Drop Dead Date for Usama?

Beware of stating objectives publicly — people hold you to them.

I much prefer to keep expectations low and let performance speak for itself.

That's why I kind of have trouble believing this Time magazine story that says the president has set a deadline to get Usama, dead or alive — preferably dead — by September 11, the one-year anniversary of the attacks.

I'm very sure the president does want bin Laden dead and sooner rather than later. But I know he wouldn't put out a timetable or a deadline. You're just inviting criticism.

Let's say it doesn't happen. You look foolish at worst and impotent at best. It's like the dieter who publicly proclaims, "I'm gonna lose 20 pounds by Labor Day." And he doesn't.

Some dieters tell me announced goals are good, because they up the ante and the pressure. And compel you to lose the weight, just like you said.

But again, what if you don't?

I know another CEO who came into a tough job, never making promises about when things would turn around, other than to say, "We'll take it a step at a time."

It turns out he had very set goals when he wanted to turn things around. He just never announced them. But he got them and he wowed them. Now he's like some Svengali, who under-promised, but over-delivered.

Lesson learned, in business, like in health and in politics: It is better to carry a big stick and never mention it, than tell the world you have a big stick in the first place.

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