There is a dangerous belief that entrepreneurs and business leaders tend to carry and that is that they can do it all. They can wear all the hats, juggle all the tasks, and pick up the pieces on their own. “Doing it all” is often how a business initially gets off the ground. But, once success starts to be realized, this behavior starts to have damaging effects.

MBA Stanford graduate and author Greg McKeown explores this trend in his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. As business leaders begin to see success, they become overwhelmed with options and new expectations. These competing priorities tend to diffuse their focus and cause them to fail. The antidote is the pursuit of focusing on less for better. Leaders need to focus on the essential tasks at hand, eliminate (or delegate or outsource) the rest, and build a framework for the execution of the essentials in everyday operations.

In order to perfect this disciplined approach, you will undoubtedly have to get comfortable with trade-offs. Making a trade-off means strategically eliminating or replacing activities, staff, or other aspects of your current “status quo” in order to necessitate positive change. The Harvard Business School article, “Making Strategic Trade-Offs,” provides an excellent example: “An airline can choose to serve meals—adding cost and slowing turnaround time at the gate—or it can choose not to, but it cannot do both without bearing major inefficiencies.” Each action has an equal and opposite reaction. We can’t expect to change if we continue doing the same things.


Not all of your current operational practices are going to be compatible with your new mindset, goals, and vision. But, when you go outside of your comfort zone and embrace the success that trade-offs can bring, you can:

  • Create mental and physical capacity
  • Indirectly have your team learn to protect their time and brand
  • Improve the work culture and attract great hires
  • Improve the client experience and referrals


Listen to Greg as he speaks about Trade Off’s. He is the author of Essentialism and explains the concept the best.

Reflect and Prioritize

Building a business based on essentialism requires trade-offs to be made. They can be tough decisions to make. Many times, they put us in a position to make bigger changes that cause us discomfort such as phasing out ill-fitting clients, replacing old vendors, or laying off employees. However, the alternative to these trade-offs is experiencing the stagnation of the business or your own career path. You must learn that the convincing argument for embracing the temporary discomfort is the payoff of personal and business success. The goal is to integrate these essentialist practices into your workday so that a higher probability of success becomes the norm and not just something happening on a rare occasion.

Please remember to add any new epiphanies and ideas to your Master Plan of Ideas and Initiatives.