How Ink+Volt taught me to fail

Like a lot of people, I’m really good at setting goals. I’m not as good at achieving them. If you listen anyone from your seventh grade gym teacher to CEOs on the TED stage you’ll understand that this is not a good thing. A full 80% (I made that number up, if it’s not 80% it sure feels like it) of the self-help industry will tell you that you have to set goals to achieve anything in life. Once you’ve set the goal you’ll work a plan and you’ll achieve it, ultimately becoming a better person. If you’re not setting goals and, more importantly, achieving those goals you’re not becoming a better person. If you’re not becoming a better person ALL THE TIME, well then, how good of a person are you?

With that dispiriting thought in mind I asked for an Ink+Volt planner for Christmas thinking that just maybe I’d get my act together and achieve something in 2018. My mother-in-law was happy to send both the planner and the mechanical pencils that I had meticulously researched and asked for. Apparently she was keen on me achieving something in life as well.

As it says on their website, “the Ink+Volt Planner is the brainchild of Kate Matsudaira, a technology executive and startup founder, who has been on the quest to create the perfect planning tool with sophistication and style in mind.” I figured the “perfect planning tool” would be just the thing I needed to actually make some great happen.

Perfect or not, I thought one of two things would happen… I would work it out for a few weeks, maybe a few months, and then get busy with something else. This beautiful book would make it’s way to my bookshelf and sit there and wait for me to find it ten years later where I would look at the pages and wonder why I thought that those particular things were important. I’d read it with a wry smile and think to myself how I should have kept going on this or I’m glad that I didn’t do that. Then I’d put it back on the shelf. Kind of like the 80% of people who give up on their new year resolutions. Or… I’d find inspiration in the pages of what is a beautiful planner and manage to tick a few boxes, process some great ideas, and finish some things that I’ve wanting to finish for a while. What I didn’t consider was what has actually happened.

For those of you that don’t know, the Ink+Volt planner has been designed to help you achieve your goals by leading you to them through a mix of consideration, small goals, and commitment. It’s beautifully built, well thought out, and very easy to use. I’m still using it on a daily basis to plan my days, weeks, months, and the year. I dutifully fill out the goals for the month. I give a lot of thought to the 31-day challenge and sign my name to show myself that “I fully intend to commit myself to this for the next 31 days.” I follow through and do the short essay, inspired by what is almost always an interesting question, quote, or statement. Then I go on to set my weekly goals. Every day I get up and do my own version of something I picked up from Tim Ferriss, take a look at the goals that I have set and feel read for the day.

Here’s the thing… I don’t achieve many of those goals.


This really bugged me for a while. I got particularly fed up with it in March and you can tell because I quit for a little while. There are blank pages in the book and I remember thinking that it might be better to live my life without goals. Maybe just making sure I was following a schedule or a system would be better. That maybe living by my values rather than a set of arbitrary goals might be a better way to live. And finally, maybe it was better to just live and stop worrying about it so much. Maybe it would, in fact, be better to do nothing at all.

What I’ve learned is that, at least for me, goal setting is like baseball. If I’m batting close to .300 I’m doing really well. I’m at about .270 for monthly goals, a bit lower on weekly goals and don’t even get me started on those 30-day challenges that I “fully intend to commit” to. When I look back at the things that don’t get an X in the box, I see things that I still want to achieve. I see things that are still important accomplishments. I see things that I wonder why I ever wanted to do in the first place. And I see things that have motivated me to improve even if I didn’t check them off the list in that particular timeframe.

What the Ink+Volt planner has done for me is give me a tool that I enjoy using enough to create a routine around. Now that I’ve followed the routine it’s given me the framework to analyze my goal data. What I’ve learned from that data is that it’s OK to fail. That even though I don’t check all of the perfectly lined up boxes, I’m still moving forward. I’m still providing for my family. I’m progressing in my career. I’m exploring new opportunities. I’m learning what is important by putting it all in the open on a regular basis. The fact that I’m not checking every box proves that I’m trying, that I’m stepping into the box and taking my swings. I’ll keep trying and in time I’m sure to hit a few into the field and maybe even hit a home run or two.


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