Do you know about Peter Thiel?
Well, Peter Theil was the co-founder of PayPal along with few other world’s most innovative brains – known as PayPal Mafia (after selling PayPal to eBay in 2002, most of them later went on creating great companies e.g Elon Musk created Tesla & SpaceX, Steve Chen who co-founded YouTube and the creator of LinkedIn,Reid Hoffman )
Peter Theil was also the first outside investor in Facebook, where he invested US $ 500,000 in 2004 and sold all his shares in 2012 for US$ 1billion.
You may be wondering why I’m giving information about Peter Thiel while writing about A+ problems vs. B+ problems!
Well, there’s a story of him when he was CEO of PayPal. That story tells about his working style. And it tells a lot about the person and his colleagues! Most of those colleagues picked important principles from the said working style. They applied those principles in their own companies and have been able to excel in the domains they chose. And most probably it can help everyone.
The story is how Peter Theil insisted at PayPal that every single person did exactly “One Thing”.
Thiel refused to talk to his colleagues anything other than that “One Thing”!
The focus on “One Thing” meant that everyone has to focus on one big thing – one thing that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
The insight behind this that most people will solve problems they know how to solve and they would ignore the real, big important issues -the elephant in the room.
The people tend to focus on problems that are easy to solve, the problems that don’t want them to leave their comfort zone, their current expertise.
In this way, people tend to keep the big problems ( A+) aside while spending most of their time on smaller issues (B+ problems). And they get so busy working on B+ problems that a day comes when A+ problem becomes too huge that it threatens their very basic objectives or the project or the company.
This can be summarised as below:
a) If given a choice, people will solve B+ problems rather than A+ problems.
b) B+ problems are problems that we know how to solve and are in our comfort zone.
c) A+ problems are high -impact problems.
It is not easy to solve them, so we keep on delaying working on them.
Why B+ Problems are loved by everyone?
We all need instant dopamine to feel happy, to feel smart, too feel confident, hence we tend to spend more time on the challenges that are easy to solve, where our current expertise is sufficient, where we don’t need to admit that we don’t know something ( ego-issue), where we don’t need to learn something new (discomfort -zone), and where we don’t need to change current habits or policies.
The Results :
If you have an entire day or an entire company focusing on B+ problems, this cascades! A + problems get ignored and you lose an opportunity to grow and your progress stalls.
That’s how most of the people end up as average performers and most of the companies become average or extinct after initial success.
Here are a few examples of how it happens:-
In life, we tend to avoid doing regular exercise (A+ problem) until left with no choice.
In companies, sales-people tend to focus on easy-to-sell products ( the companies happen to end like me-too companies, without any moat), R & D just copies other companies products ( they don’t create something like Apple), leaders focus more on cutting expenses to show profitability rather than working on growth ( cutting expenses is an immediate,easy-to-do tool, a B+ issue if the company expenses are not exorbitant ).
Peter Thiel -again!
Theil insisted on focusing on A+ problems.
And that is one of the habits that made him and his colleagues( the PayPal Mafia) extremely successful in their lives.
How to bring focus on A+ problems?
i) Keep asking Focusing Questions:
In the book named, One Thing, the author insists everyone to ask a focusing question to themselves on regular intervals.
“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”. Ask this question over and over until you’re doing the most important thing – your “ONE Thing.”
Extraordinary results rarely happen by chance They come from the choices we make and the actions we take.
The Focusing Question always takes you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success.
It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters.
ii) Calendar -Priority Alignment
As humans, we overthink, over plan and overanalyze our lives, our businesses, and our careers. We think success requires a long to-do list and a busy calendar. The truth is long hours are neither required nor healthy.
Try to this exercise when you finish reading this article.
Write down your priorities- top priorities in your life, in your work. Now look back!
Think about how much time you spent on your top priorities in your life and in your work-domain. Those top priorities are your A + problems. Chances are that your work-calendar does not align with your A + problems. There are chances that you are spending most of your time on B+ problems like many others.
And you know deep in your heart that today or tomorrow those A+ problems would become the real impediments to your growth, they are the big stones that need to be turned around if you really wanna reach the peak of your deep desires, your dire needs.
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