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How wannabe entrepreneurs ruin their New Year 

I’m obsessed with the binary differences between mega successful entrepreneurs and the thousands of people struggling to succeed.

You should be obsessed with this too.

If you’re a business owner, you’re playing with some ludicrous odds.

The US Treasury puts out an annual report that shows roughly half of American adults aspire to the idea of starting their own business. Meanwhile the number of people who actually start their own company is a only single digit percentage.

Then, the number of people who achieve wealth or any real sense of freedom through their business… well, it’s a minuscule fraction of an already tiny fraction.

That is why the only question that matters, is this one:

What are the real winners – the mega successful entrepreneurs – doing that everyone else is not? 

I get direct insight into this through my decade of experience as The Shrink for Entrepreneurs.

I’ve worked one on one with the type of clients who’ve built a net worth of tens of millions.

I’ve played therapist to people with lifestyle businesses that make folks green with envy.

I’ve supported someone whose taken an idea and dream… then raised startup capital, and achieved a hundred-million-dollar valuation for the business in less than three years.

And every year as we start counting down the days to the holidays, I get a handy reminder from my most successful clients that what we do in these final days of the year matters… extraordinarily so. 

Without fail, the most successful entrepreneurs I know all perform a mindful, intentional planning ritual at year’s end. 

Even wannabe entrepreneurs are aware that this is a good idea. Planning the next year is obvious. Yet so many people get it so catastrophically wrong.

There are four major mistakes that cause aspiring entrepreneurs to absolutely blow the opportunity that the New Year – and the holidays in general – offers:

Mistake #1: Thinking something is special about New Year’s Eve

Elite entrepreneurs know there is nothing special about January 1st… or any other day for the matter. It’s just another day spinning around the sun.

New Year’s isn’t special, but planning in year-long chunks is crucial.  

Super high performing entrepreneurs all share the belief that a single calendar year is a potent chunk of time to reflect on, and plan for.

They know that people tend to vastly overestimate what they can get done in a week, while vastly underestimating what they can get done in a year.

That’s why the entrepreneurial elite believe the holidays are the best time to reflect on the year that’s been… and the year to come. January first isn’t a special magical day itself but you can make it one if you do it right. 

Mistake #2: Thinking there is NOTHING special about New Year’s Eve

Aha! I almost had you. If mega-successful entrepreneurs know every calendar day is the same as the rest, why do they reserve their serious planning for the holidays?

The simple magic of New Year’s Eve – or the holidays in general – is that you’re not supposed to be working. It’s a time for rest, relaxation and taking time out. You’re finally free to step out of “execution mode” and into some sort of reflection mode.

The holidays are a symbolic end and beginning

There are thousands of years behind this idea. The cultural gravity around the New Year is strong.

If you’re smart, you’ll make this truth and the simple freedom to think clearly without getting bogged down by email – or whatever normally keeps you busy – work in your favor.

The date itself won’t make you magically turn over a new leaf. Your resolutions won’t be mystically blessed… but you can take advantage of the holidays just like the entrepreneurial elite!

Mistake #3: Not feeling the planning vibe

I first encountered goal setting as an exercise in school, when I was about twelve years old. Maybe it was New Zealand’s liberal education system, or maybe it was just my teacher who thought it was a great idea…

All I know is that a classroom of snotty nosed kids was asked to take a blank sheet of paper and produce their “goals” for the year.

I totally didn’t get it. 

The exercise felt like a total waste of time. It was just something someone was making me do. I immediately tried to – like most of my school work – accomplish it as quickly and with as little effort as possible.

I totally missed the point. I never thought about the goals I had set, ever again. Total waste of time.

The scary truth is that MOST entrepreneurs approach goal setting this way. They just don’t always know it.

Everyone reads the articles (like this one) that tell them how important it is to reflect and plan.

All business owners know they should be doing this goal setting thing.

At some point throughout the holidays they vaguely open some blank notebook they got for free at a conference. They scribble down some ideas. They arbitrarily spit a few dreams onto a page.

The goals are there – but like my sheet of paper in school – the heart of it is missing. These are the entrepreneurs who take the shell of planning, but never find the nut.

These are the entrepreneurs who write in the first pages of dozens of beautiful blank notebooks – thinking THIS one will be the one they carry everywhere and actually use – only to end up never opening it for months.

