The Story of Mike Flint
Mike Flint was Buffett's personal airplane pilot for 10 years. (Flint has also flown four US Presidents, so I think we can safely say he is good at his job.) According to Flint, he was talking about his career priorities with Buffett when his boss asked the pilot to go through a 3-step exercise.
Here's how it works...
Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down. (Note: you could also complete this exercise with goals for a shorter timeline. For example, write down the top 25 things you want to accomplish this week.)
Then, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Again, Flint took some time, made his way through the list, and eventually decided on his 5 most important goals.
(Note: If you're following along at home, pause right now and do these first two steps before moving on to Step 3.)
At this point, Flint had two lists. The 5 items he had circled were List A and the 20 items he had not circled were List B.
Flint confirmed that he would start working on his top 5 goals right away. And that's when Buffett asked him about the second list, “And what about the ones you didn't circle?”
Flint replied, "Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort."
To which Buffett replied, "No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5."
This strategy reminds of a dream I had. I was in converations with the rapper The Game, and he had told to write a list of everything I wanted to do and be. Than to circle the first thing on the list, crumple up that list, and only focus on that one goal. That was some hard advice, I could never really accept it. I heard similiar advice from people like Will Smith that believes in never having a plan B just a Plan A. I like Warren Buffet's strategy much better because it still gives value to the other goals you want to achieve but does a better job on prioritizing what needs to go before all others. I will have to re-read Step 3 many times because Flint's intial thoughts definitely mirror my own.