Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor is getting a lot of attention given his teams improbable rise to the Super Bowl. In a reflective interview, he shared something powerful about his first season as head coach. It happened just before a loss to the LA Rams that worsened his team’s record to a depressing 0-8 (ironically, the same team he now faces in Super Bowl LVI). Just before taking the field, he wrote the date and exact time on a whiteboard, along with two words for all to take in:
Taylor wanted his players to remember that, “There’s gonna be a day when we reflect back on this moment that we’re having right now, struggling to get a yard.” He wanted his players to think of the present pain as a soon-enough future memory they could use to lift themselves up, to reinforce that their failure to date was a point-in-time, not them as a collective unit, or as individuals.
These two words are the key to living through life’s highs and lows. When you’re in a low, acknowledge the difficulties you’re going through, but periodically tell yourself “Remember when”, so as to label your troubles a soon-to-be-memory, something you can reflect back upon with pride that you were able to endure – all while shrouded in the glow of your hard-earned success. Similarly, when you’re in a really good period, recognize that you just might be in the “good ol’ days”, right now. Knowing that those good times will be a memory of days gone by at some point should fuel you to appreciate the present even more.
Two words, to remember.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake to avoid)
A poignant reminder of a drastic mistake to avoid came from, of all places, the last scene of the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die. I won’t spoil the movie’s ending, but will share that a quote from author Jack London is featured in the dramatic final scene:
“A function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
It’s a mistake I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to have realized at some point that they’ve been merely existing, not living, hoping for more days but not filling each one with significance. Regretting the chances they didn’t take, not taking the steps forward that would have yanked them from stasis. My intent here is not to be preachy. Just practical. There are only so many days left for you to truly use the time you’ve been given.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
The most effective tips for prioritizing are always the simplest. The “20/20 Vision Principle” is no exception.
Before you start your day, commit to using your “20/20 vision” that day, meaning, commit to work primarily on the 20 percent that adds the most value, while keeping the next 20 percent in sight. Stay laser-focused on that first 20%, then, if your attention drifts to something that isn’t in that first 20%, ask yourself if it falls into the next 20% most important. If it does, mentally file it away as work to get to if you can. If it doesn’t meet even that second 20% criteria, then it’s not worth your time and attention that day. Period.
So, think 20/20 vision to prioritize with great foresight.