These are the entrepreneurs who know they need to be doing something smarter with their planning, but never really get it.

Mistake #4: Getting WAY too into it

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the crazy planning and manifestation monsters.

These are the entrepreneurs who do so much OCD driven, color-coded planning and goal setting that they barely have time to actually work.

Or, they’re the people who spend so long doing complex visualization exercises – desperately trying to manifest success as though it’s a wish that can be granted – that they have no energy or desire left over for work.

There’s a major problem with these types of behavior and it has everything to do with our brain chemistry:

When you start making yourself feel AMAZING about planning and goal setting itself, you’re rewarding your brain for thinking instead of doing.

Some visualization exercises have been proven dangerous by neuroscientists. The exercises satiate your hunger for success by making you feel like you’ve won, prematurely. Instead of setting a goal that makes you hungry to act, your visualization makes you feel so good you become content to do nothing.

Likewise for complex planning systems, some of which have cult-like followings. If you’re giving yourself a dopamine boost because you feel victorious after squaring away all your ideas and to-dos into some complex system… you’re being robbed of the precious brain juice that’ll drive you to succeed.

Don’t underestimate how hard it is to do planning RIGHT

You’ll notice – like a lot of my work – that what I’m suggesting via this “What-not-to-do” guide is that you follow a middle path.

Don’t get caught up believing in the magic of the holidays. 

Don’t write off this time of year though… because it’s crucial. 

Don’t allow planning to be just another box you feel you need to check.

Don’t get so crazy and enthusiastic about it that you break your brain chemistry and sabotage your success.

We’ve talked about what NOT to do, and the “what to actually do” is coming. In a couple of days I’ll publish another article which will demystify this further.

Then – on December 21st – I’ll be making something extraordinary available to the public. A resource that fixes all of this and more, just in time for the holidays.

Stay tuned. Watch for emails from me.

In the meantime, let me know – via the comment section – which of these four mistakes YOU’VE been guilty of. We’ve all been there, so I’ll take the lead and be the first person to post a comment below…


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  1. Since I became an entrepreneur, I’ve probably been most guilty of #1 and #4 the most… in years (long) past I’ve gotten really REALLY enthusiastic about doing woo-woo visualization exercises at midnight on Dec 31st as though it matters.

    Though if i’m honest, at some point in life I’ve probably made every one of these mistakes 😀

    At least now we know better, right??

  2. Great Article Peter. I’ve been guilty of all of the above, but most of all the biggest problem has been self accountability to follow the plan written out. Great intentions (writing the plan) not great follow through (following the plan). I think (or maybe like to think;) many entrepreneurs that work independently have this problem.

      1. Thanks Peter. And thanks for what you do. You have unwound the entrepreneurial mind very well. And your perceptions have enormous value for us all.

  3. I have been guilty of a combination of #1 and #4.
    The interesting is, it only happened when I thought consciously about goal setting.

    When I was younger – until about 25 – (oh oh , gettin’ old…) I didn’t do conscious goal setting. But I always had quite ambitious goals and always achieved them.

    “Formal” goal setting turned out to be more a curse than a blessing for me.
    If the goals don’t think in my head and heart (or subconsious:)),they don’t matter at all.

    Now I got better again.
    Some dead simple combination of “agile results” and stuff I learned from Commit Action.

    I also think quarterly planning can be a great addition.
    Since we underestimate what we can do in a year and overestimate what we can do in a day, a quarter seems to be a sweet spot for me for broader planning.

    Looking forward to the 21st 🙂
    Will it be a webinar or something we can use on our own time?


    1. Steffen, sounds like you and I are fairly alike in our tendency.

      The short answer to your question is YES … it will be something you can do on your own time. I think that’s crucial for this, especially over the holidays. A hyped up “one time only!” live event wouldn’t work at all.

  4. So I got a cold email from you today and it piqued my interest enough to come read this post.. as I am an entrepreneur who is just wrapping up my first year in a new business and wants to knock 2016 out of the park. I’ve started businesses of and on since I was 17 however none have been more than lifestyle businesses. Now I feel I have something that can really grow, but I am not sure how to take it beyond me.
    As far as your question of which mistake am I guilty of…. #4 I can go overboard, at times, with planning.
    Looking forward to hearing what successful entrepreneurs do for planning.. a step by step guide would be great.

