In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth tells a fascinating story about Warren Buffett’s challenge to a pilot. Warren Buffett asked his pilot if he had dreams and goals other than being a pilot. When the pilot confessed that he did, Buffett gave him three steps to achieving his goals. Here are Warren Buffett’s three steps to achieving goals:
- Write down 25 career goals.
- Soul-search and select your top five.
- Avoid the other 20 at all cost. These will be what distract and steal energy away from the most important.
It is often good things that steal energy from the most important things. We are often able to recognize the distraction of bad goals, but distractions often masquerade as good goals. While they may be good, they are not the most important. For this reason, wise leaders avoid lesser goals by focusing on the most important ones. Wise leaders steward their energy, attention, and resources against a few really important goals. Fewer goals are better for at least three reasons:
1. Time is limited.
Simply dividing your time by the number of goals reveals that more goals means less time deployed against each. Leaders can steward time better, but they cannot add more time to the day.
2. Money is limited.
My good friend Kevin Peck says “It is important to have a strategy because you will run out of money before you run out of ideas.” There will always be something to finance. Having a strategy and goals aligned to that strategy help ensure the most important is resourced.
3. Attention is limited.
Leaders know that some of their best thinking, some of their most creative work, happens in unexpected moments, after hours, and in the regular rhythm of life. When you are thinking about fewer goals, your best ideas get leveraged in the same direction.