What Doesn’t Matter

A great leader knows what DOESN’T matter.

When I worked with Bill Gates, that was his superpower. Bring him the most intricate problem, and within seconds he would home in on the essential variables, the things that really controlled the outcome. From there the solution seemed obvious. I always felt a little stupid for not seeing it.

Information is infinite, the variables that effect your project are usually too many to count. Making decisions that involve dozens of variables is essentially impossible.

Of course, the key is focusing on the variables that move the needle. But how do you know which ones those are? The quickest way to figure out what matters is to decide what DOESN’T matter. Like the joke about the elephant sculptor when asked how they do it. “I just chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.”

Be ruthless in discarding the variables that don’t matter. The more variables there are, the faster you should discard. Someone will always be there to champion their variable. “But wait!” they’ll whine. Be ruthless, toss it anyway.

Ignoring the noise is the most essential, yet difficult part. If you do that what’ll be left are the important variables. The ones that matter. Base your decision on those.