Planning, Execution, and Accountability

Planning, Execution, and Accountability

I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books lately looking for some motivation to achieve my goals and to be and do better. A common thread that has run through a lot of them is three things: Planning, Execution, and Accountability. Seems simple enough but rarely do I think people do all three. Someone, like myself, might be good at making a plan but when it comes down to do actually doing it  they may fall short. Another person may be a “go-getter” and get up and work hard each day but find at the end of the week, month, year that nothing has changed because they didn’t make a plan. Yet another might make a plan and do it but will give up after a week because they weren’t holding themselves accountable enough to accomplish that goal. I believe if you can master all three then nothing can stand in your way.

For the past month I’ve been researching this and how I can better do all three. I mentioned in my previous posts Trying some new things to push me to do more and Trying some new things to push me to do more- part 2 about a few new tools I’ve been incorporating. I’ll finally go more into depth how I’m using them. (Edit: I’ve been told by  one of my mentors that I get too much into explaining systems which can distract from the point. So even though I wrote this with the intention of introducing my systems , I think that strays away from the point I really wanted to drive home. So I separated each into separate sections talking to the point of each and then a link to expand on my explanation of my systems.)


Zig Ziglar in his “Born to Win” seminars talked about a basketball game where the team was getting all psyched up. They were charging up to go out and beat the other team. They came out onto the court. To their surprise and frustration they reported to their coach that someone has taken down the goals (hoops). And they ask “how can we play a basketball game without goals?”

They can’t play a game without goals. He transpositioned to the question “How can you play the game of life without goals?” He goes on to say “Have you got any?

Have you written them down?

Have you put a date on them?

Have you listed the obstacles you have to overcome in order to get there?

Have you identified the people, groups and organizations you need to work with in order to get there?

Have you spelled out what you need to know in order to reach that objective?

Have you developed a game plan?

Have you said ‘This is WHY I want to get there.’ and ‘This is WHAT’s in it for me.’?

If you haven’t done these things then you’re just dreaming about your goals; you don’t really have them.”

He laid out his seven step process right there:

  1. State the goal
  2. Set a deadline
  3. Identify the obstacles
  4. Identify the people, groups and organizations you need to work with
  5. List the skills you need to acquire
  6. Develop a plan
  7. List the benefits of achieving the goal

These don’t have to be in order but they all have to be there.

There are numerous ways to do those seven steps. What you use are going to be up for you but like he asks “Have you written them down?” They have to leave the swirling pool in your brain and become concrete on something. To accomplish pretty much all of them I found a system that works for me so I’m sharing that.

My system


You might be wondering about the second step I didn’t mention in of the process – setting a deadline. All those goal lists and sub-lists upon sub-lists won’t matter unless you have a deadline and progress markers. Going even further than that a deadline and progress markers won’t matter unless you also have a plan and system to everyday work on executing your goals.

Like I said in the first paragraph I’m notorious for making a plan and not going through with it. A lot of people call it “analysis by paralysis.” For years I’ve had such big dreams, ambitions, plans, ideas and the like that usually never got past the conception phase. If they were luck to make it to the planning stage they almost never made it further.

This is not the case for me anymore. I heard a clip from Les Brown where says “The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry our their dream.”

Another quote from him along the same lines and just as powerful says “Imagine if you will being on your death bed – And standing around your bed – the ghosts of the ideas, the dreams, the abilities, the talents given to you by life. And that you for whatever reason, you never acted on those ideas, you never pursued that dream, you never used those talents, we never saw your leadership, you never used your voice, you never wrote that book. And there they are standing around your bed looking at you with large angry eyes saying we came to you, and only you could have given us life! Now we must die with you forever.

The question is – if you die today what ideas, what dreams, what abilities, what talents, what gifts, would die with you?”

I decided I wasn’t going to die with all this still inside of me. I was going to start taking the steps to make things happen. My hesitation was fear that it wasn’t going to be perfect. I had fear that I was going to make mistakes that would drastically affect me and my family. The problem is that if you’re not moving forward you think you might be standing still but you are inherently moving backwards.

My system


Now to the meat and potatoes. All this stuff is cool but worthless if you don’t stick to it. Once again, as I mentioned, I’m notorious for making a system and not following through or in a lot of cases even starting. Knowing my weakness I made an accountability plan for the goals I’ve had for a long time but just can’t seem to stick with.

There are multiple ways of being accountable and I’ll get right into it.

Self accountability

This is pretty straightforward. You are accountable to numero uno. Eventually I want to be able to do everything on this type but I’m not that kind of person, yet. Complice has help me achieve more but I’m still not at 100% on accomplishing my intentions for each day. So instead of continuing to fail myself and hold pity parties I decided to try some of the other types.

