Priority Should Have No Plural Form

Lately I’ve been studying Andrew McConnell‘s new book Get Out of My Head: Creating Modern Clarity With Stoic Wisdom and listening to his interview on The Atlanta Story podcast. With a number of excellent personal stories and interviews with entrepreneurs, Andrew captures and translates our modern endeavors with that of the Stoics from thousands of years ago. Spoiler alert: many of our life learnings and philosophical outlooks aren’t new. What is new is making it relatable to our generation.

One of my favorite passages from the book was about the word priority. Here’s the text from the section “Less but better”:

“…the very word priority initially had no plural form. By definition it was singular. It was the thing prior to all other things. For five hundred years, from its entry into the English language in the 1400s all the way up to the 1900s, it remained as such.”

One of the most common mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is having too many priorities. When opportunity abounds and there are many different possible directions, it’s easy, and natural, to try and do too much. With the Simple Strategic Plan, there’s a section for “Quarterly Priority Projects” and upon asking entrepreneurs for their plan prior to meeting, 90% of entrepreneurs put more than three priorities and make the priorities too vague and broad. With too many priorities, there are no priorities.

Making it even more simple, there should be no more than one priority per person. Solo entrepreneur? Only one priority project. Three co-founders? Only three priority projects. Similar to the idea of a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI), one single person has to own the initiative and they’re solely accountable for the outcome.

The next time someone mentions their priorities, think single priority and ask about the real priority. Priority should have no plural form. Priority is what comes prior to everything else.

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