Tom Damoth
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Personal Goals Are Like Ice Cream

Personal Goals Are Like Ice Cream

We call lots of things goals.  We have financial goals, educational goals, weight loss goals, milestones, goals for work, stretch goals, tasks, and goals for life; the list goes on and on. But are these all goals?

What is a goal?

Goals are creative thoughts about what you want.  Goals help you plan, and they motivate you to take action.

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If goals are creative thoughts about what we want, how are they like ice cream? Let me explain using SpaceX as an example.

In 2012, Elon Musk started talking about establishing a human colony on Mars. In the last eight-years, one of the projects his company, SpaceX has been working on, is building the world’s biggest rocket to help make that dream come true.

SpaceX Starship

The rocket, called Starship, will be 30 feet in diameter, stand 390 feet tall.  It will be able to transport the equivalent payload of a fully-loaded Boing 777 passenger jet into orbit. SpaceX has tested different materials for the hull, started building a launch complex in Texas, and experimented with welding stainless steel.  And just last week (as of this writing) successfully completed its first 150-meter hop. Each of these steps is a type of goal.

Organizing Goals

To organize goals, it’s helpful to put them into categories using terms like vision, milestones, and tasks. A Vision is a goal, a Milestone is a goal, and so are individual tasks. So, goals are like ice cream because they come in different flavors. To help illustrate this, let’s use a delicious ice cream sundae.

Ice cream goals pyramid

The goals called visions and dreams are your creative thoughts about the distant future. Starting out, you may have just a vague notion of what they look like and how to get there. It’s alluring and exciting to think they might come true someday. Elon’s Mars vision has evolved, and he now articulates it as: “to see mankind become a multi-planet species in my lifetime.” That is one, big…vision!

Vision sits on top of our sundae, like a scoop of delicious chocolate ice cream. A vision is often difficult and rare. They can be out there, over the horizon. You can imagine them, but they are beyond reach; today. At the same time, they are oh so tantalizing. Like rich chocolate ice cream, your mouth starts watering just thinking about it. The funny thing about visions is that once you reach them, you start moving toward your next one. Turns out, most of the reward is in the journey and working with others to accomplish it.

Milestones are a little closer, not so far into the future, they’re within reach. It feels good to reach them and often it’s a reason to celebrate. Reaching a milestone triggers reward signals in your brain. The equivalent of “Oh là là là là! Let’s do that again!” Milestones are the second layer in our sundae.

On August 4, 2020, the upper stage of Starship lit it’s Raptor engine and completed its first 150-meter hop. Eight years in the making, SpaceX achieved a major milestone. It was such an important event, that to celebrate, Elon gave SpaceX employees Friday off as a “Crew Mission Holiday”. Oh là là là là!

Tasks are where you spend most of your time. They aren’t that exciting, they’re work. In the case of Starship, just a few of the tasks leading up to the successful 150-meter hop were: Installing storage tanks, wiring the rocket, building the test stand, designing, machining, forming, stacking and welding components, and pouring concrete. The complete list would be exceptionally long, representing eight years of tasks. In our sundae example, tasks are represented by the many scoops of vanilla ice cream on the bottom.

Goals PyramidGoals Ice cream pyramid

Why Goals Are Important

A three-year study of young professionals published in 2005 found that people who set personal goals experienced improved well-being, work satisfaction, and career success[1]. These are very good reasons to set goals, but there’s even more.

The different types of goals also form a natural order. Tasks are on the bottom and support your milestones. Next up are milestones, their roll is identify the major steps that ultimately lead to achieving your vision.

Another important point about the natural order between tasks, milestones, and vision is the interaction between the different layers. When you organize your goals into vision, milestones, and tasks, you are creating a kind of visual graphic, something your creative mind loves to work on. As your thoughts switch back and forth between the different layers, it spawns creative insights.

Goals Pyramid - Insights Goals Ice cream pyramid

 For example:  The vision scoop on top gives you direction, helps you plan, and motivates you to apply consistent effort. In other words, to have grit. You will need grit because those visions are often years into the future. Cultivating a vivid vision improves the likelihood of success. And creating a vision also causes you to start thinking about what’s needed to achieve it. This helps you identify milestones and tasks.

