Set Your Best Before Date

Joanna Coles new book, Love Rules, is a handbook on finding love and meaningful personal relationships in a digital age.  Similar rules can be applied to business relationships and to building a successful and meaningful work life.  Over the next few weeks, Erin Gargan, Amazon best-selling author of “Digital Persuasion: Sell Smarter in the Modern Marketplace” and award-winning CEO of Socialite Agency, a social media firm, will be our guest blogger, connecting the dots and sharing her advice on building meaningful business relationships in the digital age.

In her new book, “Love Rules”, Joanna Coles recommends setting your own “best before date.” Her creative analogy of a food expiration date illustrates the importance of identifying target deadlines for when you would like to accomplish personal milestones, like marriage and/or children, before it’s excessively challenging or even too late.

Setting a “best before date” is just as important in business, with the caveat that—like most things in life—it’s important to strike a healthy balance. You may have a few “timeline” friends like I do where the expiration date planning was to such an extreme that it backfired and ended up actually hindering happiness.

Take my girlfriend Mara—she was so obsessed with making partner at her law firm before 35 that she forgot to make time to fall in love. Now, while Mara is partner (yay!), she’s also dealing with a much smaller dating pool comprised mainly of Peter Pan players and daddy divorcees.

Or, maybe you have a “YOLO friend” like my other girlfriend, Kerry—a beautiful free spirit who’s living for the moment. She didn’t think about trying to get pregnant until she was 40 and had to go through an expensive, painful and emotionally traumatic fertility journey that was heart-wrenching to watch. (She now has a gorgeous daughter whom she adores, but will also be the first one to admit that, if children are a priority for you, try and get on it as soon as you can)

Social, digital and mobile technologies have changed the way we communicate and do business more in the last five years than the last fifty! Social media has transformed an everyday bystander into a breaking news media beacon by just one tweet. A young creative performing can become an international Instagram influencer from their bedroom. YouTube can teach someone how to code a program or an app coveted by the world’s biggest enterprises. The sheer SPEED of accomplishments and possibilities has blown up the legacy concept of traditional timelines.

30 used to be fairly young in the business world. Now, depending on where you are and which industry you are in, 30 can actually be considered old! In my third and most profitable (third times’ a charm) business at age 36, I’m so grateful that I started my entrepreneurial journey at 25. (I only wish I would have skipped college, where I’d wasted a ton of time partying, and started in the “real world” at 18!) Setting “best before date” goals can be a healthy way to hold yourself accountable and drive your career forward.

To set your own “best before date” in business, start by asking yourself these three questions:

1) What are my non-negotiable goals?

What are the business goals that you obsess over, thinking to yourself, “I will (fill in the blank here.)?” For me, it was writing a book to helps sales and marketing professionals better navigate the digital communications landscape.

When I first held Digital Persuasion in my hands and saw my name printed on the front cover, all the blood, sweat and tears from those two years writing it became so worth it! Every time I read a positive review or a thank you message on social media, that feeling of having helped others and impacted change is incomparable! It fires me up to continue delivering on my personal mission statement of “Have Fun. Help People. Make Money.”

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of owning your own business? Or, if you’re in the corporate game, perhaps you have a salary or responsibility target you won’t stop until to hit? Do you want to earn the right to more flexibility with work-from-home status? Or, you could be contemplating starting a lucrative side-hustle?

Once you have decided your non-negotiable goals, the next question to be answered is:

2) When (realistically) could I accomplish these goals for maximum success? 

There’s a careful balance you need to strike here—while you want your timeline to be realistic, (like Joanna’s weight loss comparisons, they likely won’t happen tomorrow) you also don’t want to wait until you are completely “ready”.

The idea of “ready” is a mirage that some people chase forever. They dream about it, prepare for it, but then find themselves in “analysis paralysis” mode and never actually just DO the dang thing! You can prepare, research, strategize, brainstorm, and create a concept but, at some point, you just have to jump out of the plane, praying that when you pull that ripcord a parachute pops out to help you glide down safely.

Ask yourself, “If not NOW, when?” Identify the prime time to take the first steps towards fulfilling your business goals—it could be as minimal as scheduling “Research Time” on your calendar with a reminder alert.

3) Who can help me get there?

Actualizing your “best before date” goals can be a lonely and challenging mission to execute solo—who can you recruit to help you get there? Write down the names of your existing and potential mentors and champions. Is there anyone else that might be able to benefit from the success of your mission? Is there someone in your world who is working towards a similar “expiration date” goal whom you can connect with to foster encouragement accountability and momentum? Should the urgency of your mission begin to fade or feel overwhelming, having someone to turn to as a colleague or cheerleader can make the difference between talking about it and doing it.

Oftentimes, there are two kinds of people in life: those that talk about what they want “someday” and those that go forth and actually accomplish it. Which person do you want to be? Cultivating some personal urgency with a “best before date” for your business goals can be a healthy and effective way to ensure that you are living your best life with no regrets and never having to wonder, “What if?”

Have you set business goals for yourself that you are determined to accomplish by a certain time or phase in your life?


Erin Gargan is an award-winning entrepreneur, Amazon best-selling author, and digital persuasion expert. She sold her first two companies, Jump Digital Media and before the age of 30. In  2010, she founded Socialite Agency, a social media firm whose clients include The Oscars, ABC/Disney, VISA, Target, Siemens, Hitachi and others. She is the author of Digital Persuasion: Sell Smarter in the Modern Marketplace. Erin helps sales, marketing and event professionals attract attention and increase influence by becoming more effective digital communicators.




Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines; Board of Directors, Snap Inc.; Editor-in-Chief, Cosmopolitan (2012–2016), is now an Exclusive WSB Speaker. Click here to learn more.




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