Previously in Part 4 of Business for Geeks, I mentioned two key points in the idea generation process:
Establish your vision and Evaluation against your goals
Lots of people seem to have trouble coming up with what their goals are and I suspect this reason is due to one of two reasons: either a) they've recently finished their education and now that major goal is out of their lives or b) they've been working for a while and their paycheck has been their goal. I'm not going to go into what this says or doesn't say about a person, but I am going to go into finding your business goals.
“Making a lot of money” might work for some. Personally, some people may find this hugely motivating, but I agree with Joel that after a certain point, using money as motivation simply doesn't work. Once you have enough money to pay yourself comfortably, pay your people comfortably, and have enough for your toys, it's just not as important… and definitely not enough to drive a business indefinitely.
So what about “defeating your competition”? Some people are hugely motivated by this one. They strive to do beat the other guy, attempt to crush the competition, and line up their actions with this goal. Once again, I don't see this one as sustainable. Microsoft might be able to crush Netscape and CocaCola might be able to cut Pepsi out of restaurants, but it doesn't work when you're just starting off. I am of the firm belief that this mindset is problematic for two reasons. First, if you base your actions, strategy, etc purely on your competition, you're not listening to your customers. Second, if you're trying to “win at all costs”, you're putting yourself in a position where bad behavior may be rewarded. This is another thing that may work short term, but eventually you're going to do something dumb or illegal.
Alright, so finally what should you do?
Personally, I think your business goals have to be something more. They have to be something not only professional but personally driving. They need to be the thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night, the thing that drove you nuts about your old company, and the thing you can stop and look at at the end of the day and be proud about. If you can grab that, name it, and make it part of you… I think you have something.
I can't do it for you. Neither can Joel or Eric or Bill Gates or Eric Raymond. You have to look at yourself, your desires, and who you want to be… and figure it out yourself.