Assisted self accountability

Assisted self accountability is really all I could think of how to describe it. Below I have accountability partners but I think that’s different. For this type you create a number of rewards and punishments. At first it would be easier to just think of punishments and that would probably be the best way to start. Eventually you will want to come up with rewards though. A simple examples I’ve heard are that if you don’t do all your sales prospects you have to work Saturday. If you do do all your sales prospects, then you get the weekend off. Working Saturday or not working Saturday is the punishment and reward respectively. You could also do something where if you get all your studying done you get to watch an hour of TV or something. You’ll have to think about all the things that make you cringe about doing and the things you delight in doing and make those your metaphorical carrots and whips.

There’s not much to say about it more than it just helps you put skin in the game on the goals you’re struggling to accomplish.

My system

Public accountability

This type involves declaring to the public your goal. It makes a big difference to simply let your group of friends know your reaching for a goal instead of just yourself. It is a very powerful reward/punishment system. The reward being potential eliciting praise and encouragement. More effectively the punishment  being  potentially enacting a painful public embarrassment.

Imagine announcing to your friends at a New Year’s party that you’re finally going to drop those pounds, start that business, take that trip, or many of the other promises we make arbitrarily at the beginning of the year. Then imagine you bump into them six months later and you are still carrying around that spare tire, still working at your dead end job, haven’t left you city limits, or whatever else you set out to do. They ask you about that amazing thing and you now have to come up with some excuse instead of relay how great it was to finally take that step. Most people eventually stop making these promises because they want to avoid that pain when really they should just stop making the excuses.

I’m sure there are ways you can be accountable to the public without pain but why do that? Pain is usually what we remember the most. You touch a hot stove and that pain is remembered very easily next time. You forget to have your parents sign a permission slip for something and you get to hang out with the janitor instead. That pain of missing out is easily remembered next time those papers are handed out. Our brains are designed to help us avoid pain. That’s why we avoid change because change means potential pain in a lot of ways. Hack that system and give it some designed pain to fear and it might just do the trick to push you to do that something instead.

My system

Accountability partner(s)

Some positive accountability is to get a friend who’s doing it with you and periodically to talk about, as Darren Hardy coins it, wins, losses, and “Ah-ha” moments. It’s even better if you get a group going and there are plenty of ways nowadays for groups to communicate so it’s not hard at all. This is usually better because it will help you if your accountability partner is on vacation or suddenly goes MIA (which does happen unfortunately).

I’m still working out a few of these because I’ve found this to be extremely beneficial having a partner working towards the same goal. In High School I was somewhat scrawny for a Football lineman my Freshman to Junior years. I had workout partners for weight training classes but we didn’t really push each other because we had separate goals. I would usually pair up with my friends who weren’t lineman and just wanted to focus on getting more defined and faster. I got slowly stronger as the years went by but not by much. The end of my Junior year and into the summer preparing for my senior year is when it changed. Our coach had us split up by our groups of positions and partner up with our group. Since my friends were all backs they partnered up and I partnered up with the lineman. Most of the lineman already had a friend they would work out with except the center. Since everyone already partnered up I ended up with him. The best way to aptly describe him was that he was basically a muscle with a pair of eyeballs and a big mouth. Nobody wanted to workout with him because he was a jerk when lifting. When his partners were lifting less than him he hating changing the weights when switching off spotting and lifting and he made it known.

Our discourses often went somewhat like “Come on Berry I’m not taking all these off! I’m just taking one plate off.”

“I can’t! That’s 90 lbs more than I’ve ever done”

“Come on [wuss]! (he’s use other words but I’ll spare you and keep it clean). You can do it and your gonna do it! Don’t [panzy] out on me”

“Fine! We’ll just waste time since I CAN’T DO IT”

I would then struggle through four repetitions and I’d hear “Oh you’re gonna [panzy] out on me?!? You gonna give up? I know you can do three more. COME ON! THREE MORE [PANZY]!”

“AGHH [jerk]!”

Out of anger I’d struggle with shaking arms and grunting to do two more. “See I told you that you can do more, now put the weight back on and I’ll show you how to really do it”

Weeks went by like this where we yelled at each other while he’s spotting me. After two months I was lifting what he was lifting and started pushing him to do more. He kept pushing me as well.

Just to show how much growth happened after two months I was then consistently doing sets of 3 with 12 reps each of about 485 for squat, 315 for bench and 285 for clean press and working to do more which I eventually did. Before this I couldn’t/wouldn’t do more than 135 for any of those.

This is me during my freshman year.

This me at the start of my Junior year showing the gain I had until I started working with the center.

This is me in Italy after I graduated. I’m all filled out and was the biggest I’d ever been up to that point.

So I strongly believe that having a partner who’s working on the same goal and who won’t take your excuses can help drive you to succeed.

My system

Have anything you want to add? Have questions or comments about my “crazy” systems (as my wife dubs them)? Leave a comment below.

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