Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

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The president of my second startup had a large poster with this Stephen R. Covey quote:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

I was young and stupid. I didn’t get this Main Thing business.  I mean, I REALLY didn’t get it.  I had just left a consulting company where we prided ourselves on our ability to keep 3 or 4 balls in the air at all times.  Aren’t we all supposed to multitask?  Isn’t that how you show your efficiency and effectiveness?  I thought my boss had extraordinarily pointy hair.

It’s been many moons since I saw this poster.  I have come around 180 degrees.  Stephen R. Covey and my boss definitely got it right.  Yes, we multitask. Yes, we have 10 balls in the air at all times.  But not all balls are created the same.  Some balls can be dropped without catastrophic consequences; others can’t. If we don’t identify and mark the one ball that really matters, we’ll take our eyes off to pay attention to something else.  One day we’ll drop this ball, and everything will unravel.

These days, if the main thing is not well defined, I push and push until it is well articulated and internalized by all stakeholders.   Then we can all focus on the same thing in our quest for success.

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