Empowering Prioritization: Setting Sail for the Best Catches
In the bustling seas of life and decision-making, the skill of ruthless prioritization is not so different from navigating the vast ocean as a commercial fishing captain, ever in search of the best catch. Vincent Van Gogh articulated that task colorfully when said "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."
Every choice to embrace a task or cast it aside shapes the course of our voyage. This delicate balance inevitably influences how we make the most of our time and resources. Every decision to say "yes" or "no" sets the sails for our careers, our relationships, and our well-being.
Drawing from my years as a commercial fisherman in the icy waters of the Bering Sea of Alaska and the glorious Grand Banks of Nova Scotia, I understand the allure of myriad opportunities. I've witnessed the unpredictability of the ocean and how it mirrors the uncertainty of life itself. The ocean demands respect and strategic navigation, much like the demands of our personal and professional lives.
I certainly enjoy participating in a multitude of projects and never want to be that person who is always asking and never reciprocating support, but realistically, I can't handle every challenge at once. You can't expect to fill a boat with swordfish if you spend your time fighting to catch every shark that gets on the line. Often the best course of action is to cut the line and watch the majestic predator
return to the deep. When I say "yes" to a task, I'm committing my time and resources to it, and trust me, I'm not just there for a cameo appearance. If you get a "yes" from me, you've got yourself a dedicated coconspirator!
On the flip side, if I opt to decline an invitation, it's like releasing a heavy anchor from the fishing vessel, allowing the crew to steer the ship towards promising fishing grounds where we have faith the fish are biting hard. It's an ongoing assessment and these challenges may be why commercial fishing captains are notoriously a grumpy lot!
So, here's the strategy I deploy to measure the worthiness of a commitment, I evaluate its usefulness.:
To gauge the worthiness of a potential catch in the business realm I put on a captain's hat and ask if the idea or task serves our clients effectively. Will it add value to their experience? Will it align with their needs and expectations? In essence, will it be useful to the majority of the clients a program seeks to serve, at least most of the time? This evaluation ensures that our endeavors are meaningful and fruitful.
Translating this approach to my personal affairs, I start with author Tim Ferris' suggestion to ask: is this a "yes" or a "hell yes"? It's a great start. However, I've recognized that unbridled enthusiasm can lead to an abundance of "hell yes" responses, potentially leading to a plate full of carbs with little room for the protein. That's where my focus on 'what matters to me right now' philosophy comes into play, a foundation built on my key priorities: family, career advancement, and physical health.
This perspective allows me to begin my assessment by questioning whether the task aligns with my current priorities. If it doesn't, I've already set the stage for a "no" response, and I'm learning to be okay with saying so. I've learned the hard way that a no is more personal and palatable if it comes with an explanation like 'You're important to me and so is anything that is important to you. I truly don't have the bandwidth to give this project the energy it deserves right now, but please don't hesitate to include me in the future."
If it does align, the next step in my process is truly taking a deeper dive into my motives- the pragmatic equation.
This equation delves into the heart of the matter, weighing the potential positive impact on the area it supports against the potential negative impact on the other focal aspects of my life. It's a careful evaluation of the return on investment, where the investment is predominantly my finite time. Time spent on one area that matters is sure to detract time from one of the other two. Is the cost to A and C worth the return I will see in B? By conducting this assessment, I ensure that my decisions are driven by logic and mindful consideration rather than emotions.
I'll never forget the 500lb mako shark we once harpooned and followed for hours and hours until it tired enough we could haul it in. I was in awe. To this day, sharks fascinate me and I stood on the deck staring a this monster with razor-sharp teeth and a stealthy body that measured over 10 feet in length. Jimmy, the 'grumpy, gruff' captain put his hand on my shoulder and said 'kid I know you think I don't like you. Do you know how much that shark is worth?" He didn't allow me time to answer. "We're lucky if it's worth $2 a pound. So don't say I never did anything for you." He slapped the back of my head and exclaimed "Now let's get back fishing for money fish!" That day left two deep impressions on me. First, the shiny objects of our deepest affection don't always hold much value beyond sentiment in life. It also taught me some time that sentiment is well worth the effort. Jimmy knew how much I loved sharks so he took off his captain hat for about 8 hours and let the human, surface. He led with his heart for a short period and I will always love him for it.
Ruthless prioritization is about mastering the art of saying no and being comfortable with that decision. It's about recognizing that every "no" is an opportunity to say "yes" to what truly matters, allowing us to make a more significant impact in the areas that align with our goals and aspirations.
Remember, even the most extraordinary fishing expedition can't haul in all the fish. So, let's choose our catches wisely and make sure this fishing season is nothing short of spectacular!
However you decide to use your time, remember "There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home." – Roderick Haig-Brown