The milestone layer not only supports your vision, it helps clarify it. As you think about the milestones needed to reach your vision and switch your thoughts back and forth between vision and the milestones, you will begin to see gaps, redundancies, and have new insights. This creative loop adds clarity to your vision and helps you build your path forward.

Finally, there are the numerous, every-day, vanilla tasks. Not only do they play a critical role in achieving your milestones, but they also enable your vision to come true. This time, the back and forth pattern is most prominent between tasks and milestones. This is very helpful in deciding what tasks to spend our precious time on each day. Using goals, leveraging their natural order and interactions helps time from just slipping away.

Once you know the structure of goals, and their back and forth relationship, you can use that knowledge to improve and smooth your path to success.

Pursuing your vision, milestones, and tasks make life fun and rewarding. Its a lot easier to work on boring, everyday tasks when you know how they fit into the big picture. Completing tasks and reaching milestones sets up a cycle of progress that adds variety and anticipation to life. It’s fun and rewarding to accomplish even little tasks when you see how they are powering your progress.

Goals example

An area that concerns many people is their financial security. Below are the results of a short, five-minute brainstorming session on the topic.

Financial brainstorming

Reaching one million dollars in a 401(k) by retirement is pretty common advice, so is living debt-free, and paying off the car.

By converting our ice cream sundae example into a form, we can start organizing our brainstorming using the vision, milestone, task pattern. (You can download a free copy of the form here).

Goals Pyramid Example

Let’s pull a few ideas from our brainstorming to start creating a vision. Ideas like: “Live a middle-class life, whether financial challenges and enjoy retirement.” With our vision in place, let’s look for a milestone to work on.

Dave Ramsey is well known for helping millions of people achieve financial security. According to Dave, creating an emergency fund is a critical first step. And the reason is simple. The number one reason people stop working toward financial security is due to a major unforeseen expenses. Without an emergency fund, when faced with a big car repair or surprise medical bill, people are forced to use a credit card, and that just spirals them deeper into debt.

Having a $1,000 emergency fund is a very important milestone on the way to financial security. But how do you find an extra $1,000 when you have a lot of debt? That is where tasks come in.

Here are some tasks that relate to our new milestone of having a $1,000 emergency fund:

1. Create a budget.

It’s impossible to make good choices without basic facts. A budget will give you a firm starting point. It may not be pretty, but it’s a critical task. For a free guide, check out Dave Ramsey’s Guide to Budgeting. Dave also has an easy to use Monthly Cash Flow Plan that can be very helpful.

2. Sell some stuff.

Most of us accumulate a lot of possessions over time. Fishing rods we never use, bicycles, old cell phones, even old stuffed animals, and they all can be turned into cash.

3. Earn extra income.

Turn some of your leisure time into cash. Retailers are constantly looking for dependable part-time help. If you are handy, you could pick up some home repair, painting, or landscaping jobs around the neighborhood.

You might have noticed that “Selling some stuff”, and “Earn extra income”, weren’t on our brainstorming list. That’s because they resulted from thinking about creating a $1,000 emergency fund. It’s an example of the insights created from the back and forth thinking between tasks and milestones.

Why is Goal Setting Important?

Setting up a Goal goals boosts your creativity and opens the door to new solutions. Setting up a Goal Pyramid, is like creating your own game.  As you organize your goals and allow your imagination to move back and forth between vision, milestones and tasks you will discover new insights and opportunities.

As the game progresses, your vision becomes clearer, and your path more defined. Over time, as you complete tasks and achieve milestones, you will move closer and closer to your vision, until it finally comes true.

To help you organize your goals, I’ve created a Free PDF of the Goal Pyramid.

I am curious about how you will use the Goal Pyramid. What new insights did you find by thinking about the interactions between vision, milestones, and tasks? Let me know in the comments below.

[1] Bettina S. Wiese, Alexandra M Freund (2005). Goal progress makes one happy, or does it? Longitudinal findings from the work domain. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, June 20

Learn More About Voycoo

Voycoo is a To-Do List with a twist.

To find out how Voycoo can help you define your vision and take steps every day to reach it, visit the link below.

