Big Rocks.

This morning a 29-year-old member of my team sent an email to the whole company about some recent personal events that made him realize that we should all “Live the life that you want, travel to places you love, do the things that take your breath away. If you fail, get up and shine one more time. Do not regret anything you have done; just look ahead. But, most importantly, always show people the love and respect they deserve”.

I thought, “Wow”. I wish I had that much wise perspective when I was 29 years old.

I’m 58, so I’m exactly twice Flavio’s age. It’s taken me a lot of time to achieve his level of enlightenment.

There’s a parable that I love to tell my Stanford students about the professor who is giving a lecture on time management. He puts a giant glass jar on a table in front of class, fills it with big rocks, and asks the class if the jar can hold any more. The class observes that no, the jar looks pretty full. So the professor pours in gravel that fills the space between the rocks and asks if the jar looks full now. He finishes, of course, by pouring in sand that fills the space between the gravel which is filling the space between the big rocks.

The professor then turns to the class and says “So, in the context of time management, what can we learn from this example?”. An eager student in the front row answers “Well, what we can learn is that with good time management skills you can always squeeze more things onto your calendar!”.

“No”, the professor answers slowly, “What we can learn from this is that if you don’t get the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in. So decide what the big rocks are for you in your life, and put those on your calendar first. Schedule everything else around what means the most to you in life”.

Part of the reason this story resonates for me is that I spent many years as a single dad with young kids, while running a Silicon Valley company. The way I got through those years is that I put all my kid stuff on my calendar first (soccer games, teacher meetings, music lessons, pediatrician appointments, etc) and then I scheduled everything else in my life around that. Time with my kids represented the big rocks for me. Everything else went on my calendar after that.

So yes, Flavio. Live life with no regrets. Exactly. And for me personally that means identifying what your big rocks are — family, friends, etc — and always prioritize those things on your calendar. You’ll still be able to make the client meetings, you’ll still be able to get your work done, but you’ll also have time for the other things that matter, too.