Prioritizing Like A Survivor – Lessons From The Backcountry

Gotta feed the block, niggaz starvin’, they got appitites
And this is er’day, it never gets old…
This aint a rap song, nigga this is my life

-Young Jeezy, Soul Survivor

Learning to prioritize for yourself and others is a vital skill to run a team and your life. It also happens to be very difficult for the hustler startup founder to develop. By our nature we are constantly looking to expand our opportunities by chasing the next big thing.

My backcountry adventures (especially those with my brother, an amazing backcountry survivalist) have taught me a lot of lessons in prioritization and focus.

  1. Only worry about what you can control
    The wilderness removes a lot of unnecessary responsibilities and distractions. The day you get on trail, you are faced with the very real fact that you do not have control over your surroundings. It is freeing, you can stop worrying about whether things will go right and concentrating on those things you can control.
  2. Multi-tasking keeps you from accomplishing high priority items
    Your top priorities in the backcountry are finding shelter, water and food. As soon as any one of those things is missing, you become hyper focused on rectifying the situation. Anyone that has realized a water source they were depending on is not available can tell you that they thought of nothing else until they found water. I’ve learned that it is much more efficient to work this way and I now keep a prioritized task list (made every morning while I eat breakfast) that I work down one by one.
  3. Switching costs are high, reprioritize only when necessary
    On the trail you find that every decision that you make comes with very clear costs and benefits. “Do I try for the next water spot tonight or double back 6 miles where I know there is water.” Clearly you are not going to start heading for the new water source and then double back half-way through that part of the journey. Business decisions don’t always have clear switching costs. “Should we build this new feature that will get us new customers or rebuild our back-end so we can develop new features faster.” I’ve become acutely aware of these switching costs. This past Easter, we decided to do a last minute promo and I relearned the lesson on switching costs…

The wilderness offers so many lessons and this won’t be the last post to draw on what I’ve learned there. Do you have other lessons you’ve learned from your adventures, tell everyone in the comments!

Prioritizing Like A Survivor – Lessons From The Backcountry

Do I even matter

And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
So I got rich and gave back
To me that’s the win, win

-Jay-Z (Moment of Clarity)

Last year, I attended the Mom 2.0 summit and participated in a community service project to build a playground in a low income neighborhood in New Orleans. It occurred to me then when I actually wrote this post, that I was taking as much benefit from the building as the children who would use it. It felt like I was really giving back at the time, but in reality a few hours of my labor wasn’t making much of a difference. It was making me feel a bit better about not being more active in giving back but also that I should be using my other non-physical strengths to be giving back on a more continual basis.

This blog post was originally written almost a year ago and this line of thought has stayed with me. It has had a measurable impact on the way that I get involved in causes. Chad and I have started selling Greeting Cards as fundraisers for non-profits, I’ve joined the marketing committee of EFAA which helps families in crisis and I’ve helped bring a new young Jewish professionals group (Flatiron Tribe) into existence.

What sustainable ways have you been doing good?

Do I even matter