Principles of Life And How to Create Your Own

Principles of Life and How to Create Your Own

Principles of life, Isaac Newton and the apple

Isaac Newton & gravity

What Are Principles?

The world is a network of cycles and patterns.  Things like, the time between meals, the passing of the seasons or the ups and downs of economies.  For example, one principle, based on thousands of generations of experience, is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. 

Principles are like formulas that predict how things behave.  But here is the fun part.  You can also use principles to assist you in solving seemingly unrelated problems.    

Say you were in a rowboat, adrift on the ocean.  The lone survivor after your ship went down.  You had food and water, but no compass, radio or cellphone.   Without a reference point, you would probably just row in circles till your food and water ran out.  But knowing just two additional things can help you out.  One was that ancient principle about the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.  The other is you know the port you sailed from was in the east.  Knowing the sun follows the same pattern every day, you decide to row into the sun in the morning, then in the afternoon, row away from the sun.  Following this simple procedure will eventually lead you to safety.

For almost every cycle or pattern, there is a principle that can help you get where you want to go.

Examples of Principles

Scrum cycle


In 2001, a group of seventeen software developers published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (1).  That manifesto includes the developer’s principles for creating software.  Their principles are:

  • Customer satisfaction by early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even in late development.
  • Deliver working software frequently (weeks rather than months)
  • Close, daily cooperation between businesspeople and developers
  • Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  • Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress
  • Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  • Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential
  • Best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
  • Regularly, the team reflects on how to become more effective, and adjusts accordingly

In the early years of Microsoft Windows, a new version was released every year or two.  All too often, these upgrades resulted in crashed computers, lost data and frustrated customers.  The programing steps to create these early versions were mapped out in great sequential detail that spanned months or years.  Unfortunately, things like hardware improvements, programing bugs, or changing customer needs, could upset the entire timeline and cause additional programing that delayed the software release for months.  Sometime around 2014, Microsoft started adopting an Agile approach.  Today, Microsoft updates the Windows 10 application or security modules every few weeks.  This frequent delivery of usable software is a core part of Agile’s principles.

Financial success

Ray Dalio, ranked as the top hedge fund manager of all time, has built his fortunes by creating and using principles.  Ray didn’t start at the top, he built his way there by studying his successes and mistakes, finding the root causes and devising principles to help him make better decisions in the future.  As a sample, here’s Ray’s principle for getting what you want out of life (2):

Use the 5-Step Process to Get What You Want Out of Life

  1. 1
    Have clear goals
  2. 2
    Identify and don’t tolerate problems
  3. 3
    Diagnose problems to get at their root causes
  4. 4
    Design a plan
  5. 5
    Push through to completion

This is just one set of principles that Ray uses.  He has many others that contribute to his success.  Principles covering things like:

  • Life Principles
  • Work Principles
  • Building and Evolving Your Machine

So far, we’ve looked at how principles help castaways, software developers and an investor.  Here’s one last example of principles at work. 

Design Principles

Have you ever noticed how Apple’s logo has evolved over time? (3)  It’s a great example of design principles at work.  Whether designing a logo, an advertisement for a product, or a poster for an event, designers use design principles to make their work engaging and memorable.  Some common principles of design are:   

  • Unity/harmony
  • Balance
  • Hierarchy
  • Scale/proportion
  • Dominance/emphasis
  • Similarity and contrast

Combining design principles with elements like color, line, shape and space, help Designers craft images that cause us to pause and take in their message.  Whether an ancient cave painting of bison, or a poster for the latest blockbuster movie, the principles of good design repeat themselves over and again.  And situations that repeat themselves are the perfect place to utilize principles.

How to create your own principles

How will you use principles?

Everyone's needs are different.  Would you like to use your principles to help you personal life, work life or both.  This question is key.  You might have noticed in Ray Dailo's example, he created principles that covered both his work and personal life.  Over time, as I focused on understanding my principles they evolved that way too.  I find there is so much overlap between my personal life and work, that to be the person I want to be, it's advantageous to merge them.

Research and gather ideas

Next, do an internet search on related topics like: “religious principles”, “business principles”, “scientific principles”, “writing principles” “_____________ principles”.  Just about any topic will result in many, many ideas.  You can print these off and use them as idea starters in the next step, brainstorming.


