Everything Matters Equally: The Fool’s Bargain
The Sunday Session #3 - Read Time: 3 Minutes
‘Equality is a worthy ideal pursued in the name of justice and human rights. In the real world of results, however, things are never equal.’
(Gary Keller, 2013)
In a world of infinite opportunity, we should wake each day and consciously decide what tasks would be most impactful in bringing us closer to our personal, community’s or institution’s vision, mission and goals before working industriously on those, and only those, tasks.
For most of us, and some prominent leaders, this is a pipe dream. We wake to a never-ending litany of tasks delivered to us conveniently via call, e-mail and text, not to mention those tasks emanating from meetings, amongst the daily responsibilities of raising a family and running a home.
This creates a frantic context and, in this environment, everything feels urgent and important - every task seems to hold equal weight.
We rush to put a to-do list together and work on checking each one off sequentially. We are active and busy but do so in an ad-hoc fashion where we are unaware if our activity is actually bringing us any closer to success.
In both personal and professional spheres people end up with a list of ‘priorities’ - a word which ironically didn't have a plural form from its creation in the 1400s until the 1900s - and these priorities hold ‘equal weight’, although their impact weights are very different.
The Educational Setting
The research literature as regards improving educational outcomes for students is very clear:
Improve teaching and learning processes
Improve leadership capacity
Improve pastoral processes to decrease barriers to learning
Having consulted, worked with and spoken to thousands of educational professionals, at all levels over recent years, there are many institutions:
- where staff are unaware of ‘school priorities’ as they are innumerable and contained in a 20 page document,
- where the quality of wall displays are assessed but there is an absence of an effective process to monitor and improve teaching and learning,
- where 100% attendance certificates are created with pristine precision but there is no effective pastoral system to address low-attendance.
This isn’t to say there is no merit to wall displays and celebrating great attendance but that these may have less impact on student outcomes than other endeavours.
If a school is operating at a high level on the three main indicators outlined above, it is at that point, and only at this point, that they should be looking for ‘marginal gains’, as coined by Sir. Dave Brailsford, and adding initiatives with a smaller impact value.
The Personal Setting
For the individual endeavouring to improve body composition, research shows that:
A Calorie Deficit
An Exercise Regime
are the three main components for success. Instead of prioritising these against all other processes in this domain we look for the perfect diet, the magic supplement or perfect program and inevitably spin our wheels in busyness with little to no progress.
For the individual seeking financial freedom, the following three components are the key:
Maximise Earnings and Minimise Spending
Create a Simple Investment Plan
In the urgency of life, saving time by buying lunches and coffees, purchasing that new car or downloading that new subscription service can seem as important as the steps above. The result is that we work industriously, diligently and energetically in a direction that is incongruent to our intended destination.
If success is our yard stick, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, gives us a rule as illustrious as the North Star:
'Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’