Setting and Achieving Goals: Career Advice from Kendall Justiniano

STRIVE’s Online Mentor Q&A Program aims to provide students and career-oriented young people with opportunities to learn from real-world, active professionals about everything from crafting a purpose to setting and pursuing goals, to the myriad life lessons they’ve picked up in pursuit of their dreams. Here, TU Writer, Julian Hook, reports on the latest session with businessman Kendall Justiniano.

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At STRIVE’s first Mentor Q&A of the new year, students were surprised to find out that Kendall Justiniano does not, as a rule, make New Year’s resolutions. An accomplished chemical engineer, businessman, and longtime Ayn Rand enthusiast, Justiniano is currently a business director for PolyOne Designed Structures and Solutions LLC. With his track-record of success, making and fulfilling resolutions is something he obviously has had a lot of experience with.

However, he explained that picking just one particular time out of a year to set goals has never made much sense to him. “I like the idea and I like the spirit of making resolutions because it’s an aspect of evaluating where you’re at and trying to paint a picture of where you want to be… But I just find that I’m doing that a lot more often than once a year.”

He also observed the widespread expectation that a New Years resolution will go by the wayside by February. “Frankly, I feel that goal pursuit is a lot more important than that. I don’t want to trivialize it.”

As it turned out, goal setting and value-pursuit were two major themes of the Q&A session.

When asked if there were any primary guiding principles that have been most important to him and his success, he outlined a framework (indirectly inspired by Leonard Peikoff’s course “The Art of Thinking”) that he finds particularly useful. Simply put, the framework involves breaking value-pursuit down into four activities: defining one’s values, discovering the means of attaining them, doing the work and, finally, reflecting on and assessing the course one is on.

For instance, the first activity involves asking such questions as “What are the things that are most important to me; what are the things I want to pursue?” The second activity follows from the first. It involves asking “if there’s a particular career I want to pursue, what do I have to do to get to it?” The third one involves the actual practice of pursuing one’s values, “whether through education, training, or being out in the workplace.” As for the fourth activity, it involves “spending time to figure out if what I’m doing matches with my values.”

“It’s really a kind of mindfulness framework if you will. Normally, in the course of a day, I do all four of those things.”

Related to the second stage in this framework, Justiniano shared a practical tip for discovering what’s necessary to achieve success in one’s chosen field. If you find someone who has already achieved success in the career you are pursuing, he recommended taking the time to solicit a 30-45-minute interview with them. “I have never found a ‘no’ behind that.”

He also recommended asking for the names of two or three other people in the field to follow up with. “You can very quickly come to a much deeper level of understanding [of your chosen career] simply through that process.”

In response to a student’s question about re-evaluating goals, Justiniano also touched upon the problem of how to know when it is time to quit.

He emphasized that passion is often a more important factor than talent. “Feeling a sense of reward is absolutely critical in maintaining your motivation.” On the other hand, if you feel that the issue is your level of talent, you might want to try sticking with it. “In general, if someone is able to paint a good path, and they are diligent, and they continue to find reward from it, I find that most people can be successful.”

Of course, success doesn’t come without experiencing failure along the way. But Justiniano stressed that failure is simply “a part of what’s going on every day,” and that it stops being the disaster most people want to make it when you start to become more reflective about your life. “When you realize there’s nothing wrong with failure and that it’s a big part of learning, you suddenly get a positive outlook over a lot of things in life where before you might have gotten down on yourself.”

Towards the end of the Q&A, Justiniano reaffirmed how immensely valuable Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism has been to him. As someone who works in heavy industry—largely fossil fuel based—he remarked that his job is assaulted from all sides of the culture. Rand’s philosophy provided him with a valuable moral sanction on this front.

“Just to know that what I did was right and good and valuable and that I love it for the right reasons was incredibly empowering.”

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