David James Olney

19 October, 2023


I just finished listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new book, Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life. As well as being thoroughly entertaining, because it is full of great stories from his life that Schwarzenegger reads himself, the book is genuinely useful.


In particular, I liked Schwarzenegger’s discussion of the self-help adage: see, believe, achieve. In order to achieve any goal, you have to be able to visualise what you want to do, believe that you can get it done, and then do the work to achieve your goal.


Even though this initially sounds like a cohesive three-part strategy, Schwarzenegger points out that it is missing an especially important fourth part. Ideally, you also need to be able to explain the significance of your vision to yourself and others, explain why you believe you can achieve it to yourself and others, and explain how you are going to break your big goal down into lots of little goals that you can chip away at one at a time, so that you can work toward achieving your ultimate goal in a manageable and structured way.


Explaining your vision for what you want to achieve to yourself and others has two significant benefits: if you can explain it to yourself, then you can be sure that you know what you are committing to; and if you can explain it to others, then you can increase the chances of gaining support for your goal from people with money, time, and expertise.


Unfortunately, too many people can neither clearly, nor confidently, explain their goal to other people, resulting in them having to go it alone, as well as feeling under-appreciated and misunderstood. Consequently, many people don’t achieve their goal, and we don’t get the benefit of participating in whatever they are trying to achieve.


Immaterial of whether you are undertaking blue-sky research, raising capital to develop a product, or trying to get new people to invest their money, time, or reputation in your product, the quality of your explanation is directly related to your likelihood of success.


If you don’t learn to effectively explain what you are trying to do, then you are unlikely to get good at selling the benefits of what you are trying to do to people who could come to care about you and your goal, or invest in you and your goal.


Take the time to learn how to explain what you want to achieve, so that the rest of us can appreciate why we should invest in you and what you want to achieve.


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