Why setting a ‘ridiculous’ business goal can make all the difference

Sublime Science survived Dragons, theft and customer bankruptcy to inspire a million kids. Its founder says the goal at the heart of it got him through

Close to a decade ago I set myself the goal of ‘making science awesome for one million kids’. Honestly, I have no idea why, really.

One million children was a ridiculous number, but I wanted to make a real difference and, if I was going to fail, then I figured I may as well fail big.

Achieving my ‘ridiculous’ goal against the odds

Early on, I told a few people about this ‘ridiculous’ goal and was met with lots of scepticism and in some cases laughter, which kind of made sense.

At the time, I’d just founded Sublime Science with a £1,750 Prince’s Trust loan out of my parents’ spare room. It was 2008 and the biggest recession in a generation was doing its thing.

Every time I glanced at a TV or skimmed a newspaper I saw horror stories about the fact that the world was coming to an end and we were all doomed. To make matters worse, I was 22-years-old, had no business experience, and (to be honest) no real clue what I was doing.

All I had was my ‘ridiculous’ goal to make science awesome for one million kids and a burning desire to make it happen.

Slowly, but surely, we started to entertain and educate children at local birthday parties and eventually started working with a handful of schools. Word of mouth began to spread.

A year later, I hired a couple of people to help out. Then we got an office, the Sublime Science Lab, and hired some more awesome people to help out. Long story short, just under a decade later we’ve now made science awesome for one million kids.

In an article like this, it’s easy to give a highlight reel of accomplishment, like going on Dragons’ Den, winning a Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and inspiring one million kids without mentioning just how tough that process is.

Obviously, my personal story is just one example but there’s been some research into how a business’ ‘why’ – the reason it exists – can make such a big difference.

If you’ve read this far then chances are you’re passionate about making a difference. That’s awesome news. The bad (but honest) news is that along the way you’re virtually certain to run into some pretty daunting looking obstacles.

That’s where your big goal comes into its own.

No, it won’t make the obstacles any smaller or easier to figure out. However, it will give you an extra reason to keep pushing and that could be the difference between succeeding and failing. I’ll show you what I mean with a number of examples…

The obstacles I faced in hitting my big goal for my business

When a customer goes bankrupt

You’ve done all the work, but the client has gone under so you won’t be getting paid. All you can really do when this happens is learn from it and try and focus on the positives.

In my case, we may have lost the money, but at least we managed to inspire a few thousand more kids.

When you get a hefty tax bill you didn’t know was coming

Again, learning from the experience, but things will go wrong sometimes and keeping your eye on your big goal can help to pull you through.

When people steal your stuff

Getting robbed is one of those things that’s always painful and it’s hugely frustrating when you work so hard to make a difference. On the practical side, you can look at systems and try and reduce the risk of this happening again, but then there’s the emotional side.

When things are unfair (and suck!) it can be easy to get worked up, but I try (and often fail) to put my focus back to the ‘why’ of what we are doing. That takes something away from the annoyance of the situation and puts focus and energy back where it belongs – on making the impact you want to make.

Having a big goal is definitely not some kind of panacea, but I honestly believe a ridiculously big goal can help pull you through. Why not test it out and let me know how you get on?

This article was written by Sublime Science founder and Young Gun 2017 Marc Wileman.