What is the Secret to Making Your Best Contribution?

(I wrote this article several years ago but I think it's still highly relevant, maybe even more so today in our fast growing digital society)

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver, Poet

Some months ago, on a business trip to Florida, I had one of the best long-haul flights of my life. How come? It wasn’t the food, as good as that was. It wasn’t the service, though that was ace. It wasn’t even that this particular Boeing plane had one of the best flat-beds in the sky. What was it then? Well, after what had been a pretty intense and busy few weeks, I got to do some of my favourite things – read a book and write in my journal.

“Is that it?! What’s so amazing about that?” I hear you ask. Well, here’s the thing, not only was I making time for a bit of self-renewal, the book I was reading and journaling about was the New York Times Bestseller by Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Few books have had such a profound impact on my thinking since the day I read Stephen Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ in my teens.

In Essentialism, Greg sets out the premise that doing less but better is the key to maximizing our impact and success. This is more challenging than most people and organisations think. It’s certainly a major challenge for me.

I’ve got a very busy life. I’ve got a job I love, working with an amazing team of talented individuals, helping global clients maximize their performance and growth through engaging and developing their people and their leaders. It’s demanding, but I relish the day-to-day opportunity to do incredible work. I’ve got an amazing wife and three exuberant boys, all with equally vibrant schedules. I’ve got extended family that I want to connect with, friends to hang out with, and other hobbies that I strive to squeeze into my schedule and maintain some sort of balance in my life. Oh, and did I mention that my wife and I recently moved house? That brought with it its own host of challenges and decisions. What area? What school? Was this the right time to move our boys? The list goes on. As I consider the busyness of my life as a whole, I have come to realise and accept that I can’t do it all. I’m going to have to make trade offs. And this is where Greg’s book provides terrific insight and guidance on how to make those trade offs with intentionality and with wisdom.

Every day we make decisions about what to focus on and where to invest our time, energy and resources. This applies to individuals and organisations alike.

“Diversify our product offering or simplify our existing products?”

“Chinese or Italian for dinner?”

“Expand the team or develop an outsourcing model?”