The Absolute Unimportance of…Almost Everything 

A former colleague of mine used to get himself worked up over the littlest things. But just when you thought he was about to blow his top he would stop, take a breath, and say out loud, “Well, the heck with it, this won’t matter in a hundred years so why worry about it now.” 

After hearing him say that about 100 times it got me to thinking what exactly will matter 100 years from now. The answer I came up with was “almost nothing.” I mean that seriously, unless I find a cure for cancer or discover life on a planet in a distant solar system most anything I do today will be long forgotten in 100 years. 

I mean this seriously too…do not take what you do too seriously. Most of us are not that big of a deal. Most of what we do is just not very important. 

Most people would disagree with that because they confuse urgent things with the important things in life. A former United States President, Dwight Eisenhower once said he had two kinds of problems, urgent and important. About those problems he said, “The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent. 

Too many people spend their time on the urgent things of life. They do so at the expense of the important things of life. If you’re not sure of the difference let me tell you how I look at it. 

Important things are activities that have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are personal or professional. Urgent activities are those things that we think demand immediate attention. They are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals.  They are often the ones we concentrate on and give immediate attention to because the consequences of not handling them can be immediate. 

The most successful people have a longer view of life. They balance the important with the urgent much more effectively than less successful people. Of course one of the reasons less successful people struggle in this area is because they lack formal goals to guide them in their decision making. 

Few things in life I can guarantee more than this…if you lack real goals in life then you will spend your life helping people who do have real goals achieve theirs. 

So here’s a few of questions I’d encourage you to ask yourself on a very regular basis. How much will what I’m about to do matter in 30 days? How much will it matter in a year? How much will it matter in five years? 

Then act accordingly.

Let me give you one little example that my wife taught me many years ago. You have company coming over. The company are some friends from work. Your two toddlers have made a mess of the house. You HAVE to get the house cleaned up before the company arrives. Your kids WANT you to read them a story.

Which one is urgent and which one is important? Which one will matter down the road? When you change jobs in a few years you may not ever see those work friends again. But you’ll never get those 30 minutes of story time back again. 

The mess in the house will wait. The kids will not. 

I am always fully aware of the absolute unimportance of almost everything I do. That in no way makes me less important as a person. It in no way demeans what I do. It does allow me to have better balance in my life. It allows me to consciously make decisions to at times sacrifice the important for the urgent. But I know I’m doing it and I know why. 

I know for a fact that this post won’t matter in 100 years. But I hope it matters to someone today and I hope for your sake, that someone is you. 

6 thoughts on “The Absolute Unimportance of…Almost Everything 

  1. Steve,

    This is an excellent post. Too many people go through life without plans, goals, and priorities. That creates a lack of focus IMO, which often leads to periodic episodes of panic and chaos. Your example with the two toddlers was especially relevant when it comes to perspective.

    Great job, and thank you.

    Chip

Leave a Reply to Steve Keating Cancel reply