This process gives you the freedom to generate a lot of ideas.  To start the process: locate a pen, some sticky notes and a quiet room with a blank wall.  It can also be helpful to ask a few people you trust to join your brainstorming session.  They can build enthusiasm, offer different points of view and prevent self-editing.  Make sure everyone understands that in the brainstorming session, there are no bad ideas.  The goal is to jot down as many ideas on sticky notes as possible in the time you allow.  As far as time goes, I suggest no more than thirty to forty minutes. 


After a short break of ten minutes or so, return to the wall and organize the stickies into groups.  As you start to organize the stickies, you will notice themes or groups developing.  Don’t worry about being absolutely correct or overthink this step.  The purpose of using stickies is to allow you to easily move things around.  If you see new patterns of themes developing later on, it’s easy to adjust.


The next step is to review your principle and make it shine.  Look over each of your groups and write its essence down on a new sticky note.  It’s important to write several versions, each on a separate sticky note.  Try rearranging the words or testing the sentence with your experience.  You may want to let these ideas marinate for a day or two and then revisit them with fresh eyes.  When you're done, it will feel right and sound right too.


The last step is to place your principles someplace where they are easy to access.  This could be on a wall near your desk, in a notebook or, on Voycoo's dedicated principals page. 

Some other reasons to consult your principles are:

  • When looking for shortcuts or solutions to problems
  • When facing work related obstacles
  • Exploring how to respond to challenging world events
  • When an unexpected event turns your personal world upside down
  • Principles are helpful in creating your own personal vision

 Defining your principles before you need them and having them close at hand, provides you with a valuable tool to save time, avoid known problems, and improve your results.  

Leave a Comment

I'm always curious to hear what you think.  What are some of your favorite principles?  Has there been times principles have really helped you?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.


(1) Agile software development, Wikipedia

(2) Principles by Ray Dalio - Summary

(3) Evolution of Apple’s logo

Business Action Plan for the Coronavirus

Business Action Plan for the Coronavirus

Released 4-4-2020

Revised 4-5-2020


What does the future hold?

July 1981

July 1990

March 2001

December 2007

March 2020

What do these dates have in common?  They mark the moments in history when recessions began, ushering in economic turmoil.    Having worked with many outstanding business leaders through those exciting times, I want to share with you, some lessons learned.

Charting a Way Forward

I like to think of myself as a rational person, but I’m not one. The good news is it’s

Economic downturns, whether caused by an embargo, the unintended consequences of financial policy, or a rogue virus, can trigger a great deal of pain and uncertainty.  What about our employees, customers and suppliers?  What will the world look like tomorrow?  What’s the path forward?

As a businessperson, you know the Coronavirus isn’t your fault, but as a leader, it’s your responsibility to look ahead and chart the next part of your company’s voyage.

Here in Michigan we are experiencing an unprecedented 3-week shelter in place order.  Many businesses have completely closed and face a future full of unknowns.  Many businesses are battened down like ships in port, waiting for a storm to pass.

Another option is for business leaders to use this time to chart their way forward.  But how?

Strengthen Your Leadership Mindset

It’s tempting to charge off into headlong action.  Fight, flight or freeze responses, are in part responsible for our success as humans.  Leaders often feel pressured to “have the answers” and to act immediately.  But this financial crisis isn’t a Lion, Tiger, or Bear.  So, I encourage you to take a little time and mentally prepare for what’s to come.

Be Agile

When faced with difficult choices, it’s easy to get bogged down in research, deliberation, planning and delegation.  This is how software was created in the past, and a big part of why it was so costly and time-consuming to produce.  But today, most software companies use an Agile approach.

Agile is a team approach where people play specific roles.  The Product Owner for example, insures there is a clear vision and strategy.  They also break the vision down into useful outcomes and prioritize what they want.  The team then works on the list, producing a series of useful outcomes in a short amount of time.

There are other things that are important in Agile.  Things like transparency, communications and building a culture where people realize that setbacks and dead ends are opportunities to learn and discover.  The advantages are you have momentum, you have something that works, and you are little smarter.

Developing an Agile mindset can drastically speed progress.  It’s an organized approach to many of the activities you do today.  But by adding clarity, feedback and teamwork, you go farther, faster. 