  5. Thanks for the article Peter . I am guilty of – #3, #4, and #5. Getting way into the visualization part and robbing energy and focus out of the action part. I for one love to operate in the spontaneity mode- lots of peaks and troughs. Now I am slowing down to plan but it takes focus away from action sometimes. Also, the feeling of disconnect – for example I did my first webinar, shared the replay ready and then started a FB private group for follow up.Now there is a little feeling of disconnect and moving away instead of taking more action. Looking forward to the 21st !


    1. haha you had to invent a whole new category eh? Thanks for your candor 🙂

      This is why I like the holidays btw, because you’re not SUPPOSED to be in action mode. That expectation is absent, so it’s the perfect time to do in-depth planning.

  6. Thanks Peter. Nice article, seems like it goes hand in hand with the commit action thesis somehow (though hard to pin down why exactly). My problem has always been #3. So many changes in a year. Any goal seems like a dream and not at all realistic. And it’s hard to draw the line down from let’s say I want to make X money to how is that going to happen (since the problem is really the how anyway not the goal itself). I don’t even know if I will be working on the same business by the end of next year.
    BTW, my son is nine years old. I am so impressed with his school. His teacher made him set 3 goals for himself each half year and then review them next time around. One goal she encouraged him to take on was becoming a better soccer player. I was in awe.

    1. Hey Elisha, funny you say that.

      Commit Action is very much about granular week-by-week planning. I think I was so inspired to create something at the annual level because it is missing from the CA approach. 🙂

      1. That’s true. But the specificity pillar is kind of like the Artful implementation design.
        Once you think through and decide what you are doing and how you will do it it gets a lot easier to do it.
        But yeah if you aren’t climbing the right ladder as you say then meeting all 3 weekly goals isn’t very helpful and I think maybe that was why I stopped my commit action membership lack on context.

  7. Hi All,

    Definitely for me it’s been #1 and #4, thinking and somewhat rightly so that this new block of weeks ahead is going to be sooo much different from the last year because… (and here comes #4) I’ve got it nailed this time. I’ve super-structured the planning and hyped up the fun I’ll have filling in all those colourful task boxes in my free designated Success Notebook…… (spooky how right you are. Feel I’ve been stalked! : )

    Only, to discover, and re-read some years later, notebooks that have been so annoying I’ve simply thrown them out!

    The pendulum has been swinging out of control now for too long and I’m well ‘n’ truly ready for some face the music, MIDDLE GROUND and some good ol’ fashioned, HARD WORK! I’m ready.

    (I recall doing end of year goal setting exercises at school in NZ too, but like you shared it did little more than encourage me to ‘think about having goals’ but wasn’t so helpful for achieving them. I do think the entrepreneurial mindset is proleferant among Kiwis though so, it may have assisted with or been born out of that culture!)

    LOOKING FORWARD to reading more!!!

    Thank you, Peter

    P.S. I use Capitals for emphasis not shouting! ; )

    1. Sometimes I read what I’ve written and confuse myself!

      Less tricking of the brain and more execution!

      “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for Responsibility”.

  8. Definitely number 4! I always wondered why I never had the energy to follow through after I planned everything out. Makes me want to limit how much I think and plan and just do it

  9. I would say def #2, i fail because i just burn myself out and because i don’t reflect and adjust my course. I just keep going, hammering until i can’t breath and then i stop because i must, because i have no breath left and my vision is blurry for that lack of “oxygen”. At that point there’s no desire for reflection and planning. When i recover, the guilt for stopping comes and i try to catch up ending with another burnout. Working hard, not smart.

    Great series, can’t wait for the next one!

  10. I am guilty of all four but habitually guilty of #1 & 3. Every New Year I write down, with deep motivating feeling, my goals for the year and by the end of the month I am back to my old self. Six months into the year I will stumble upon the notebook with my written goals and see that I have not started on a single one of my goals and become very critical of myself to the point of doing nothing until the next New Year when I get that motivating feeling again. I do want to break this dysfunctional cycle.

    1. Gosh! Isn’t it amazing to read about yourself in another person’s experience. It’s comforting to learn youre not alone and reassuring to know there are understanding non critical souls that support each other in the change they want to see.

