s the SMART Thing to Do

SMART goals have been around since the 1980s. It’s an old school way of goal setting. The acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

The best way to get started with your SMART goals, both personal or business orientated, is to ask some very basic questions. The very same questions a journalist might ask before embarking on a story—who, what, when, where, why, and which.

Canva’s entire team is built around crazy big goal setting (Courtesy of Canva)
Canva’s entire team is built around crazy big goal setting (Courtesy of Canva)

Goal: Pitch 100 investors on my new editor project management tool, which tracks documents, drafts, and a yearly editorial calendar.

  • Specific: Right now, editors use a variety of editing tools from Google Docs to Word Files to various project management tools, like Asana or Trello. What if there was one editing tool where someone could write and edit docs while at the same time project manage an editorial calendar.
  • Measurable: Building a prototype will require resources, including researching our target users, editors, learning how they work and use other tools out there.
  • Achievable: A need must be demonstrated amongst editors that such a tool would solve their pain points.
  • Relevant: Editors are already tracking documents across platforms, editing in one and project managing.
  • Time-Bound: In order to pitch 100 investors, a prototype and pitch deck must be completed in six-months, including user tests with potential customers.

You can further break this crazy big goal down into smaller SMART goals. One thing to keep in mind: build in feedback loops and check-ins to ensure you move incremental toward your goal.

Now let’s do this for a smaller, personal goal. Say you want to learn how to become a better strategist.

Goal: I want to improve my strategic thinking skills.

  • Specific: During my last 360-degree review, it was noted that I needed to improve my strategic thinking skills. While I’m good at tactical work, I lack the ability to pull back from the smaller details and see the bigger picture.
  • Measurable: Seek out feedback from my peers where they feel my strengths and weaknesses are in this area.
  • Achievable: Find a mentor who can coach me in seeing things from a larger perspective. Read books and articles on the subject.
  • Relevant: In order to move into more of a leadership position, strategic thinking is a critical skill to managing projects and teams.
  • Time-Bound: By next quarter, I should be able to develop project plans that better align with the organizational goals.

Do OKRs Like a Silicon Valley Champ

OKRs stands for “objective” and “key results,” and are used by a lot of Silicon Valley champions, like Bill Gates and Larry Page.

The “objective” is your goal with the “key results” is how you’re going to accomplish it, according to John Doeer, a venture capitalist who wrote the book on OKRs. With OKRs, you’ll only want to have two to five objects with around three key results, whether personal or business. This gives you focus and prevents you from spreading yourself too thin.

If it doesn’t simultaneously move me, scare me, excite me and humble me - the goal probably isn’t big enough.

So let’s go back to our crazy big goal of pitching investors.

Objective: Pitch 100 investors on my new editor project management tool, which tracks documents, drafts, and a yearly editorial calendar.

  • KR 1: Research pain points of our user base: editors.
  • KR 2: Build a prototype for user tests and demonstrate effectiveness of solution.
  • KR 3: Create a pitch deck and refine elevator pitch.

Now let’s do it for our career goal of improving our strategic thinking skills.

Objective: I want to improve my strategic thinking skills.

  • KR 1: Seek peer feedback on my blind spots with this skill.
  • KR 2: Work with a mentor who can coach me to see things from the bigger picture.
  • KR 3: Develop a project that matches the organization’s larger goals.

It’s a simplified way of outlining your goals with measurable, achievable results. Breaking it down into key results also always you to track your progress and make adjustments if needed.

Advance Your Growth Through Goal Setting

Whether you use SMART or OKRs, dreaming big and coming up with crazy big goals keeps you striving to better yourself. Goal setting is a sure-fire way to further your own soft skills and grow your own career.

But outline your goals isn’t enough. You must be sure to seek the feedback of your trusted peers or your customers. That’ll keep you both honest and on track to achieve your huge dreams.


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