Goals and Deadlines | Brad Montgomery

Goals and Deadlines

by Doug Stevenson 2003

This is the GOALS AND DEADLINES issue


“…the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”
W.H. Murray




Deborah and I had some friends over for dinner recently, and after dinner we all went for a walk. We walked a two-mile loop in Palmer Park, a huge nature preserve and city park that has playgrounds, baseball diamonds and biking and hiking trails. As we were walking on the mountain trails, the conversation turned to running. That’s when Nettie said she was training for a local marathon, which takes place on Labor Day weekend.

Over the years I’ve coached at least ten or fifteen people who have run marathons. Many of them have incredible stories to tell. Sam Silverstein from St. Louis tells a hilarious story about the New York City marathon; and Stacy James from Columbus, Ohio tells about her doing a marathon in a wheelchair. Jeanne Robertson ran one a couple of years ago, too. It seems like the thing to do if you want to endure excruciating pain and then develop a story out of it!

I mentioned to Nettie that I also run (a little bit) and she suggested that I run the marathon with her in September. A marathon? 26.2 miles? “Not me,” I told her. “I’ve been listening to marathon stories for the past six years and they all have one common theme – self abuse.”

She told me about her running club and how, if you strategically train for five months, it’s not so bad. She told me I could do it. At that moment, I didn’t believe her.

You know how some goals seem out of reach? They’re for someone else, but not for you? Speaking to an audience of 10,000 people? Self-publishing a book or two? Running a marathon? The next morning I joined her running group, talked to her running coach and was given a five month workout schedule.

Prior to this commitment, I was running on a sporadic schedule, whenever I felt like it, which wasn’t often. I was struggling to run two miles without stopping. Now I run five days a week with specific goals for each workout. Last Saturday I ran for 60 minutes and covered over four miles, the longest time and distance I had ever run. And that was just the end of the first week!

The minute I made a commitment to a goal with a deadline – something shifted inside of me. The clock was ticking and it made me focus. It wasn’t the goal alone that did it, it was the goal with a deadline.

What goal have you set out to accomplish, that is still just a goal? It’s on the shelf or in a drawer or in your sub-sub-conscious waiting for the time to be right. It’s a goal without a deadline. Pull it out, dust it off and give it a deadline. Once you have a deadline, all sorts of things will start to happen that would not have happened otherwise.

On September 1st, I am going to line up with a whole bunch of other insane lunatics who have a need to inflict pain upon themselves, in the name of accomplishment. They will pin a number on me and tell me to go to the back of the line with all of the other Tortoise runners. My goal will be to finish the race on my own two feet, in under seven hours. But I’ll be there.

Big goals require incremental sacrifice. They require daily attention. And in my opinion, they are accomplished because of deadlines.

Do you want to write a book? Set a deadline. Do you want to go to Spain? Set a deadline. Do you want to lose ten pounds? Set a deadline. Do you want to get paid $10,000 for a speech? Set a deadline. Do you want to run a marathon? Set a deadline.

You’ve got to have a goal. But a goal without a deadline is like a story without a point. What’s the point?

Choose your next goal and set a deadline today.




Comedy is structure combined with delivery. The structure of comedy is predicated on the element of surprise. When you put words, phrases or concepts together that shouldn’t go together, that’s comedy.

Here is an exercise to find illogical combinations: Get a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle of the page. On the left side of the page make a list of things that you use in your office: computers, printers, desks, filing cabinets, etc. On the right side, make a list of things you use in your kitchen: oven, refrigerator, pots and pans, Oregano, blender, etc.

By combining two things from the left side and one thing from the right side, you can create a Triple. In making these combinations, play with rhythm and alliteration (repetition of the same sound at the beginning of the words.)

Pens, pencils and Parmesan cheese.

Staples, scissors and spaghetti sauce.

By letting your brain make illogical combinations from these two disparate lists, you create surprise. Try finding words that could be on both lists, with a different meaning relative to each list:

I opened up my email and there was Spam all over the place.

I guess my six year old had been eating it the last time he

was playing computer games, and he dropped crumbs all over

my keyboard! You know, Spam, the food!

My shredder died and I really didn’t want to make a run to

the store, so I just took the bills that I wanted to shred

and stuck them in the Cuisinart. I guess I could have used

the blender, but I prefer the consistency of Cuisinart

shredding, don’t you?

The next time you need to find some humor for your story or speech, make two lists and then mix and match. Try putting transportation vehicles on one side and fruits and vegetables on the other. It really doesn’t matter what the two lists are as long as they create strange bedfellows, illogical combinations and puzzling patterns that confuse and subterfuge logic.


Copyright 2005 by Doug Stevenson. Reprinted with permission. Doug Stevenson is the creator of the Story Theater Method. He is an author, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. Reach Doug at www.storytheater.net or 800.573.6196

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