To act with leverage, we ask ourselves the following question:

"Where will one unit (an hour, a day, a week, working 50%, 75%, or 95% of our efforts) produce the greatest long-term positive change for my own life? For the lives of our students? Our customers? Our Partners?"

The importance of acting with leverage in our work cannot possibly be overstated. As our flywheel begins to spin faster and faster as we can feel it doing by the day, where do we focus our efforts?

“Give me a lever long enough and I shall move the world.”

Thinking of our progress and projects together this way will necessitate that we think about leverage. We are still a scrappy organization - yes, we have made it past some significant humps and bumps in the road. We have more assets in terms of brainpower and time than ever before. And here is where a challenge for many companies arises - they get sloppy. They begin to try to do everything under the sun. Serving every customer base. Serving every geography. Serving every product imaginable. Worrying about things that aren’t the most impactful.

Companies begin thinking about everything they could possibly do, rather than what they must do. 'The must' are those challenges that are so crucial that unless improved, the future of the organization is in jeopardy. ’The nice to have’ is often the biggest enemy of ’the must,’ as we learned from Warren Buffett’s ‘5/25 Exercise.’ As we solidify our goals this week, we must be rigorous about applying this to our goal-setting. If there are goals that can wait for another six months or twelve months, let’s let them! ' The must' is a must. All else can be done at a later time. Or never!

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

While obviously there will be exceptions to this adage, those exceptions do prove the rule. As we are able to grow as an organization, we should be willing to make longer-term bets and design longer-term plans. Moving from 'planning as a sometimes thing’ to 'planning as a way of life' at LearningLeaders has not been easy. We are still far from the destination, though fortunately drawing nearer by the day.

The corollary to this idea is that focusing on the trivial is a waste of time. The Law of Triviality indicates that the vast majority of people spend far too much time worrying about trivial issues that don’t have much leverage.

A near-perfect illustration of this is talking to students about their schools. Almost always, the topic of cafeteria food comes up. While, yes, healthy and warm meals should be served in schools and students cannot effectively focus without proper nutrition and energy, the marginal difference between having a gourmet lunch and a great lunch and a good lunch (provided the necessary nutrition is there) has a minute impact on the student’s learning outcome at a school. However, inevitably, when you ask students what is most important to improve at their school, cafeteria food rises to the top of the list. We, as adults now looking back, can empathize with the students’ mindsets because we had similar conversations when we were their age. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that there are 100 other ways to improve a school that will likely have greater tangible learning outcomes.

In my best estimation (and no disrespect to you chefs and foodies out there), only after the higher leverage decisions to improve student learning are made should the discussion revert to cafeteria food.

Do you know the number one most common complaint of consumers in America? According to the Consumer Federation of America, it is misleading ads for new and used cars.

Maybe when you add in safety concerns of cars, or faulty repairs, I can see how this becomes more important. But... really? Misleading ads for cars are a bigger concern than health, education, and housing-related consumer issues? This suggests to me that most people are spending a whole lot of time worrying about something that isn’t the highest leverage decision they are making on a regular basis. Nailing down what is the highest leverage method to apply your efforts at any given moment is incredibly hard. Not easy. Not natural in the slightest. It requires conscientious thinking and yes, maybe painful prioritization.

That’s exactly why we need to ask ourselves regularly:

"Where will one unit (an hour, a day, a week, working 50%, 75%, or 95% of our efforts) produce the greatest long-term positive change for my own life? For the lives of our students? Our customers? Our Partners?"

Leverage is the name of the game.