What Does it Matter?

I have been blessed for a long long time with mentors who truly cared about me. Through they years they have offered me a ton of very valuable advice. I always heard the advice they gave me but sometimes, almost always to my detriment, I didn’t listen to it. 

One of the very best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is also one that I too often forget. 

I had a mentor back in my college years who told me that nothing, absolutely nothing, matters unless I allow it to. He said other people’s opinion of me didn’t matter unless I let it matter. He said comments people made about me didn’t matter unless I decided to make them matter. He said again and again, something only mattered if I decided to allow it to matter in my life.

What matters in life is what we allow to matter. What someone else thinks of you should matter far less than what you think of yourself. Someone else’s opinion of what you should be doing with your life can only impact your life decisions if you allow it to.

The challenge we face is knowing what’s truly important to us. If you don’t know what matters to you, what’s truly important, then you have a gap in your decision making abilities that other people are all too willing to fill for you. They fill it with opinions and ideas that matter to them. When you don’t know what’s truly important to you then you will likely give more weight to their opinions than you ought to be giving them.

I’ve never forgotten the great advice that nothing matters unless I allow it to matter. What I have forgotten from time to time is that I need to decide if I’m going to allow something to matter. When I forget I have that choice then everything thing seems to matter. Every opinion, every snide comment, every critical statement takes on significance that it absolutely shouldn’t. 

What I sometimes forget is that just because something is important to someone else doesn’t mean that I need to make it important to me. When I forget that I find myself reacting to what was said instead of thinking about what was said. A good rule of thumb is that if it isn’t going to matter in the future it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot today either.

Don’t allow other people, especially people who you aren’t certain have your best interests in mind, to tell you what matters in your life. You have a choice about what matters to you, it’s one of your life’s most important choices, never give up that choice.


When Things Really Matter

In a Major League Baseball season there are 162 regular season games. Pretty much every team will win 60 and every team will lose 60. It’s what happens in the other 42 that matters. It’s knowing which 42 games will make the difference that really matters.

The most effective leaders know that not every decision is life, or business changing. What makes them effective is knowing which ones may be and which one most definitely are. The most effective leaders know which 42 games they MUST win.

They know that when they are in the middle of one of those “must wins” that they must lead, most likely from the front. They are less likely to delegate and more likely to micro-manage. Actually effective leaders wouldn’t admit to micro-managing, they are in a “must win” situation and they are just “making sure.”

But what exactly is so critically urgent that an effective leader wouldn’t dare delegate it? Not much as it turns out should be so urgent that it can’t be delegated… or just eliminated.

A long time ago I was promoted to my first management position as Sales Manager for a soda pop company. Not too long after that promotion I received a 4:00am phone call that our delivery drivers had just gone out on strike and everyone in management had to come in immediately.

Shortly after that I had this neat new uniform and a spot on a truck delivering pop to grocery stores and bars. I wasn’t meant for that kind of work to begin with but I was really unprepared to do that all day and then my real job at night.

A short day was 18 hours and even with that I fell behind. I lived in my office for several weeks and still I fell further behind. My desk was a sea of paper stacked several inches high.

I was overwhelmed.

One morning about 2:00am I went into the warehouse and grabbed one of those big trash dumpsters on wheels. I pushed it to my office and threw every piece of paper on my desk away.
A few hours later as my colleagues begin passing my office they would all look at my desk in amazement with the same question; What happened?

I said only that I had a very productive night.

Here’s the truly amazing part, with the exception of a couple of documents that needed signing I never heard a word about anything I had thrown away. Not a word.

It was then that I realized this leadership truth: never underestimate the absolute unimportance of almost everything you do. Most of the things we stress over just don’t really matter. There are few things in life that are truly important and we miss too many of them by focusing on the stuff that isn’t important. We fall victim to the “urgent curse,” doing what seems to be urgent rather than doing the truly important.

We try to focus on too much and forget that “over focusing” is like wearing Milk Bone underwear in a dog eat dog world. We’re going to be eaten alive and it ain’t going to be pretty.

Successful leaders don’t mistake the urgent for the truly important.

As a leader you should not be doing anything that someone else on your team could be doing. If you’re doing anything that someone else could do then your not doing something that only you can. You, I’m sorry to say, are holding back productivity in every direction.

You have 120 games that are going to happen with you or without you. Some will be won and some will be lost and it won’t really matter.

It’s in those 120 games that you build your future leaders. Those are the times that hold the decisions you allow others to make. Those are the times when you just get out of the way and let other leaders stretch their leadership wings. The outcome won’t matter much. What will matter is that THEIR actions and decisions led to an outcome. They can see the results of THEIR decisions and learn from them.

When their day comes to lead the way in the “must win” 42 games you will have prepared them to succeed.

That’s Leadership!