“If you do an extraordinary job at three or four things that matter most, not only will you succeed, you will likely succeed far beyond your expectations.”
Be The Best At What Matters Most, page 9
You’re spread too thin.
Does that resonate? Sound familiar? It probably does because it’s true. With so much possibility and options and methods and ideas available to you, it’s hard not to want to try them all. There are a lot of smart people out there and they’re all thinking of good stuff, and that includes you. So how are you ever going to do it all?
You’re not. Sorry.
I had to come to that conclusion, too, especially after reading Joe Calloway’s book, Be The Best At What Matters Most. But after the separation anxiety of releasing my attachment to so many things, what he did help me realize is that by focusing on just a few key concepts, I actually will be able to have what I want, at a higher or deeper level, I just won’t be chasing it in so many ways.
Be The Best At What Matters Most is a book about how to do just what the title says. And what matters most is entirely up to you.
Decide what matters most
“The main thing is to make sure the main thing is the main thing.”
Be The Best At What Matters Most, page 33
Even though Joe recognized that quote as being said by countless business consultants, the fact still remains that not everyone follows that advice.
It seems simple enough, and quite obvious. Presumably, that’s why the developing of detailed vision and mission statements a few years back was so popular. But creating a statement isn’t the same as having the fundamental concepts drive every decision in your business. (Although I realize that was the idea.)
It’s the age old difference between planning and execution. Sure, it’s good to have a plan, but what actually happens is what determines results. And if your mission statement is so full of corporate speak that it doesn’t resonate or mean anything to anyone, then what good is it?
Joe says that your purpose or mission statement can be one small phrase, or a list of bullet points, or one word. It doesn’t matter, as long as it translates to actually being the most important thing that drives the direction of your company.
He gives lots of examples. Smile Brands Group, Inc. provides administrative services to dental groups, and their statement is, “Deliver smiles to everyone.” For Zappos the focus is customer service. Joe’s favorite is an advertising company that listed their most important things as:
Do great work.
Don’t work with people you can’t stand.
Every company is different. The main message is that you have to figure it out yourself and don’t listen to anyone else on what your most important thing should be. “It’s just supposed to be effective,” says Calloway. “My hope is that, if nothing else, this book will give you permission to let go of any ‘rules’ that you think you have to follow even if you know they aren’t a good fit for you… You are the expert. Do it your way.”
Improve Constantly and Forever
“The one thing that I would imagine that every reader of this book has in common is that all of us believe we can do better.”
Be The Best At What Matters Most, page 53
Being the best is a moving target. If you stop being relevant, then you’ll have been the best yesterday, but today you’ll be out of business.
Calloway feels that it goes without saying that we all have to change, innovate, and improve, so he doesn’t spend a lot of time on it, but I felt it was key to his message because it means that what you pick as being what matters most should be a higher level principle that doesn’t change with fads or trends.
You can always improve being the best at customer service, whether you sell shoes or handbags. Doing quality work doesn’t matter what kind of work you do.
Of course you can always change your mind. Maybe what matters most for you today won’t matter as much 20 years from now, but it’ll serve you today to figure it out what it is and focus your actions toward that purpose.
In order to be competitive, we must be better tomorrow than we were today. “The need to improve and innovate is a theme woven through the very core of being the best at what matters the most,” says Calloway. But you must improve where it’ll make the most difference. That’s why you need to pick just three or four things that matter most.
I suppose that’s why I’m always curious, reading and learning new things, because I want to improve, and I believe change is possible. Still, it’s not easy.
Simplify to Create a Force Multiplier
“If you can make things simple, you can move mountains.”
Be the Best At What Matters Most, page 95
Calloway agrees profusely with Steve Jobs’ philosophy that if you can get your thinking clean enough to make things simple, it’ll be worth the effort.
He says that what you need is a ‘force multiplier.’ Since you don’t have all the time in the world, or unlimited money, you need to leverage your resources. A force multiplier is a military term that describes the effect produced by a capability added to a combat force. You can multiply the probability of a successful mission by adding this capability. Colin Powell said “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
Calloway says that simplicity and focus are your force multipliers.
It’s easy to come up with 20 priorities. The hard part is narrowing it down to three. But if we do the hard work to simplify, it’ll pay off in better outcomes. I can leverage everything I do by asking, “Is this helping me accomplish the things that matter most?”
It’s all about decisions. Deciding what to do. And as Chris Guillebeau once said, “The most important thing is deciding what to do next.”
So what are you going to do? What matters most to you? Can you be the best?