Living a Narrow Life

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The older and wiser I get, the more I realise I do not need to know.

Here’s the thing. Life is fairly simple yet it’s extremely complex.

Eat, drink, sleep. That’s pretty much all we need to do to survive. Yet we’re still debating how, what, why, where and when.


It’s almost as if we love to complicate our lives with what matters the least, when keeping it simple is so much less of a burden.

What if instead you were to live by just a few golden rules, only set a handful of goals, then spend each day achieving them.

How much more simple would your life be?

Here’s the thing.

All of us would like to achieve different goals in our life but how close are we to realising them? Is the problem that we aren’t good enough to achieve those things, or is it that we’re trying to achieve too many at the same time?

Lately, I feel like the best way forward is to reduce what I’m doing.

Get focused on only a few things and achieve those.

Last year I decided to give up learning the guitar. I realised that at the end of the day, it’s not something I’m passionate about. I took it up as a challenge to learn to play and sing ONE song then spent a couple of hours every day for a year doing exactly that. I learned a dozen or so songs in that time and had fun doing it, but if I continued down that path I would be saying ‘No’ to other things that I want to do.

There’s only so many hours in the day!

One of the best pieces of advice on this subject I ever heard came from Warren Buffett’s ‘Not to-do list’. I’ve heard this story years ago and held it in my mind ever since. As someone who has multiple interests, I’ve found it really difficult to do – and yet it’s making more and more sense as I’ve noticed when my attention is only on a few things I achieve so much more.

It may be that as I’m getting older, I’m becoming aware that my time remaining on this planet is running out. I don’t know when that last day will be, but it’s coming… for all of us.

So when I think about what I’d like to achieve, there’s a couple of things on my very long list that are at the top and the others on my list are no longer worth my attention and time.

So, if you haven’t heard of the ‘Not to-do list’ I’ll summarise it for you below. This snippet of the story is from James Clear’s blog;

The Story of Mike Flint

Mike 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…

STEP 1: Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down.

STEP 2: 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.

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.”

That’s some seriously good advice right there.

Make a list, choose 5 (I had heard it was choose 4 previously – whatever the number, choose only a handful that are most important to you then go for those).

How much more satisfying would your life be if you accomplished one of your major goals this year?

  • Writing a book
  • Putting on a performance
  • Finding the love of your life
  • Travelling to a destination you’ve always dreamed of
  • Starting a family
  • Receiving a business award
  • Buying your first home

Whatever your list – narrow it down.

Creating rules around how you’ll achieve that list is a lot easier when that list is short and defined.

You can have it all – just not all at the same time.

Choose 5.

Choose a narrow life.