What Warren Buffett Thought of ‘Priorities’

sticky notes on board


This incident involves one of the richest man in the world, Warren Buffett and his pilot Mike Flint, who wanted Buffett to buy a new jet with more advanced features and capabilities.  He however, used the opportunity to teach him a valuable life lesson.  Although, Flint himself was an experienced pilot having previously flown four US Presidents.

Buffett asked him to prepare a list of his top 25 priorities in various areas of life including career.  Flint did that and came with the list to Buffett. He looked at the list and asked him to reduce it to top 5 and transfer the rest of them to another sheet.

Buffett then asked Flint on what he would do with the other 20 things.  Flint replied that it would be his back-up plan and he will work on it intermittently and see how it goes.  It was a sensible reply as they weren’t bad choices at all.

However, to his surprise, Buffett advised him to tear apart that other list and focus only on his top five priorities instead.  He said, the more you keep those 20 things in your list, the farther away you will be from your top five. If your top five does not get your 100% attention, you will never be able to achieve them.

The list of 20 things is the distraction your mind will continuously wander about with and prevent you from working on what is more important. 

I could immediately relate with this as a trekker.  If you have ever been on a trek, you will realize how important it is to pack light, even if that involves getting rid of, things we really want to carry but know won’t be able to use.  I remember my first trek when I could not pack all my things in a 75 liters rucksack and had to carry another small one to stuff my belongings.  When I returned after 7 days, I realized I haven’t used 70% of the things I carried, but had to bear the burden of that weight during my entire trek, which led to reduced mobility and unnecessary tiredness. 

Lot of times, I was forced to open the entire rucksack to sift through the important items I needed.  Having to look for every important item amongst things I didn’t even used sapped my energy unnecessarily while also wasting a lot of time.

People experience similar feelings when they focus on areas, which are not their top 5 priorities.  It should not be more than 5 as the higher you go up, the less focus you will have on things that require more focus and attention.

I can carry 4 bags as well to stuff everything I would need, however, I need to decide on what is more important to me, completing and enjoying the trek or constantly being reminded of the weight I am carrying on my backpack. 

If I have to enjoy the trek, I need to rid of the last 20. 

I have been on multiple treks since and have developed a habit of packing and traveling light.  It aided in me becoming more agile and with less weight to carry, I could also conserve my energies better and with no difficulty in finding, what I need urgently could save a lot of time as well.  I only carry my ‘top 5’ things with me now.

So, what about you, do you also have a top 25 list, which needs pruning, or you are still dragging yourself with ‘The 25’.

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