Why one tech CEO never sets goals: 'They're mostly artificial'


Generating valuable goals can be just as challenging as accomplishing them. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates uses the OKR method, which blends ambitious objectives with desired key results. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson announces his ambitions immediately, no matter how astronomically high they may be.

But other leaders don't set goals at all. Jason Fried, CEO of cloud-based software company Basecamp, belongs to this group, and he thinks it makes him better off.

"The reason I don't set goals is because they're mostly artificial and you either hit the goal and you're happy [or] you don't hit it and you're upset. And if you hit it, then you just set up another one," Fried said during an episode of IN PURSUIT, a podcast by Glassdoor. "It's kind of like, what's the point?"

Fried has a seemingly simple solution: Rather than concentrating on specific objectives, simply do the best you can, he suggests.

"You shouldn't need a goal to do the best you can, hopefully you're going to do the best you can anyway," he said.

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Fried uses running as an example. He used to be an avid jogger and had moments when he wanted to hit a set time metric, he said. But when he would barely miss his six-minute-mile target, he'd get upset. Looking back, Fried said he realized there's more to running than hitting goals.

"The right question is, Did I enjoy the run? Did I get some fresh air? Do I feel like I exercised?" Fried said. "Those are the questions to ask."

The same mentality can be used at work, too.

Fried co-founded Basecamp in 1999, and the company now has over 50 employees and an estimated revenue of $25 million, according to Forbes. Instead of concentrating solely on how many customers the company has recruited or which targets it needs to hit next, Fried is more focused on the process.

Instead of setting goals, here are five questions he suggests asking yourself when working on a project:

  • Would I want to do it again this way?
  • Was it creatively challenging?
  • Was it fun and did I like the people I worked with?
  • Did I learn something?
  • Did I like the decisions that were made along the way?

"It's more about the process and the outcome than it is about hitting targets," Fried told IN PURSUIT. "That's why I don't like setting goals."

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