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SETTING OPERATING GOALS -or- DON'T BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW! The topic this month is goal-setting. With January just four months away, we should have already started to get our stations into trim for THE BIG ONE. One of the things we should decide early on is how much can we achieve with what we have. Africa is home to the largest land-animal ecosystem on earth. There are herbivores ranging in size from mice to elephants, and carnivores to keep their populations in check. Small cats like the African golden cat prey on small rodents, rabbits, etc. Medium size game, like gazelles and smaller antelope fall prey to medium size cats, like the leopard. Large animals, such as wilde- animals, such as wilde- beest, zebras and buffalo are the favorite prey of the largest African cat, the lion. Hunting in prides, they can even take out an occasional giraffe or young elephant. The small cats don't even try to take on large prey; they simply cannot do it. The large cats avoid hunting small prey, as the energy put into the hunt exceeds the energy obtained from the prey. As a result, everyone coexists peacefully in the same ecosystem with little competition for the other classes' food supply. But you ask, what does this have to do with VHF contest- ing? A complaint I often hear from 'small operation' contesters is that they are discouraged because they can't turn in a score that can compete with the 'big operations'. This has led some of these small stations to give up trying. This is very unfortunate. Instead, each station needs to ASSES THEIR PERFORMANCE BASED ON OTHER SIMILARLY-EQUIPPED STATIONS, as operator performance is usually the single biggest variable being measured in any sta- tion. We need as many stations as possible on the air in any con- test in order to make contesting work; regardless of the size of your operation, every QSO you make benefits both YOU and the STATION YO STATION YOU WORKED. This is how (and why) we do so well here in VHF contests. So, set your sights on competing with stations similar to yours. Talk to them, and set your goals based on how well they do. This will help prevent the discouragement that can occur if you try to measure up to some big-gun station. 'Golden cats' of the VHF contesting world: measure yourselves against the other 'golden cats'! The 'leopards' need to measure themselves against other 'leopards', and 'lions' against other 'lions'. Remember, it took years and years of work for the big-gun stations to get to where they are. (The time element is far more constraining than the money one!) Don't try to take on the bigger stations' 'game' until you find yourself equipped to do so. This should not be construed as a discouragement to station development. Instead, it should impel you to develop your station AT A PACE YOU CAN DEAL WITH. Try, for instance, adding just one band a year. Or improving just one antenna a year. You will generally find VHF contesting more fun (and challenging) if you 'grow slowly'. The one place where the 'great cats of Africa' analogy breaks down is this: A golden cat is always a golden cat. A leopard is always a leopard is always a leopard. A lion is always a lion. But, if you start out with an 'golden cat' station and proceed carefully, someday you will find you have a 'lion' station! And, you will have thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting there! Next month: 'pop-gun contesting'! REMEMBER! THE MOST IMPOR- TANT PART OF YOUR STATION IS YOU!