Dealing with the Unknown

Will closures end in a few more weeks, or will this go on till June as some suggest?

Will funds be available to help us resume operations?

Will our employees come back?

What about our customers?

Could there really be over one million illnesses, and two hundred thousand deaths?  Such a scale would touch every family.

With so much grim news, it’s hard to imagine better times.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to gain a more realistic perspective.

Anchoring Bias

Anchoring bias happens when we place too much value on recent events.  The tendency is to project the current situation into the future, and ignore other possibilities.

Bad news is unavoidable right now, finding us through friends, family, co-workers and the media.  Being aware of anchoring bias helps us look beyond today’s bad news for clues and opportunities.  [1]

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or strengthens one's prior personal beliefs or hypotheses.  [2]

It’s easy to dismiss the opinions of those we don’t agree with and view them unfavorably.  Their points of view might make others uncomfortable or they might seem to be troublemakers.  In my consulting work I pay special attention to these folks.  They may not be exactly right, but they often are onto something that can have a significant impact.  What I’m saying here is don’t surround yourself with “Yes people”.  Encourage people to speak openly and profit from their unique perspectives.

Confirmation bias also causes blind spots to information and facts that run counter to our personal models of the world.  Better options are to seek clarification.  Ask probing questions, seek to understand, dig for the roots of a problem, look for facts and truth.

Check in With Your Personal Ethics

In the coming weeks and months, you will be making many important decisions.  One of the greatest minds of all time, Aristotle, had four ethics he used to guide his decisions.  They were Prudence, Temperance, Courage & Justice.  These simple words caused him to broaden his perspective and leverage the vision of who he wanted to be.

Listing your ethics need not take long.  Instinctively, you use them throughout the day.  But having them written down saves time and adds consistency.  A quick way to do this is to write your 4-5 highest values (ethics) on the back of your business card.  That way you can keep them with you or on your desk.  It’s amazing how, when faced with difficult decisions, re-reading a few words can reveal additional information, add clarity, and improve end results.

Ask Better Questions

Before starting SpaceX, Elon Musk wanted to send a small greenhouse to Mars and try growing vegetables in the Martian soil.  He looked at buying a rocket and found they are very, very expensive.  So, Elon employed First Principle Thinking and asked questions like:  What is a rocket made of?  What do those raw materials cost on the open market?  Why do we throw rockets away after one use?  Why do we throw the rocket away after one use?  We don’t do that with 747’s when we travel from JFK to Heathrow.

Elon found that only 3% of a rocket’s cost is for material.  Sensing a big opportunity, he started SpaceX and set out to find better ways to build rockets.  Today a Falcon 9 launch costs approximately $80 million less than the competition and is still very profitable.  By asking better questions, Elon is achieving remarkable results.  [3]

Be Goal Focused, Not Task Focused

The best CEO’s I’ve worked with had the gift of being clear about their vision and goals.  In addition, they held their team accountable for bring those goals into reality.  They weren’t completely hands-off, they wanted to see the plans; sometimes adding insights, sometimes guidance.  They also regularly checked in to gauge progress and they gauged that progress against their goals.

So, I encourage you to clearly communicate your vision, goals and timelines.  Let your team work out the details and coach them along.  The vast majority of people want to do great work, they just need frameworks that allow them to thrive.  And with a clear vision, goals and a timeline, they will have a way of knowing how they are doing, even without your asking.

Leaders who get bogged down in too many tasks, often become frustrated.  One of my mentors once told me he managed by MBWA (managing by wandering around).  What he meant was, that he communicated his goals, and let the people who worked for him take on many of them.  This freed up his time so he could check in with them.

He would drop in for a morning visit, see how they were doing, answer questions, and provide guidance.  This seemingly casual style, meant he was always up to date and involved, without being overbearing.  And the performance of his people and the company’s performance, proved it’s worth.         

Probabilities in a Changing World

It’s important to keep in mind in times of rapid change, that you are working with probabilities.  It’s nearly impossible to be 100% on.  Then again, we’re striving for much higher accuracy than a 50/50 coin toss.  Some decisions will be off the mark.  Suppliers will be late.  Interruptions will happen.  Or to paraphrase Moltke, “no plan survives contact with the enemy”.

