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First Things First: Be careful of second-rate priorities

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It’s school holidays! My girls and I had a trip to Germany planned this holidays, but for obvious reasons, we had to can that. Instead, we’re on the road, spending the week at a holiday park in the Coromandel and swinging past some family in the Hawkes Bay on the way back.

Not the holiday we had planned, but pretty awesome nonetheless. The principles are the same: connecting with people we love, getting out into the world and having new experiences together.

“Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lost both first and second things.” – CS Lewis

Our holiday plans are just the tip of the iceberg for the changes we’ve all had to make this year. Life is not what any of us imagined, in many ways – but for most of us, our values remain the same. In fact, many of you are telling me that you’re clearer on those values now more than ever. Lockdown brought the chance to realise what’s really important, a chance to get off the treadmill and ask some bigger questions.

I love the story about Warren Buffet and Mike Flint. Legend has it, Mike Flint, Buffet’s personal pilot for ten years, asked Warren’s advice about his career priorities. Warren instructed Mike to write down his top 25 career goals and bring them to him.

When Mike had done this, Warren instructed him to choose the top five most important goals on the list.  Mike was grateful and pledged to start working on the top 5 right away.

Warren asks him about the second list – “and what about the other 20 things? That you didn’t circle?”. Mike says “well, I’ll get to those as I can – they’re important, but not as urgent as the top 5, but I’ll still do them!

It was Warren’s response to this that threw Mike Flint, and is golden advice to all of us.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong! Everything you didn’t just pick, in the top 5, needs to be the Avoid-At-All-Costs list. Don’t give any one of those things your attention, until you’ve done your top 5…. Or you won’t do them.”

That’s the thing, isn’t it. There’s plenty of stuff we can focus on. But unless we’re clear on what comes first, it won’t happen.

What are your core values?

How can you make sure you put those things first?