The Dilemma of the Capable

shutterstock_11794999I read an article recently by Greg McKeown—The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make—about our inability to prioritize our work in order to maximize our contribution. His premise is that when capable people shine, they are noticed and sought after and put on a LOT of different projects but then their effort gets diluted, because they are capable, and they fail to realize their highest point of contribution.

It made me think of my own life and career and I wonder if I fall into the same trap? I shared an object lesson around time priorities at a recent graduation. If you consider your time as an empty jar, you can fill that time with family, friends, career, school, faith, personal fitness, etc., as represented by large rocks filling the jar. Now, it may appear as if the jar is full, but in truth there are still some pockets that could be filled by smaller rocks representing less important things in our lives such as hobbies, leisure activities, volunteer activities, etc. Again, it appears that the jar now is full but there is room still for some even less important activities such as games, reading, shopping, etc., represented by sand, or even water.

It seems that no matter how much we fill our lives and our time, there seems to be room for more, but should we really take on that seemingly unimportant task, just because we are capable? Or should we instead focus on our “big rocks” and strengthen our career and our personal life. On any given evening or weekend, my “small rocks” seem to conflict with each other. This may be a sign that I am trying to fit too much in my jar and not focusing on the few important things that can help keep me moving forward. I have heard it said that you can go broad or you can go deep but not both. You have to choose.

Do you ever feel you are not reaching your highest contribution, just because you are that capable person that everyone wants on their team, on their project, on their committee or board? How do you focus on those important things that can make you stand out and make your life and career fulfilling?

What is important in your jar? What is it that makes you stand out? What strategies have you found to help you focus on those things? Share your thoughts.


About Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.

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