The techniques that follow will create a clearer picture but are not perfect.  The results will still require your judgment.  Be open to learning rapidly, adjusting, and improving over time.  

Getting Down to Business

Armed with these concepts you can knock some of the dust off the crystal ball and gain a clear picture of the future.  A clearer picture will improve your outcomes.

Let’s put these ideas to use by examining the current Coronavirus crisis.  As a businessperson, I’d like to know: 

  • Will there be a recession in 2020?
  • What does our financial picture look like going forward?
  • How will the Coronavirus crisis change our business; and impact our employees, customers, and suppliers?

Will There be a Recession in 2020?

Researching the first question “Will there be a recession in 2020?”, let’s first set a baseline and define what a recession is.

According to the Motley Fool,” A recession is a period of economic decline, normally accompanied by an increase in unemployment, a decline in the housing market, and a drop in the stock market. Historically, when the total value of goods and services produced in the U.S. (called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP) is in decline for two or more quarters, a recession is declared.”  [4]

Looking at articles from Forbes 3/28/2020 (Why The U.S. Is Now In Recession), Bloomberg 3/30/2020 (Covid-19 Impact: Morgan Stanley Expects Global Recession In First Half Of 2020), and J.P. Morgan 3/23/2020 (Assessing the Fallout From the Coronavirus Pandemic) they all are predicting a recession for 2020.

We are probably affirming the obvious here, but it’s good to back up our instincts.  With this information in hand, let’s go deeper.

How bad could this recession be?  How long might the recession last?  These are important questions because they will help us plan a course as we navigate the days ahead.

How long might the recession last?

Historically, recessions have been as short as six months in 1980, with the longest being the Great Depression which lasted 41 months.
Length of U.S. Recessions

Recessions 1929-2009

In the articles above, both Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan forecast a recovery starting in the July – September time frame, lasting 6-9 months.

It will be interesting to see how accurate these projections are, because so many unknowns are at work.  Items like the duration of the outbreak, global monetary policy, stimulus packages, bank lending, and spending are examples.     

How will this recession impact sales?

To gain insights into how the Coronavirus crisis will impact sales, lets look at data from the recession of 2008.  During that recession, new orders for the manufactures of fabricated metal products, fell in the 19% per month range, for most of 2009.  Keep in mind, the 19% reduction in orders is for metal fabricators.  The impact on different industries varied.    You can find more specific information by visiting the US Census.   [5]     

So, to recap:

  • All indications are that we are in the early stages of a recession.
  • The recession is projected to be about average in length, lasting 6-9 months.
  • New orders may fall by 19% per month.
Crystal Ball

Projecting the future

When business is good, we typically review the financials once a month.  The P&L looks good, check.  Cash flow is positive, check.  Sales are a little off forecast, but not bad.  Set a reminder to talk to the Sales Manager, and file everything away.

But with a little fine tuning, these tools can be indispensable for decision-making during a crisis.  It will help you run different financial scenarios, track your progress, and evaluate your decisions.

Cash flow Spreadsheet

Using your 2020 budget, or last year’s final P&L, you can create a cash flow forecast that reflects your original plan.  It’s formatted like your P&L, but each month is shown separately, allowing you to see the entire year on one page.  This forecast will serve as our baseline, let’s call it the Pre-Coronavirus Forecast.

Spreadsheet of Cash Flow Forecast

Pre-Coronavirus Cash Flow Forecast (click to enlarge)

There are no problems with cash flow throughout the year, and profits are reasonable.

By creating a copy of the Pre-Coronavirus spreadsheet, a second version can be used to test different scenarios that reflect your estimate of the depth and length of the recession.

In this version, revenues for April are reduced by 25%, and by 19% for May – September.  Because experts are predicting a short recession, revenues were forecasted down 12% in October, 8% in November, and 5% for December.

Spreadsheet of Cash Flow Forecast

Coronavirus Cash Flow Forecast (click to enlarge)

The impact of reduced sales on cash flow and profits are shown in red.  Without quickly reducing expenses, and/or increasing revenue, cash will run out in May 2020.  A cash flow spreadsheet also helps you identify large cost saving opportunities like purchases, wages, marketing & promotion, interest, loans, and capital equipment.

