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How many pets do you have?

3 min read
How many pets do you have?
Photo by Alex Nicolopoulos / Unsplash

Hey friends, I just wanted to share an amazing post from Derek Sivers that I read today.

I used to have too many pets.

Each time I adopted one, I was fully in love. I was enamored with the potential. Each new pet was meant to be my constant companion. So I would take it home, and love it. But eventually I would discover a new pet, and the process would repeat.

My house was overflowing. But it didn’t feel that way at the time. In each moment, I was giving just one pet my full attention. My life was full of so many loves.

Ah, but that’s seeing it from my point of view. What about from theirs? Each pet only got a little of my time each week. The rest of the time they were neglected, waiting for my attention.

I sadly realized this was unfair. The situation was hurting them. No pet was thriving. No pet was getting the attention it deserved. The situation was also hurting me. Anyone who wanted to come into my life had to compete for my attention, or love all of my pets. I was scattered and unavailable.

So, I started releasing them back into the wild. One at a time, reluctantly, I’d set one free, or find it a new home with someone who was really going to give this pet 100% of their love. I mourned the loss of possibility with each one as I said goodbye.

My pet project to start a business. My plan to travel everywhere. My dream to learn Chinese. My goal to plant a forest. My wish to build a house. Although each goodbye was sad, it opened up more space. I enjoyed the freedom and feeling unconflicted.

Before, I’d glance at each pet and feel love but guilt for not giving it more time. Now, I picture what could have been, and just enjoy the daydream.

I let my last pet go, came home, and cleaned the house. There’s so much room for focus now.

Surprising end to this story: One pet kept coming back, no matter how many times I set her free. She refused to stay away. So now it’s just me and her, and I’m giving her all my time.

The pets are a metaphor for the projects he's pursuing.

It's tempting to take so many projects simultaneously, but our time and energy are not infinite. Taking way too many projects at once is a surefire way to burn yourself out and kill your projects.

Have you considered how many projects you're currently taking? It helps to list them out to reflect whether you're giving them the time they need. Once you've listed them out, try quitting those that don't bring as much meaning to you.

There's another story I read about Mike Flint, who was Warren Buffett's personal pilot. When discussing his priorities, his boss asked him to do a 3 step exercise.

Step 1: Buffett asked Flint to list his top 25 career goals.

Step 2: Then, he asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals.

Step 3: Flint had two lists at this point. List A was the 5 goals he circled, and List B were the remaining 20 goals.

Flint knew he had to start working on List A immediately. Buffett then asked him about the second list, "And what about the ones you didn't circle?”

Flint replied, "Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort."

To which Buffett replied, "No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

You could do this exercise with your weekly goals too. Take some time to mull over your priorities and drop less important tasks. Release your pets into the wild to make room for the ones you care about.



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