Johnson's World: Settle Down

Find your 'Mount McKinley' in the business of print.

October 1, 2014

Do you have a “bucket list” of great things you hope to accomplish in life? How about climbing Mount Everest? That’s one that every red-blooded adventurer plans to do. Settling for just climbing Mount Everest isn’t enough anymore, though. I’ll bet you plan to climb the more dangerous North Face of Everest.

In fact, why settle for Everest at all? It may be the world’s highest mountain, but Mount McKinley (Denali) in Alaska is actually taller, from base to peak. K2, the world’s second highest mountain, is a more technically difficult climb. Don’t settle for anything less.

Until recently, the term “settling” referred to something that was done either by the concrete foundation of a house as it sank into the ground or by two parties to a lawsuit in successful pre-trial negotiations.

Settling, in the legal sense, simply means to relinquish some of your demands in order to get the things you really want.

I first heard “settling” used in a lifestyle context referring to higher education. A high-schooler had been told all her life by her parents how exceptional she was. She worried about accepting a scholarship from Harvard. Might this not be “settling” for second best? Being the exceptional child she was sure she was, should she not hold out for a scholarship from Oxford, Cambridge or The Sorbonne? Why settle for anything less?

Since then I’ve heard the term settling used in reference to a relationship strategy. Tired of looking for Mr. Perfect? Just settle down with Mr. Okay. Or don’t you dare do that, depending upon which relationship guru you listen to.

Asking my advice on romantic relationships would be like enlisting Attila the Hun to lead sensitivity training, so I’ll stick to what we do know about here in Johnson’s World. I know that compromise and prioritization (or “settling” if you will) when properly implemented is a useful tool for goal attainment in both your business and personal life.

Do you still plan to climb Mt Everest? If it is really so important to you, why haven’t you done it yet? Have you taken any steps toward furthering this goal? If not, reconsider.

Why climb at all?

Why do you want to climb Mt Everest? Just like the view? A holiday at a Swiss ski resort would be much easier and take less time and money. Just want to brag? Please immediately cross any goals off your list that are only to please others. Or at least commit to seeking therapy.

What happens if you scratch Everest? Well, you’ve just freed up several years of your life that would be spent practicing to do the job properly. You’ve also saved yourself a small fortune, $50,000 to $100,000 not including preparation. With that off your plate, you have more precious time and resources available to devote to other items on your list that are nearer and dearer to your heart.

Whether you call it your bucket list of lifetime goals or your daily to-do list of business tasks, we all have lists of things to accomplish and only so much time to accomplish them.

That’s why I have a “to-don’t” list. Business genius Peter Drucker in his book, The Effective Executive, suggested this and called the items on this list posteriorities, as opposed to priorities.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that you abandon your dreams. I’m merely noting that if you grumble about the cold winters and have never climbed a mountain, you probably aren’t really interested in climbing Everest, and crossing it off your list will bring clarity and allow sharper focus on your remaining goals.

“Every posteriority is somebody else’s top priority,” stated Drucker in The Effective Executive. It isn’t always easy to scratch something off your list. Your boss, your clients, your spouse, everyone has goals for you. Do they match your goals for yourself?

Allowing others to prioritize your business and your life is the real settling. Peter Drucker estimated that unavoidable outside demands will still occupy most of our time, leaving only about 25 percent of time to our own discretion.

Use that time wisely! Don’t settle for anything less.