Free Stress Gum

  by Greg McKeown/ Harvard Business Review Blog Why don't successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call "the clarity paradox, free stress gum" which can be summed up in four predictable phases: Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, free stress gum it leads to success. Phase 2: When we have success, free stress gum it leads to more options and opportunities. Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, free stress gum it leads to diffused efforts. Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place. Curiously, free stress gum and overstating the point in order to make it, free stress gum success is a catalyst for failure. We can see this in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, free stress gum but later collapsed. In his book How the Mighty Fall, free stress gum Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into "the undisciplined pursuit of more." It is true for companies and it is true for careers. Here's a more personal example: For years, free stress gum Enric Sala was a professor at the prestigious Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, free stress gum California. Free stress gum But he couldn't kick the feeling that the career path he was on was just a close counterfeit for the path he should really be on. Free stress gum So, free stress gum he left academia and went to work for National Geographic. Free stress gum With that success came new and intriguing opportunities in Washington D.C. Free stress gum that again left him feeling he was close to the right career path, free stress gum but not quite there yet. Free stress gum His success had distracted him. After a couple of years, free stress gum he changed gears again in order to be what he really wanted: an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic, free stress gum spending a significant portion of his time diving in the most remote locations, free stress gum using his strengths in science and communications to influence policy on a global scale. Free stress gum (Watch Enric Sala speak about his important work at TED). Free stress gum The price of his dream job was saying no to the many good, free stress gum parallel paths he encountered. What can we do to avoid the clarity paradox and continue our upward momentum? Here are three suggestions: First, free stress gum use more extreme criteria. Think of what happens to our closets when we use the broad criteria: "Is there a chance that I will wear this someday in the future?" The closet becomes cluttered with clothes we rarely wear. Free stress gum If we ask, free stress gum "Do I absolutely love this?" then we will be able to eliminate the clutter and have space for something better. Free stress gum We can do the same with our career choices. By applying tougher criteria we can tap into our brain's sophisticated search engine. Free stress gum If we search for "a good opportunity, free stress gum" then we will find scores of pages for us to think about and work through. Free stress gum Instead, free stress gum we can conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: "What am I deeply passionate about?" and "What taps my talent?" and "What meets a significant need in the world?" Naturally there won't be as many pages to view, free stress gum but that is the point of the exercise. Free stress gum We aren't looking for a plethora of good things to do. Free stress gum We are looking for our absolute highest point of contribution. Enric is one of those relatively rare examples of someone who is doing work that he loves, free stress gum that taps his talent, free stress gum and that serves an important need in the world. Free stress gum His main objective is to help create the equivalent of National Parks to protect the last pristine places in the ocean — a significant contribution. Second, free stress gum ask "What is essential?" and eliminate the rest. Free stress gum Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to eliminate the nonessentials. Free stress gum At once, free stress gum we have the key to unlock the next level of our lives. Free stress gum Get started by: Conducting a life audit. All human systems tilt towards messiness. In the same way that our desks get cluttered without us ever trying to make them cluttered, free stress gum so our lives get cluttered as well-intended ideas from the past pile up. Most of these efforts didn't come with an expiration date. Once adopted, free stress gum they live on in perpetuity. Figure out which ideas from the past are important and pursue those. Throw out the rest. Eliminating an old activity before you add a new one. This simple rule ensures that you don't add an activity that is less valuable than something you are already doing. Third, free stress gum beware of the endowment effect. Also known as the divestiture aversion, free stress gum the endowment effect refers to our tendency to value an item more once we own it. One particularly interesting study was conducted by Kahneman, free stress gum Knetsch and Thaler (published here) where consumption objects (e.g. Free stress gum coffee mugs) were randomly given to half the subjects in an experiment, free stress gum while the other half were given pens of equal value. According to traditional economic theory (the Coase Theorem), free stress gum about half of the people with mugs and half of the people with pens will trade. But they found that significantly fewer than this actually traded. The mere fact of ownership made them less willing to part with their own objects. As a simple illustration in your own life, free stress gum think of how a book on your shelf that you haven't used in years seems to increase in value the moment you think about giving it away. Tom Stafford describes a cure for this that we can apply to career clarity: Instead of asking, free stress gum "How much do I value this item?" we should ask "If I did not own this item, free stress gum how much would I pay to obtain it?" And the same goes for career opportunities. We shouldn't ask, free stress gum "How much do I value this opportunity?" but "If I did not have this opportunity, free stress gum how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?" If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the "undisciplined pursuit of more, free stress gum" then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, free stress gum but purposefully, free stress gum deliberately, free stress gum and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, free stress gum but constantly reducing, free stress gum focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, free stress gum but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, free stress gum which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones. GREG MCKEOWN Greg McKeown is the CEO of THIS Inc., free stress gum a leadership and strategy design agency headquartered in Silicon Valley. Free stress gum He was recently named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Free stress gum Greg did his graduate work at Stanford. Free stress gum Connect with him on Twitter @GregoryMcKeown.