You Can Have Anything You Want In Life… If You Can Do This One Thing

At any given time, I am reading about 3 books. One of the books I am reading right now is Ray Dalio’s Principles. It is a fascinating read thus far.

Last night, I read these words written by Dalio:

Despite passing up this great opportunity [the closing of a business in China], I don’t regret my choice. I learned that if you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want, but not everything you want. Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones.

I am thinking of leaders and managers as I write this. Most leaders and managers I know are pretty driven people. They are “go-getters” that take life by its horns and dive in head first. These are the men and women who work to defy the odds; to have their cake and eat it too. Modern day cowboys without horses. Conquerors with no armies.

The men and women who pursue everything…

…and miss the opportunity to be truly great at ONE thing.

I know these kinds of people of exist because I am “these kinds of people.”

To use the words of a former president, I feel your pain.

Author and advisor, David C. Baker says these words: “At the beginning of one’s career, you build expertise by saying ‘Yes’ to almost everything. Later in one’s career, you build expertise by saying ‘No’ to almost everything.”

It is a powerful statement that we read earlier, “You can have just about anything you want, but you cannot have everything you want…”

Read that again.

This is my reminder for you – and me – this week: say “No” to almost everything.

I know its hard. Your lips probably cannot even form the word.

Yet, we must understand and internalize that expertise and great leadership come from the ability to say “No” on a personal and organizational level.

The reason you have mastered nothing is that you are doing too much. The reason your organization has mastered nothing is that, more than likely, you are trying to be all things to all people. The reason your employees cannot master anything is that they are doing too much of everything and not enough of one thing.

What matters most to you? What matters most to your organizational mission? What do you truly want?

You can have it. Your organization can have it.

…by saying “No” to almost everything else.

Let me ask you a personal question: At the end of your life, do want to be known as the person who was mediocre at many things? Or the person whose life is defined by greatness because you mastered one thing?

I think you know the answer.

Let’s get after it.

It starts by saying, “No.”

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