This week’s article is going a little bit off the beaten path. For the past two articles I’ve written solely about the practical applications of Magic finance. This week is going to be a little different. I want to share with you an important subject in Magic finance, but also the rest of our lives, with some practical examples and a little insight into my personal experiences.Our subject today is on setting your goals.
Sometimes I forget how easy it is to lose myself in the nitty-gritty work within what I know as a Magic lifestyle. Looking at sets to find hidden gems to turn a profit on, analyzing card price data from multiple websites throughout each day. I found myself struggling to take a step back and ask myself, “Why I am doing this?” The problem is that I was lacking goals.
Goals allow us to pace our way of life. We all want something deep down, and we can make that our goal. Most often, people have multiple goals they work on at the same time. Some may take a lifetime to fulfill, others might just take a month, and some may be accomplished in as short as a day. But setting goals isn’t all that easy once you actually start to think about the fact that you also need to achieve them, whether it is in Magic finance, your achievements as a Magic player, or your own future in regards to your job or your love life.
The Big Picture
First you want to think of the broader picture. You really want to determine who you are, what you want, and what will make you happy. These are important questions for every person, not just Magic players. Answering these questions can set you on a straight path toward your pursuits. These questions help you set your goals for the long run, five, 10, maybe even 20 years from now. Recognizing what your broad life goals are will help you keep your focus and reach the things that you value – and we all know we can’t pass up some good value.
Back when I was 13 or 14, I used to ride my bike to school every day. However, my bike ride took an hour and fifteen minutes and I quickly grew bored of the landscape (highway), so I decided to find a solution to my solitary journey back and forth each day. I stumbled across a bunch of podcasts from an internet radio station about an incredibly popular MMO. I fell in love with the way these people interacted with such a large community that all enjoyed the same genre of hobbies. From that moment, I knew I wanted to make a positive impact on a community one day.
Look at some areas of your life and consider how you want to change or develop them over time. Start asking yourself what you want to achieve in each area and how you would like to approach those goals on a shorter term, like in five years, for example. With MTG financial goals you may want to think about where you make your money. Do you invest long term? Do you prefer flipping quickly to vendors? Do you buylist or will you open your own webshop? In terms of career, you might ask yourself what your ideal profession is, and whether you value a positive experience over a more monotonous job that provides better monetary compensation. Just take a step back and see what major decisions you can make in each area of your life.
So I knew I wanted to interact with the community, but I had to determine the most satisfying way to do it . I knew that I really only felt good when I helped people that enjoyed doing the same things I did. I felt like I had the expertise to know what was going on and was able to give advice in some areas. My interest in the MMO slowly faded over time and an older hobby returned in my life a couple of years ago: Magic.
I decided that I wanted to make a positive difference in the Magic community, but now I had to know at what scale! I knew that I really wanted to work on a big platform but at the time I had very few resources and connections to make it happen. Working on a smaller scale meant I would work on it locally which allowed me to be more hands-on with my work in the community. That’s when I knew that I could make a difference as a tournament organizer or judge.
Getting SMART About It
SMART is a mnemonic device that can help you keep the goals that you set clear. It’s a way of formulating your goal-statement using five adjectives. Chances are you’ve heard of this method.
Specific. When setting goals, they should answer highly-specific questions of who, what, where, when, and why. “I want to make $500 through purchasing or trading Modern staples with my inventory and cash worth combined $300 by September 1, 2014,” is far more meaningful than, “I want to turn a profit selling cards.” These parameters keep your goals in one place and allow you to determine which tools you need to use. Discipline yourself to be clear and direct.
Measurable. In order to track progress your goals need to be quantifiable. “I’m going to go to more large events to trade more” isn’t quantifiable. What if you’ve gone to two grand prix within six months of setting this goal? How far are you? You can’t at any point say you are fifty percent on your way to your goal because your goal doesn’t have any parameters. “I am going to go to five large events to trade more,” on the other hand, says a lot more about where we want to go. Now we know we have reached forty percent of our goal.
Attainable. Even after you have determined what your goals are you still have to evaluate your situation and honestly recognize which of these goals are realistic and which may be a little far-fetched. I figured out that reaching out to a larger Magic community was going to be difficult, so I toned down my expectations.
While “make a positive impact on the Magic community” was an admirable goal, I was far from able to do that at the time. That’s when I toned it down and turned it into, “Make a positive impact on our local Magic community”. Changing my goal to be more attainable allowed me to reach that smaller goal, which was far more satisfying than failing at the larger (and more exciting) goal.
Relevant. Is the goal you’ve set relevant to your life and the big picture questions you have asked yourself? To determine what value the goals you set have, you need to take a step back and look at what value they add to your life. Does it seem worthwhile? Is this the right time? Does this match what you need from it?
My plans to make an impact on the local Magic community had already been set in motion at this time. After some drama at the local game store, many players disassociated themselves from the store and the brand it had created for itself. I took it upon myself to organize the weekly Friday Night Magic and keep a forum and Facebook community running. After a couple of months, the store owner approached me and asked if we could work out a way for all of us to be happy and still play in his store. We reached an accord and we returned the next month. During the next few months, I noticed that the store owner kept on breaking his promises. At first I just saw it through the fingers (Dutch idiom for “letting it slip”), until one day he told me he wasn’t interested in our agreement anymore and had just decided to do everything his own way.
At that point, I realized that there was no longer any value to helping him as a tournament organizer and community manager. I knew I would work my proverbial ass off trying to get things going, but now he could just throw my work out of the window in one fell swoop if he saw fit. Any further input would no longer further my cause. So I quit pursuing this goal.
Time-related. Much like measurability, a goal should also be quantifiable in time. If you set your goals without a time limit you are only keeping yourself from achieving that goal in a timely fashion as no pressure can exist without a deadline – you will get distracted. “I am going to go to five large events to trade more” is certainly quantifiable, but how can you determine by when you should have visited five grand prix? In one month? One year? One lifetime? “I am going to go to five large events within the next twelve months to trade more” is a far more quantifiable description. If you’ve gone to two grand prix in six months you can conclude that you have reached forty percent of your goals within fifty percent of the allotted time, meaning you should try to squeeze an additional grand prix in the next six months at this pace.
It appears I can only fit fifty percent of the subject in the article this week, but luckily, I have not set my goal to tell you all there is to know about setting goals in just a single week. I will return to the topic next time and round it up with more advice and personal stories related to the subjects. For now I hope you can enjoy this Dutch commercial about the idiom I spoke of earlier!
Sander van der Zee is an industrial engineering student who specializes in lean-thinking. He stepped back into Magic in 2009 after a three-year break. Picking back up the pieces, he developed an interest in the financial, technical, and community sides of the game.