Usually around this time of year, I’m waiting for a few crocuses to begin peeking up from beneath the ground at our farmhouse in Pennsylvania, signaling that spring is waiting in the wings. But it’s going to be tough going for those little guys this year. We still have two feet of snow covering the yard and we may not see dirt and grass until June!
Speaking of flowers, I read something fascinating and illuminating lately about weeding—though it had nothing to do with flowers and gardens. It was in an interview with Bob Pittman, the chairman of Clear Channel and the founder of MTV, and it’s made me think long and hard about some of the projects I’ve been working on, both professionally and personally. I think his advise is terrific and worth sharing,
Pittman believes that one of the keys to success is regularly “weeding the garden.” If in business you try ten new things, he says, there may be two clear winners and two clear losers, and in between there are six things that produce only so-so results. He calls these projects gunk. They don’t provide much in return, but we tend to let them exist because we feel funny letting go of something that’s not an out-and-out loser.
But here’s the problem with gunk: Over time it saps energy and eats up valuable resources. That’s why Pittman believes we need to be proactive and get rid of anything that’s not really flourishing.
When I left my full time job a year and a half ago, my goal was to have a more entrepreneurial work life, focusing only on stuff that I loved—and that produced the best results. I had my idea of what should be on my list, but over time, I was offered unexpected assignments and I began saying yes to a bunch of new activities—like being an adviser to a start up and a couple of columns. Before long I was working a lot on Saturday and Sunday, trying to keep up.
Well, Pittman’s words grabbed me and made me start assessing the projects on my plate. Before long, I had to face facts: Some of the projects were gunk and I needed to weed them out.
What Pittman says could apply to our personal lives, too. We sometimes hold on to things—activities, hobbies, chores, even friends—that don’t provide real gratification and suction off energy we should be putting to what matters most.
Suggested motto for March: Let go of the gunk. Reflect on all you’ve got going in your work and your life and ask what’s likely to flourish and provide the most reward—and what isn’t.
Then go ahead and weed.