  11. I have gotten into a pattern of writing my annual goals on my blog. Every December 31 I go back to the January 1 post of the previous year and give myself grades. You can see these if you scroll to the bottom of the page at

    These have not really been measurable milestones but rather more like mindset things I want to get in the pattern of. I’d be very interested in what you think of them. I look forward to your upcoming information to see how I can do this better at the end of this month.

  12. Oh, Lord! #4 for sure. I once spent a week planning out goals…started out thinking that I had two or three and ended up with over forty. Obsession, anyone?

    However, it did have somewhat of a good outcome, in that I could see how all the pieces fit together, and it did make it possible to see the larger picture when I finally got around to acting on a couple of them.

    I still go back to that master list occasionally to see if there’s something there I still want to address, but generally, my life has moved on and the goals I work on now are much more productive, focused and effective.

  13. Peter,

    Great article. I’m totally into this stuff, so I find this very interesting and timely. I have suffered from analysis paralysis in the past (#4). I’ve learned that sometimes I have to take the ready, fire, aim approach if I’m getting too bogged down in planning. I’ve also found a couple strategies for executing goals that have really helped me go from planning to execution. Thanks for the great content Peter!

    1. Hi Dan,

      Merry Christmas 🙂

      I love this stuff too! I wonder Dan, if you’re free to share your strategies for executing your plans that result, in good results?
      I’ve mastered the opposite… ironically also called executing my plans only the definition of Execution is the desired one and the result all to often another rotation of the not so merry-go-round!

      (Only if you want too 🙂


        1. Hey Shelley,

          I am not Dan, but maybe my experiences are helpful, too 🙂
          Since I just revisited them in my end years planning, I thought I might share them.

          At first I was very good at execution. Then I was really bad. Like no execution, getting broke and everything. Now I am good again. I lost a part along the way.

          Example: I used to plan and host events. Usually with several thousand attendees. Those projects are usually somewhere between complicated (clear goal) and complex (somehow emerging and you can’t plan everything in advance).

          The “killer app” for me was always specificity. Specificity in what I need to do today, or max. this week. Not every step from start to finish.
          In my experience, when I try to plan out every single step in detail, it’s usually because of fair. I want control. And then I run into all the chicken egg problems. “I need this before that but I need that before this”^^
          Then I freak out and my willpower is gone for the day and I watch Netflix 🙂

          What worked and works again for me:
          It was always important, that I see the whole path in a very broad sense. For the main reason that my subconscious can buy into it and get happy 🙂
          But at the same time I couldn’t get too detailed. Because it is often not possible in the beginning and then freaks you out.

          In the event example, I usually know the broad areas I need to focus on.
          E.g. sell tickets, sell sponsorships, do a budget that makes me money, find speakers, acts etc., build a website, plan the actual event stuff…and many more.

          Although those areas are very interconnected, I write every one on a single piece of paper. Then I arrange them in a way where I think of them as focus points. Selling tickets in January, doing the event stuff in February etc.

          I accept that it will not be that sequential, but the cool thing is, I get a starting point. I usually start with 1 or 2 areas, knowing that all big topics are on my radar.
          But that way I get to my daily specificity level, which works intuitively again.

          Commit Action is a truly great resource for that.
          Although I had to add my twist on how to deal with the complex chicken egg stuff while at the same time subconsciously buying into the path/goal (those goals are not smart, but emerging, as is life ;)).

          I hope that made some sense and is at least a little bit helpful 🙂


  14. oh my goodness. Guilty of #4 the most and all the others aren’t left out either of course 😉

    I hate to go into planning most of the time. But when I go into it like crazy. I am a genius in creating the most advanced and visionary plans in the entire world.

    A shame that they never really happen as I want them to 😉

    I guess the main issue with planning is that there`s a gazillion approaches out there and everybody tries to connect the dots for himself. Weekly planning, MAP, Vision-based planning, backwards planning, etc.

    As always. Planning is not the solution. It`s just another important part of the whole equation. As always: All my opinion is subject to change until the next article or webinar from Peter 😉

  15. This article was very interesting. I have never set goals, just jump from one opportunity to another. I want this one to work, so I’m attempting to make a plan for 2016.
    I look forward to additional information to come my way.

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