In just an hour or two, you can create your own cash flow forecast.  It will be a valuable tool in guiding upcoming decisions. 

Of course, this is just one of many potential models.  Your sales could actually go up, depending on your creativity and market opportunities.

There are many other shifting variables including things like:

  • Your market.
  • Your actual line of credit.
  • Government sponsored loans.
  • How the economy responds in the next few months.
  • Customer orders.
  • Supply lines.

That’s why it’s helpful to create copies of the spreadsheet, test different scenarios, and find a model that you’re comfortable with. 

Would You Like A Free Copy of this Spreadsheet?

Access To Your Free Spreadsheet Is Just

A Few Clicks Away.

Action Checklist

Below is a list of activities that helped create successful outcomes during past recessions. 

Many, you may have already taken, while others are the result of “lessons learned”.  For example, learning what customers are thinking and talking about.  Your Accounts Receivable department has a relationship with your customer’s Accounts Payable department.  This relationship can provide useful information about your market’s ecosystem and assist you in making decisions.

Here is the list:

  • Clarify and articulate your goals, and their measurement over time.
  • Communicate honestly and regularly with employees and other stakeholders  (Remember to include people working offsite).
  • Create and update your cash flow spreadsheet regularly.
  • Task the Sales department with talking to customers and learning their market position and response plans.
  • Prioritize regular sales forecast updates.
  • Encourage an Agile approach.
  • Force rank open purchases and prepare to defer deliveries.
  • Review all open customer orders and insure they can be produced.
  • Task Purchasing & Accounts Payable with controling supplier payments.
  • Task managers with collaborating to identify cost savings, and ways to increase revenues.
  • Task Accounts Receivable with providing realistic forecasts of receivables.
  • Task Accounts Receivable with learning and communicating what customers are thinking and doing.
  • Talk with key suppliers at least weekly (same reason as Accounts Receivable).
  • Behave as if you are working on a cash basis
  • Plug any expense leaks (repair & maintenance, overtime, credit cards, etc.).
  • Develop a way to routinely share the information your team’s uncovering.

Do you see a cash flow spreadsheet helping your company during this crisis?

Was the action checklist helpful?

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Make Better Decisions by Defining Your Personal Ethics

Make Better Decisions by Defining Your Personal Ethics


Have you heard of The Butterfly Effect?

Imagine for a moment a butterfly beating its wings as it crosses a meadow full of wildflowers.  Each beat sets the surrounding air in motion creating little swirls of movement.  One of those swirls nudges a pocket of warm meadow air into motion taking along with it a column of moist meadow air. 

Over the next week or so more moist air is lifted up until a thunderstorm forms, and ultimately spawning a tornado.  All this from the graceful beating of two small wings.

Our decisions are like the Butterfly Effect.  The beat of our life, our decisions, therefore influencing our overall happiness. 

An Example of Personal Ethics

(or not)

Have you ever found money laying on the floor?  Maybe it was at work or while shopping?  Ever had a friend become upset and insult you during what started out as an interesting political discussion?  You receive a small inheritance and could put it toward retirement or buy a new car.  In each of these cases, what do you do?

So, do you try to find the owner of the money?  Give it to the staff at the information desk?  Do you pocket it and celebrate your good fortune with a delicious Mocha Latte?

On the way back to your car, enjoying your Latte, did you pretend not to notice the mother and daughter searching the spot where you found the money?  Did you feel it, that tinge?

Knowing your ethics helps you make better decisions.  And when you chose poorly, gives you a base to make better choices in the future.

Ethics are like a mountain that lifst you up.  From higher ground horizons are wider, your vision clearer.

From a strong foundation you can reach the stars.

What are Personal Ethics?

Personal ethics

-moral principles that frame your world and guide your decisions.

Let’s go deeper into personal ethics and explore what they are.  Ethics are principles for determining correctness, what’s best, what’s right.

Ethics help you make better decisions, evaluate people and situations and have better results.  A trick Aristotle used was to select words triggering larger ethical principles and concepts.

Aristotle used four simple words as the basis for his personal ethics.  His choices were:

  • Prudence
  • Temperance
  • Courage
  • Justice

Personal ethics encapsulate your True Beliefs.  Knowing your truth and living it leads to a happier life. 

