The Top Business Skill You Don’t Use Enough

The storm that blew through Bruce County a few weeks ago left a trail of downed trees including 7 on my partner’s property. It’s always a shame to see any tree disappear because of the benefit they have on the environment and we will be replacing them x3 at least.

What it did mean was a lot of lumber that needed cutting up, chopping and splitting. Of course, this wood is also not going to be any good for burning for at least a year and it needs storing in a covered place to dry out.


Stacking hundreds of logs may seem like a bit of a mind-numbing chore, but in fact, it is incredibly meditative and also gave me plenty of thinking time. I came up with several ideas and decisions that will change my approach this quarter and into 2022, in business and life.

Thinking is a key skill that many of us never spend enough time doing. It was said that Jack Welch, former head of GE used to have 2 hours blocked out in his calendar every day for thinking. Warren Buffet apparently does something similar.

In his book “The Road Less Stupid”, Keith Cunningham provides chapter after chapter of thinking prompts for your business. I was ‘sold’ on reading this book (now dipping into it regularly) after reading this description from him. I can almost guarantee you will come up with a similar realization to me to the question I highlighted.

Smart people do dumb things. Here’s the proof: How much money would you have right now if I gave you the ability to unwind any three financial decisions you have ever made? Years ago, after suffering a humiliatingly large dumb tax, it dawned on me that I have a seemingly unlimited ability to hit unforced errors and sabotage my business and financial success. I suspect you do, too. It turns out that the key to getting rich (and staying that way) is to avoid doing stupid things. I don’t need to do more smart things. I just need to make fewer dumb mistakes. The vast majority of our dumb tax is a direct result of emotional, overly optimistic and poorly thought out decisions. Every one of those three decisions you would love to unwind was an avoidable mistake. Thinking is critical to sustainable success in business; said another way, business is an intellectual sport.

He provides 5 Core Disciplines for Thinking Time.

  1. Find the unasked question. It’s easy enough to come up with questions like “How do I increase sales by X?” but you need to dig deeper to find the real nugget questions that will really help you.
  2. Separate the problem from the symptom. What are the possible reason you are noticing this symptom?
  3. Check assumptions. What do you not see?
  4. Consider the 2nd order consequences. We are all to good at seeing the upside and ignoring the downsides.
  5. Create the machine. What systems need to be in place and resources need to be reallocated?

I also love his ‘Bumper Stickers’ – quotes that are both humourous and so often bang on true!

The best that I feel underlines why you need to spend more time thinking is this one:

“Having the right answer is smart. Having the right question is genius.” – Keith Cunningham

Book some time now, this week, in your calendar for thinking time. An hour should be enough. Tell me what you come up with.

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