Warren Buffett and the “avoid at all cost list”

Cal Newport shared this Warren Buffett story, which was passed on by someone else and may be only apocryphal. But the point of the story certainly seems in line with what we know of Buffett’s philosophy:

Buffett wanted to help his employee get ahead in his working life, so he suggested that the employee list the twenty-five most important things he wanted to accomplish in the next few years. He then had the employee circle the top five and told him to prioritize this smaller list.

All seemed well until the wise billionaire asked one more question: “What are you going to do with the other twenty things?”

The employee answered: “Well the top five are my primary focus but the other twenty come in at a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top five. They are not as urgent but I still plan to give them dedicated effort.”

Buffett surprised him with his response: “No. You’ve got it wrong…Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list.’”

Focus. Do less, better.

“The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” –Warren Buffett