Why are Ethical Decisions Important?

In his book Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle wrote that "living well and doing well are the same as being happy".  Don't you find yourself happy when you are being true to yourself and immersed in whatever you are doing?  Even work?

Your ethics provide insight into your past, give meaning to your present, and foretell your future.

Pondering our ethics for even a moment changes us. There’s that jagged tinge of regret for a past shortcoming. An ongoing internal debate about our next move. A sense of wellbeing from decisions grounded in who we really are.

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."  -Aristotle   Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions]

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”


Ethical principles could be single word or take the form of a short phrase or motto.  Whatever form they take, they help you choose the right course, your next step.  No two people need the same ethics.  One person might place a high emphasis on “Courage”, while someone else might to prefer the word “Valor”.

Understanding your personal ethics can:

  • Help you make better decisions.
  • Help you chart your own course.
  • Help you learn from your past.

What are Value Ethics?

Aristotle was a philosopher who lived 2,300 years ago.  He developed a system for making decisions based on an individual’s unique character and principles.  He called this philosophy Value Ethics.

Aristotle taught that decisions based on four key ethics lead to a happier life.  Those ethics are: prudence, temperance, courage, and justice.[1]  We don’t use words like prudence and temperance very often, so here are the definitions for you.

Prudence, seeing ahead, wisdom, good judgment caution, training ourselves to use reason.

Temperance, moderation in action, restraint.


Courage, bravery, confronting uncertainty, moral strength.


Justice, being fair, impartial, just, conforming to laws, taking right action.


For over 2,000 years people have followed Aristotle’s lead and weighed their decisions against their ethical values. 

Reference:  [1] Aristotelian ethics

How to Create a List of Your Own Personal Ethics

The fastest way to create a list of personal ethics is to use Aristotle's Value Ethics.  

Another option is to create your own list of ethical trigger words.  To help with that I've created a spreadsheet containing over 75 words that describe ethical principles.  The spreadsheet will help you find those 4-7 words that define your own personal ethics.

To create your own personal ethics list, join my list.

How to Make Better Decisions

Your personal ethics acts as a filter. Now that you have your own list of personal ethics, you can use it to gage events, people and decisions.

Take for example a decision at work. Let's say your boss assigns you the task of meeting with an unhappy customer. You’ve heard the customer is upset and wants immediate action and solutions. You know the first step should be a phone call, but you hesitate. You’ve never done something like this before.

That hesitation is a signal to take a moment and consider your course of action.

Let’s say your list of ethics are:


You quickly run through your list of ethics. Considering the current situation, here’s some actions they inspire.

Friendly: Be friendly, let the customer know you are on their side.

Courageous: You have done difficult things before. Facing difficulties has always helped you grow.

Generous: You can do more than the customer expects. Don’t tell them how to solve the problem, personally solve if for them. You can work through your company’s bureaucracy easier than they can.

Fair: What is a fair solution for them and your company?

Detached: Remain detached from the outcome. You know the customer is upset. Remaining detached allows you to be objective and calm. Your calm approach will help calm the customer.

Determined: Resolve and be determined in solving this problem. It might take several calls and some footwork on your part. Your determination will help win the customer’s trust and reduce their frustration.

This line of thought can happen quickly. Creative solutions appear immediately as you consider each of your ethics. Instead of worrying, procrastinating and making things worse. You can quickly create a course of action. A set of easy to follow steps. Steps that ring with honesty because they are based on what you truly believe.

Daily events like this help you develop your ethic muscles. The more you practice, the more you become the person you want to be.

Ethics and Decision Making Wrap up

Sound ethics is a cornerstone of your happiness. Your personal ethics solidifies what’s important and defines the kind of person you become.

You may choose to adopt Aristotle’s four ethical principles or select principles with a unique personal flavor. What’s important is that they trigger thoughts of what’s correct, what’s best, what’s right.

Our choices can spawn tornadoes or clear blue skies. Filtering your decisions through your personal ethics can transform your life.

Your Next Step

Try using your list of ethics on a problem you’re facing. What new insights appear? What other uses can you think of for your list of ethics?

Let me know in the comments below!


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