Everyone knows that Warren Buffet is one of the wealthiest people in the world. Many are surprised to learn that he lives in Omaha in a house that he purchased in the 1960s. In an interview many years ago, he was asked why he did not live near Wall Street. “There are too many distractions. I would be overstimulated.”
In my executive coaching practice, I help clients Think Bigger and Reach Higher. That usually involves helping them prioritize their goals. This article is the fourth in a series of five that detail how we can set disruptive goals for 2019.
If you are like me, you love reading biographies because they help us understand great leaders and how they accomplished their significant success. The following is a story Alice Schroeder explains in Buffet’s biography, “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.”
The Buffet Method of Setting Priorities
Distractions sap the strength of many great projects and foil the success of many organizations. Warren Buffet wisely focused on his top priorities and was not about to let enticing new opportunities disturb his trajectory in business. The same is true for his personal life. He limits his outside interests to art, literature, science, and travel. While there are many other things that could command his interest, he specifically limits his focus to his top priorities. One particular story best illustrates this principle. We might imagine it playing out something like this.
Buffett had a personal pilot that had been with him for ten years. Mike Flint was very accomplished, having served four U.S. presidents. But in a conversation, he revealed that there was more than he wanted to do. Buffett, in his jovial style, noted, “The fact that you’re still working for me tells me I’m not doing my job. You should be outgoing after more of your goals and dreams.”
“How would I do that?”
“Follow these three steps.”
“First, write down your top 25 goals.”
“Yes. I know a bright guy like you has at least 25 things he would like to accomplish yet in his life.”
Flint sat down and started writing. Soon he had come to #25.
“Now, look over that list and circle the top five goals. These 25 are the things most important to you.”
“Cut it to five. That is pretty tough. There is a lot that I really want to do.”
“I know but you can only choose five. Make sure they are what you want most.”
Flint scratched his head as he read through the list, marking one, then another. But as he came to #4 and #5, he struggled, pointing the pen at several, pondering the implications. Finally, he had five circled. But he wasn’t done. He sat back, reconsidering others on the list. Deep in thought, he looked to the horizon and into the future. With a nod, he spoke.
“Are you absolutely sure those are your five highest priorities?”
Flint confidently said, “Yes, I’m sure.”
“When will you begin work on those top 5 priorities?”
“I will start on them tonight when I get home.”
“Those five priorities are List A.”
“Ok. So the others are List B.”
“The second list is important to me as well. When do I work on them?” Flint asked what many of us would have.
“You don’t. Those five items are your top priority. Nothing else matters until you accomplish them.”
Are Your Goals Disruptive?
Let’s take Warren Buffet’s advice one step further.
Everyone should have a list of just 5 goals. Do you have them written down?
Now, let’s go farther. Are your goals so big that they will disrupt your life, your leadership or your business? Is disruption a priority?
Go back through your list and prioritize the goals that are disruptive.
- Which ones are they?
- Why are they disruptive?
- How will they benefit yourself and your team?
Loren Murfield, Ph.D.
I work with leaders and organizations to think bigger and reach higher to find breakthrough success. This is a process that I can help you learn. One of the ways I help clients is by guiding them through my Disruptive Opportunity Challenge. Begin the process today by contacting me.