Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The story is told of a new bank president who met with his predecessor and said, “I would like to know what have been the keys to your success.” The older gentleman looked at him and replied, “Young man, I can sum it up in two words: Good decisions.” To that the young man responded, “I thank you immensely for that advice, sir, but how does one come to know which are the good decisions?” “One word, young man,” replied the sage. “Experience.” “That’s all well and good,” said the younger, “but how does one get experience?” “Two words,” said the elder. “Bad decisions.”
Years ago, like many I suppose, I was programmed to equate success in terms of what I was able to cross off of my “to-do” list at any given time. As each item that was transcribed onto the list was successfully completed it somehow gave me a sense of accomplishment. But the euphoric feeling didn’t last long as a new list soon replaced it and the process started all over again.
As time went by I began to see and understand the frustration associated with this hamster wheel approach of measuring success. I was running myself ragged checking off “to-do’s” which ultimately culminated with an empty feeling on the inside and little to show for it outside. Can you relate?
Allow me to introduce you to a few ideas from the book The One Thing, by Gary Keller (Order on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2c6nqje) that I believe will empower you as a leader. Keller devotes a powerful chapter to the myth that everything matters equally. Here are three key thoughts worth consideration.
You need a success list not a to-do list
The key thought here is that your to-do list tends to be long whereas your success list tends to be short. “If your to-do list contains everything,” says Keller, “then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.” Focus more on what you should do and less on what you could do. Keller adds, “Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list- a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.” Your success begins with the way you frame it and define it. Success is not measured by checking off the to-do list, it is measured by what you check off of your success list.
Not everything is equal
Being busy does not necessarily translate into being successful. We succumb to the tyranny of the urgent and we end up chasing rabbits all over the place. In the end, the rabbit wins and you are worn out, frustrated, and empty-handed. Keller observes, “When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.” When you remember that not everything is equal many things can come off your to-do list.
Work from your priorities
Successful people have a clear set of priorities. They think and act different. They have an “eye for the essential.” The crux of the matter, as Keller points out is that “the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do. Extraordinary results are disproportionally created by fewer actions than most realize.” Success comes not from a long to-do list you check off one by one, it come from focusing your time, energy, and creativity around a short list that you have prioritized (Pareto’s 80/20 principle). Success is not doing many things half-heartedly, it is achieved by making the list smaller and smaller and pouring yourself into it.
Making the transition from busy to productive to successful comes about as you make your list smaller not larger. It comes from clear priorities and understanding that not everything is equal. Do yourself a favor as a leader and get off the hamster wheel of being busy and start being successful. It will make all the difference in the world.
What’s on your success list?
© 2016 Doug Dickerson