Meet Jack Ma–mister nobody. He was born in a city called Hangzhou with a population approx 10 million.

Jack Ma couldn’t find a job! He applied to every job he could find, and he had even a colleague degree, but they rejected him to all of them. Some of them were: being a cop, working in KFC or parking cars for a four-star hotel.

You may wonder why then I am writing about this Mr. Nobody?

The reason is simple, because 15 years later he became one of the most successful and respected businessman in the world and it wasn’t by luck and coincidence.

You could wonder by now, how come Jack Ma become enormously successful?

What really changed his life is having better goals.

Goals in a nutshell

A goal is a vision, a promise to ourselves. It represents what we want to achieve or have. It is quite close to a wish, but there is one big difference. A goal is something that should motivate us and we see a big benefit in achieving it. This is not necessarily true when we wish for something.

As an example:

“I wish to win the lottery!”–implies that it’s a nice thing to have

“I will find a job which will help me in developing myself further!”–implies actual benefit I see when I achieve the goal.

Why we need goals?

Goals are like a compass. Think about Mr. Jack Ma. He wanted to have a job, and that is the reason he applied to everything he could think of. If he really had the goal to become cop or work in KFC, he would have eventually achieved it, since after the first failed attempt, he would have continued trying and trying to achieve that goal. Until he had that motivation, what Jack Ma really had was a wish. A wish to find a job.

According to him, those rejections prepared him for the life of an entrepreneur.

However funny as it seems, reading about one of the richest people in the world applying in the past to work for KFC, the goal could help us or stop us from achieving the success, no matter what we understand by that word. If a person decides and become an entrepreneur or a professional in any field, no matter how many rejections they face they will achieve their goal. If the goals are so useful then why I mentioned that they can prevent us for achieving success?  Are there unhealthy goals?

To know more about it, please keep reading.

Goals are like a compass.

Aleks Vladimirov

Why we do not follow them?

If the goals are extremely useful, how come we are not following them?

What usually happens is that we set goals and we forget about them. What can stop us to achieving the following of the goals is our excuses: lack of time, lack of support, not born in the right family and so on. Underneath all those excuses there is a big reason, fear. Once we decide to make a change, we go through a process of uncertainty and this will be a topic for another article. What is important to know about the following goals is that we need to make them as “bright” and as “big” as possible. To imagine that we had achieved it and to focus on the benefits more than on the hard work or the sacrifices we have to make. There is an easy 3-step process to guide us.

Step 1 Values

Are you actually aware of what your values are?

Values are the compass inside of us, we develop it in early age. When we live according to our values, we feel fulfilled and when we don’t live according to them, life may seem like a never ending punishment.

It’s not unheard of people who had achieved a great success according to others, such as fame, or status or money to give up everything and start living a life aligned with their values, which others would label as simpler.

In one Startup conference two women who had a very successful career in a big corporation, shared that they decided to quit their jobs in order to persuade a life as entrepreneurs and establish business together. That’s how Hostel Mostel in Bulgaria, come to be.

Step 2 Set goals

The second step is to ask ourselves what we really want in life?

It’s funny how many people know what exactly they don’t want, but few know what do they truly want.

Ask yourself: “What do I want?”

For this year, for the next 5 years or if you really dare dreaming big and plan your life, how about what you want in the next 10 years?

Step 3 Challenge the goal and repeat the cycle

After you had defined the goals, we must make an ecological check, and this doesn’t mean that our goals must be environment friendly, which would be great if they are. The ecological check implies that those goals must support our values.

Usually the first time we set the goals there will be some that not only not support our values, but we may have written them or wanting them, just to please other people, such as our parents.

I know stories about a student who studying a major in an university, just to drop out at the very last year of study in the very last month, because he realized that this major was something his parents wanted him to study, and it wasn’t something true to his values.

Ask yourself why do you want this goal? What you will become after achieving it? Is the time spend on this goal worth it?

Imagine that you had achieved this goal and write a letter to yourself stating what do you see and how do you feel after achieving it. Use vivid words and state your emotions. Make sure to re-read that letter as often as possible, especially when you are in hard times.

Therefore, it’s recommended to iterate this cycle at least 3 times, just to be sure that the goals you set are what you really desire.

The image represents a diagram showing the connection between our goals and values. Aleks demonstrates that the first step to a successful goal setting and a successful product management is to know what are the values the team shares.


Some people are amazing in setting goals and achieving them, and some are not. Following this three easy steps you have already gained an amazing tool that can guide you towards your path to become better goal setter and goal achiever.

In the end of the day life is too short to spend it on meaningless things that were set to us by others! Life is about becoming a better version of ourselves, by following our values.

If you need any help with your goal-setting process or help in finding your values, do not hesitate to reach me out for help!

Maybe one day you will be as successful as Jack Ma!

Happy Goal Setting!

Aleks Vladimriov is a Senior Software Developer, recognized Project Manager and Soft-skilled trainer and a coach.

Aleks Vladimirov

Solution Engineering Manager at Thales | Senior IT Professional | Startup Mentor and Product Manager

Aleks is experienced Product Manager with an engineer background and over 10 years of experience as a software developer. He works with different governments and is responsible for negotiation features and requirements, understanding the customers’ needs and supporting the senior management with regular reports and analysis. He held various positions starting as a software developer, moving to a team leader and software architect.

He strives in waterfall and agile environment alike. He is certified Scrum Master and Prince2 Practitioner and he knows how to design business processes and help teams optimize their work.
During his tenure, he had to wear many hats, prioritizing business requirements, delegating work and mentoring team members, creating mockups with Balsamiq, providing MS Project plan to the senior management.

He had worked in many international teams, located in the same city or distributed in different countries and continents. He had been a team leader of cross functional international team of 8 people.

In his current position, he is very much client focused. He has excellent presentation skills.
He delivers training sessions on presentation skills and leadership and he had helped hundred of people to improve their presentation skills.

He is also interested in creating more positive changes in the workplace by using entrepreneurship skills.
He had won startup competition where his team had validated and develop a business idea from scratch.

In his free time, he writes in his blog about effective product development.

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