Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz loves to use the acronym of WIN.

For Holtz, WIN stands for; What’s Important Now

I am pondering that quote as I just returned from a leadership summit for a preeminent collegiate leadership group.   Out task from my division in preparation for the next year was quoteworthy.

Break some shit, and put it back together!

As a coach, I love those types of moments that you get so fired up that you want to run through the wall.  True leaders earn that type of followership.  I was in the presence of one of those types of leaders.  But his vision was vast – so how do we accomplish it without feeling like a kid who just dropped his legos (and can’t put them back together)?

broken legos

Queue Kevin Rose and his monthly email – The Journal.  If you are not subscribing – please stop what you are doing and subscribe now – it’s once a month format makes for such rich content.

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In this month’s letter, Kevin shares the story of Warren Buffets pilot Mike Flint as found in full here.  

The Story of Mike FlintMike Flint was Buffett’s personal airplane pilot for 10 years. (Flint has also flown four US Presidents, so I think we can safely say he is good at his job.) According to Flint, he was talking about his career priorities with Buffett when his boss asked the pilot to go through a 3-step exercise.

Here’s how it works…

Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down. (Note: you could also complete this exercise with goals for a shorter timeline. For example, write down the top 25 things you want to accomplish this week.)

Then, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Again, Flint took some time, made his way through the list, and eventually decided on his 5 most important goals.

(Note: If you’re following along at home, pause right now and do these first two steps before moving on to Step 3.)

At this point, Flint had two lists. The 5 items he had circled were List A and the 20 items he had not circled were List B.

Flint confirmed that he would start working on his top 5 goals right away. And that’s when Buffett 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.”

So as I now wrap my brain around Break Shit and put it back together.  I can do so with more focus.  My desire to break shit, beyond just being fun to say is still immense.  I love trying new things, and not being afraid to fail.  However, broken with focus allows you to put things back together in a more meaningful – less child with legos format.