This morning I came across an interesting question. How is it that lion trainers can use things like chairs to tame the lions in their shows? Let’s look at this picture of Clyde Beatty, in his Jungle Zoo in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in the 1940s. Notice what Clyde has in his hand, a chair. He also has a whip, a gun on his belt, and some kind of crop in his right hand. But there are NINE big cats in the cage with him. They could easily overtake Mr. Beatty. This leads me to my point–We’re a lot like those lions in the cage, why?
We are just like the lion in one very specific way. We can only handle one threat at a time. When we are faced with multiple choices (or threats), we immediately get the lion syndrome. Too many choices create paralysis in our lives. When we stick a chair in a lion’s face, all the lion sees are 4 threats or legs on the chair. He also sees the whip, the gun, the man… and instantly, the lion is overwhelmed and doesn’t do anything other than submit. The lion trainer simply adds too many choices for the lion to deal with.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my “super-power” lately. Thinking about what I need to create to become the person I’m aspiring to become. What that has done is opened up a lot of ideas about what can be created. Not only have I been thinking about creating products, but I’ve also been thinking about creating friendships, creating good feelings, creating other things that aren’t necessarily tangible like a product. What I’ve come to know is that as a creator, I need to start by creating a plan, a schedule, a system to deal with all the “threats” or choices that I have every day that might create the lion’s syndrome. Then I can get onward to doing the things I need to do.
The advice I found is from Rita Mae Brown. Pennsylvania native, civil-rights activist, author, and orphan–born to a teenage mother and abandoned in the mid-1940s. She’s in her 70s now and lives in Hanover, PA.
“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.”Rita Mae Brown
I have to move from reacting to creating. I have to focus on my agenda and my goals, not responding to someone else’s. Here’s the advice in action steps.
- Never walk into your day with an empty calendar.
- Never begin your day unless it’s already finished on PAPER.
To help me achieve the most important things in my life, I have to start limiting my decisions and simplifying things so that I’m not overwhelmed with choices that create paralysis and pain and ultimately keeps me from achieving my long-term goals. This starts with a healthy and large dose of PREPARATION. I am going to start adding a task at the end of my day, and that’s to identify what I need to get done the next day FIRST. What’s the most important priority that needs to get attention to, tomorrow? If I end my day with this knowledge, then I can start my day with the thing I know I need to get done first. That complete, I can go on dealing with lower priority tasks.
Jim Collins, the author of “From Good to Great”, wrote that “if you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.” What this tells us is that if we feel like we don’t have enough time in our day, we haven’t clearly defined our priorities.
I love a list of steps to follow when trying to change a habit or add a behavior. So today I have this one for you.
Dan’s 5-Steps for CREATING a preparation plan for the day.
- Plan your day the night before. This doesn’t have to be hours and hours of thought, I’m going for 10 minutes of reflection time on the day and a little forethought to the next day. What didn’t I get done that I absolutely need to get done tomorrow? Write this down on a post-it and put it on your computer screen when you walk away.
- Review your big three goals.
- Decide on your three MOST VITAL PRIORITIES.
- Block time tomorrow to accomplish them. If they take more than a day, then do one at a time. The idea is to create space in your calendar to do the big things. I’ve realized when I look back at my work calendars, I scheduled a thousand little things like doctor’s appointments, reoccurring meetings–but I have very few large blocks of time for just doing the most important things. Honestly, I look at my past weeks and see very few important meetings or 90-minute blocks of time to solve the most important, pressing matters I had at the time… and now, I don’t even remember what they were during those days.
- The step is the first step for the next day. Identify the hardest to accomplish priority and do that first. Don’t do the fun easy stuff first, do that stuff after you’ve tackled what you know you need to get done. Remember that lesson from last week about being intelligent–we have to do things that move us closer to our goals. Now we just have to schedule them to be the first thing that we do.
Just to hammer in this concept. Let’s look at Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs. These guys are and were masters at focusing on the most important things, and simplifying priorities down to the areas that would bring them the most success.
Warren’s 3 Steps to Billions
- Write down all of your priorities. (Warren does this on a legal pad… nothing special)
- Narrow it down to three, just circle the three most important.
- Throw away the rest of the list.
The power lies in step three. Getting rid of the other chair legs that are creating paralysis in our action. The huge list of priorities turns us into a tame, submissive lion. We have to power-work, deep-work, and get working the hardest on ONE BIG THING AT A TIME.
Steve Jobs was truly a master at being able to focus on one big thing. Let’s quickly look at Apple. Apple almost went out of business before Steve came on as CEO. Steve took a nearly broke company in the early 2000s and turned it into the most valuable brand in the world. Think about that. Think about that and how many products that Apple has produced in the last 20 years. Really, when we look at the new products that Apple released when Steve came online with the iPod in 2001, it was the first new product that they offered for years. Sure they were making computers, but Steve decided to focus on one area, and then he stayed focused on the iPod until the first iPhone was released in 2007. That’s six years. During that time, Samsung, LG, Motorola came up with hundreds of new products. It took the team at Apple another three years to release the first iPad in 2010. Did you know that today, Apple has some of the most valuable retail spaces in the world with its shops, with just a handful of products? That was because of Steve’s unyielding dedication to focusing on the ONE BIG THING. When he took over at Pixar what did he do? He tossed the playbook that most movie studios use to create dozens of movies a year and released one movie per year. That’s it. He believed that by removing the additional distractions and getting the creative team to focus on one movie they could create some of the best movies. Today, Pixar is the fourth largest and most successful movie production company in the world and it creates truly great movies.
I hope I’ve made my point. It’s now time for us to get to work simplifying our days so that we can get the most from them. We have to reduce the distractions and choices in our day so we aren’t paralyzed like the lion, and forced to submit because we can’t handle all the threats. We have to make a clear plan to get the most important things done in our lives.
Have a great week! Love you! We are winning. You’re the best.