Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Main Thing

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” –Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I ran across this quotation in several unrelated places recently, which made me think I should pay attention to it. It reminds me of Bill Clinton’s famous campaign theme “It’s the economy, stupid.” This sign was posted in campaign headquarters to keep everyone focused on the main thing.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins identifies characteristics of companies that make the leap from good to great. He describes what he calls the hedgehog concept. The hedgehog is always able to outsmart the fox by sticking to one thing he knows best – rolling into a ball of impenetrable spikes. The foxes of the world are scattered and move on many levels, pursuing many things at the same time, seeing the world as infinitely complex. Hedgehogs, conversely, focus on one organizing idea, a basic concept that guides everything else. Whatever does not serve this essential principle is irrelevant. Their world is infinitely simple.

So I started wondering what my hedgehog concept is. What is the basic organizing principle around which I build my life? What sign would I post on my wall to keep me focused on the main thing? (I would probably leave off the “stupid” part – not very compassionate.)

I was surprised that I could not immediately identify my main thing, but I am motivated now to give this some thought. I can certainly think of several guiding principles in my life, but what is the main thing? Do you know what your main thing is? If you would like to share, I would be very interested in hearing about it. I hope some of you will comment, anonymously if you wish.

Meanwhile, I am going to roll myself up in a spiky ball and contemplate.

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