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Karin’s Leadership Articles

The Danger Of Knowing Exactly What You Want

by | Nov 4, 2013 | Authenticity & Transparency, By Karin Hurt |

Kerri knows exactly what she wants in her “some day” husband. He’s her intellectual peer, has common interests, and is hot – like her. She’s got big plans for her large hypothetical family.

She’s convinced Mr. Right is right around the corner. She only looks up when he matches the picture on her vision board. She doesn’t date much.

“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”
~ Dale Carnegie

It happens in careers too. Have a vision, mind-map your life, set goals, make plans, get up earlyhustle. Without direction, you’ll under-achieve. With over-direction you’ll destroy your potential.

The Danger of Knowing Exactly What You Want

Beware of the downsides of your know-it-all pursuit. Laser-like focus burns past peripheral opportunities. Strategically built networks exclude the “weirdos” you need.

“Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work.”
~ Seth Godin

Dogged pursuit of exactly what you want scares those who’ve got relevant guidance. Pushing too hard, pushes away possibilities:

  • In pursuit of promotion, you miss your calling
  • You make the deadline, but miss the mistake
  • You hustle past the guy you need to know
  • You love your suppliers, so stop hearing pitches
  • You’re too busy to take on the special project

Hustle With Possibility

Think big, set goals, make plans and then…

  • Pause for rest and reflection
  • Hang out with unusual suspects
  • Read on unrelated topics
  • Volunteer
  • Make lateral moves
  • Notice what brings you joy
  • Listen to your team

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Matt McWilliams

    Woah. This hit home.

    I noticed something very interesting a few years ago that has served me well. As an avid reader of business/marketing/etc. type books, I always read them through the lense of where I am at, not necessarily “how can I get the most out of this.”

    So when I go back and read them five years later, which is two companies later or a wife and a daughter later or “now that I have a blog” later, books read differently. The words are the same, but my lense has changed.

    Often, stepping back from the “now” allows us to see new information in a unique and often enlightening perspective.

    That’s why I especially love your first four:

    Pause for rest and reflection – Without this, there is not ability to move past “now”
    Hang out with unusual suspects – I’ve been doing this lately and it’s messing with me. I don’t like some of the hard topics and decisions it forces me to make, but I am better for it.
    Read on unrelated topics – I still read a lot that is focused on “now” but I also read a lot that is focused on “some day” and “because I enjoy it.”
    Volunteer – This definitely helps me because by default, if I am volunteering for an organization, I am not the. I am on someone else’s turf and working for the greater good, not necessarily my own agenda.

    • Karin

      Matt, Thanks for your great insights extending the conversation. I recently did a podcast interview for the Leadership Dojo. He asked what advice would I give myself from 10 years ago…. I would tell myself to chill a bit (still hustle, but remain open to what was happening around me)… there are all kinds of signs that can enhance your dream and expand your possibilities, but is so easy to miss them in the pursuit.

  2. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Karin-you wrote “Have a vision, mind-map your life, set goals, make plans, get up early, hustle. Without direction, you’ll under-achieve. With over-direction you may miss even more”. What a great writing! True, mind-mapping one’s life shall open many possibilities. Balancing direction is a great concept. What a great idea to ponder on!

    The more we know, the less we know for we realize when we add little knowledge how much more knowledge we need to know. This post is a proof of this mindset. Thanks, Karin for illuminating my mind.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, As always, thanks so much for expanding the conversation. Alas, it’s never “handled” 😉

  3. Joy Guthrie

    Favorite line: “The danger with knowing exactly what you want– you may be wrong.” Is that ever the truth! Fits right in with “be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it.” I’m all for creating a vision of success. I too tried to rigidly adhere to what that vision should look like. Then, found myself at 27 having achieved none of those things. 27 was a very disappointing year. There have been many more years since then. I am still an advocate of having a vision. I’m also a fan of being flexible. Thank you, Karin, for a great post.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Joy, I had such a year too. It’s awesome and scary at the same time. And then… game on.

  4. Shanel Martens

    Sometimes I find it helpful to simply ask for feedback from those that know me well….

    It is wisdom to open one self up to critique and input.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Shanel, I so agree. Those we love and trust are so important in helping us see more clearly.

  5. Bonnie Mann, CPA (@bonniemann)

    I would add look outside your current experience. I think that very often we get so comfortable with where we are and where we think we want to go that we stop looking at what is going on outside our own experience. This could be looking at other companies in your industry or looking at other careers that use the same skill sets.

    I recently interviewed a number of people new to my industry. The company I work for has four divisions. Two that are traditional and two that are not. Without exception every candidate had a resume that stated he/she was looking for a job in one of the traditional segments but when questioned why they wanted to work here, 100% mentioned the non-traditional divisions.

    We get stuck in what is but should always be tempted by what could be.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Bonnie, Beautiful add and what a fantastic example. Thanks for sharing your insights and experience.

  6. Steve Borek

    I approach my profession as a business, executive, and career coach as if I’m not quite qualified. This keeps me in curiosity mode all the time.

    My clients benefit from my mindset of wanting to know more.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, what a great way to approach just about everything. Perfect. We grow so much more as we are searching.

  7. Terri Klass

    Loved your post, Karin and especially connected with spending time with weirdos! I have a tendency to seek out people who are way too similar to me and that doesn’t always provide me with different vantage points.

    It is always healthy to see the world through the eyes of people different from oneself. It gives us new and fresh ideas. It sparks our creative sides. It’s just plain healthy to open our minds and eyes.

    Thanks for reminding me to not have such a strict path or journey!

  8. Polly~

    When expressing a desire or setting a goal, I always add “This or better!” Why settle for good…go for GREAT!


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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