Fighting ‘Zombie Brain’: A Self-Storage Professional’s Guide to Goal-Setting and Pursuit

The term “goal” is thrown around so frequently that it’s lost a lot of its power. When they think of setting and reaching goals, a lot of self-storage professionals go numb. The following will help you approach your professional and personal objectives in a fresh way that sets the stage for learning and success.

Rick Beal

September 10, 2018

5 Min Read
Fighting ‘Zombie Brain’: A Self-Storage Professional’s Guide to Goal-Setting and Pursuit

When I think of goals, I envision myself sitting in a business meeting. My eyes are glazed over, and my notepad is so full of doodles that any actual notes are no longer discernible. Someone reads yet another quote by Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky, and my mind goes numb. The presenter wants to talk about next quarter’s “goals.” Now, my zombie mind wants to eat his brain, and I think, “That would be a good goal.”

Stop! Wake up, zombie brain! A goal should be a challenge, not a demotivator!

The term “goal” is thrown around so frequently that it’s lost a lot of its power. Well, buckle up, buttercup … No matter what your role is in the self-storage industry, you’re about to learn how to approach your professional and personal goals in a fresh way that sets the stage for learning and success.

Meaningful Moments

Every two weeks, I have a phone call with an amazing young man I’m “mentoring.” (I use that term loosely because I often learn more than I teach.) Our most recent conversation revolved around planning and living an “intentional” life. I explained to him that when I was his age (early twenties), older people would try to tell me how quickly life would pass. I would just laugh and think, “Whatever, I have plenty of time.” Now, as a student of the University of Irony, I’m one of those people!

As time goes by and we look back—sometimes with regret and empty bank accounts—we wonder how we ended up here. Our lives are built on habits of comfort. We run on autopilot and allow life to take its course. This is unacceptable! We need to live an intentional life. This is done by leaving your comfort zone, knowing what you want and going after it. That’s a true goal!

When you set meaningful goals in your personal and professional life, you choose to be responsible for their success or failure. If you succeed, you gain confidence and positive experiences. Your self-assurance grows, and you know you’re able to bring value to your company or other areas of your life.

On the flip side, failure may cause you to avoid setting goals in the future. Just remember that few people reach a target without meeting challenges along the way. When pursing a meaningful goal, failure is OK and can even be a good thing. First, you tried; you acted. Second, it’s an opportunity to learn.

The Rule of Three

Every meaningful goal should be governed by “the rule of three.” You need to clearly understand each of the following elements:

  • What: Clearly define what you want to accomplish. Do you want a promotion? Do you want to learn a certain skill? Do you want to earn an accolade? Be specific.

  • Why: Why do you want to achieve this goal? What’s your motivation? This is what’s going to keep you driven and disciplined during the hard times.

  • How: How are you going to achieve the desired result? Typically, this is where goals break down. We can almost always see what we want to accomplish and why, but the hustle and bustle of life rolls on and it’s easy to get caught in a rut. Once you’re stuck, you’re likely not doing the things necessary to reach your goal.

Goal Levels

In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Steven R. Covey said it best: “Begin with the end in mind.” First, set your long-range aim. This is your clear, primary goal. Then, reverse engineer it.

  • Looking at the big picture, identify the few key steps it’s going to take to achieve your desired result. These are your benchmarks. They serve as “checkups” so you can monitor your progress and adjust when necessary.

  • Within each benchmark, you’ll set several short-term goals. Because these are comprised of quicker, simpler tasks, these allow for easy course correction to avoid pitfalls.

  • Finally, within your short-term goals are specific tasks that can be handled with ease. The key is to ensure these responsibilities are met consistently.

Let’s look at an example. You’ve opened a new self-storage facility and want to do everything you can to ensure a successful lease-up. Your goal is to reach 25 percent occupancy by the end of the year. Here’s how your benchmarks and short-term goals might look:

  • Successfully launch a facility website.

    • Look at websites of other successful self-storage operations.

    • Interview three Web-development companies that have industry experience.

    • Speak to other self-storage operators who have used your candidates.

  • Build relationships with apartment operators in the area.

    • Visit five local apartment complexes.

    • Meet with the complex managers.

    • Give them some of your facility fliers, swag, referral cards, etc.

  • Improve your industry sales skills.

    • Record and evaluate five customer calls per week.

    • Read two sales-related articles each week.

    • Attend a self-storage conference where seminars on sales skills are being presented.

Beneath each short-term goal would be specific daily or weekly responsibilities to complete that task.

If you choose to run your business or personal life without meaningful goals, you’re losing valuable opportunities and banking on luck. You might as well start a retirement program by playing the lottery. If you follow the above approach, you’ll create goals that are true and achievable, not just an abstract concept thrown around in meetings. You can wake up your zombie brain and live an intentional life. Give it a try.

Rick Beal is the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage in Salt Lake City. His goal is to help a historically slow-changing industry embrace new, innovative ideas. His professional motto is “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” He can be reached at [email protected]. Connect with him on LinkedIn at

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