I came across a story the other day that I just had to share. James Clear tells the tale of Mike Flint, a friend of a friend of his, who was taught a valuable lesson by Warren Buffet, the renowned investor.
Mike Flint was Warren Buffett’s personal airplane pilot for 10 years. According to Flint, he was talking about his career priorities with Buffett when Buffet asked him to go through a 3-step exercise.
STEP 1: Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down.
STEP 2: Then, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Again, Flint took some time, made his way through the list, and eventually decided on his 5 most important goals.
STEP 3: At this point, Flint had two lists. The 5 items he had circled were List A and the 20 items he had not circled were List B.
Flint confirmed that he would start working on his top 5 goals right away. Buffett asked him what he was going to do about the second list.
Flint replied, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
Buffett replied, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
My ‘take away’ from this story is that in order to do what’s really important, we must ignore everything else, no matter how loudly it cries for our attention or pulls at our hemline. Those other things must wait – or they’ll dilute our energy and undermine our effectiveness.
Your single priority right now is to make that list of 25 goals for this week, month or year, and then to circle the top 5!