Goals Before Successes

This post originally appeared in Minnesota Business Magazine‘s July issue

Success comes in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to measuring it, one thing is certain: you have to define your goals before you can reach them. Brad Johnston is a proponent of setting goals and creating a comprehensive strategy to achieve them, which is what he does with his clients as founder of The Johnston Group. But strategy isn’t enough; one must be committed to their vision, so Brad frequently checks in and holds his clients accountable. For Brad, success is deeply personal and depends on what you value the most. He has experienced great success because early on, before he built his company, he identified what his desire was. In everything Brad does, he ensures it falls in line with his ultimate goals, and this alignment has proven very fruitful for him.

We spent some time with Brad learning about financial health, where he sees people going wrong and how he satisfied a meaning for himself.

Studio/E: How do you measure success?
I measure it personally, professionally and spiritually. A large part of personal success is being free to pursue the things that you want and love to do; being able to spend time with the people you love. A component of spiritual success is about understanding what the most important thing is to you. It’s a profound concept of love, and without it, I think people can be afraid. And financial success is having the freedom to do the things that are aligned with your highest intention.

Studio/E: Why did you start The Johnston Group?
Building my business and pursuing my vision satisfied a meaning for me and gave me the opportunity to be the best I can be. I realized there was a role that I could play that was much greater than the role I was playing. It gave me the opportunity to be the best me, which I think you have to have if you’re going to do anything on your own. You have to feel that your work is maximizing your skills and capabilities and allowing you to be the best you, otherwise you wouldn’t do it.

Studio/E: How can others satisfy meaning for themselves?
 You have to have the courage to be what you want to be, and that takes commitment and intentionality. Once you have the courage to act, you need to commit yourself to it to be successful. There are very few things that successful people do that they aren’t committed to. As you commit yourself, there’s an incremental increase in your capability. As you build that capability you reinforce your confidence. When your confidence is reinforced, it’s a little easier to take the next step.

Studio/E: What common financial mistakes do you see folks making?
 The primary mistake I see is a lack of ownership and alignment to what people value most highly. Financial wealth is a lot like healthcare. Think of nutrition like savings. You have to ask yourself, do I feed my balance sheet? Do I give it anything to work with? The most successful people I know have intentionality in everything they do. A lack of intentionality is another big mistake I see.

Studio/E: What does wealth mean to you?
 Wealth is the well-being of your economic life, judged not by only a number but by what you produce and the joy that it brings. The capability of producing abundance; building things that grow, flourish and provide more substance. Wealth means freedom — having the ability to pursue the highest and best outcomes that you can imagine for yourself.

Studio/E: What advice do you have for achieving financial success?
 1. Start with a vision for two or three things that you value highly. It could be foreign travel, a vacation home, your kids’ education … just a vision for your lifestyle. Once you identify your vision, really own it and be accountable to achieving it.
2. Leverage your human capital, or your strengths. Spend time in your core competency as opposed to trying to do things you’re not too good at. Work toward getting better at what you’re already good at.
3. Diversify your financial assets. Once you have financial assets, stay diversified and don’t bet it all on the next good idea that somebody puts in front of you.

Brad has achieved success personally, spiritually and financially because he clearly defined his desire and his lifestyle goals, and frequently checks in to recalibrate. Success isn’t a goal; it’s an outcome of reaching your goals, and in order to reach them, they must first be defined.


Name: Brad Johnston, CEO and Founder, The Johnston Group 
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Inception: 1994
Employees: 13
Description: A financial family office offering a personalized suite of investment, tax and planning services to high net worth individuals.
Brad’s Desire: To be a meaningful partner in building a dependable financial structure for clients to achieve what they want most and value highly.
Studio/E Competency: Desire — your purpose and why you live your life the way you do, both personally and professionally.

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