Get the big rocks rolling

You’ve probably heard the parable of “put the big rocks first”:

The point of “big rocks” is that you need to fit the stones and pebbles in your life around the big rocks, rather than vice versa.

I’d like to propose a corollary of “put the big rocks first.”  I call it, “Get the big rocks rolling.”

The saying popped into my head as I was meeting with one of my startups and discussing what they needed to do to move the business forward.

This startup is getting traction in their initial market, and were trying to figure out how much energy to devote to adjacent markets.  For example, they’ve spent a bunch of time working with the biggest company (a Fortune 500 household name) in an adjacent market.

I told them that they needed to focus on the big rocks.

Yes, they said, but what about staying focused?

Good point, I thought.  Here’s what I told them:

“None of us really knows what’s going to be the biggest market for your technology.  It might be our initial market, it might be one of these adjacent markets.  What we need to do is to get a couple of big rocks rolling.  We might not be able to close them, but there’s a 100% chance we won’t close them if we do nothing.  Don’t sweat the pebbles at this stage, because there are too many unknowns.  Just get the big rocks rolling, and see which ones take the lead.”

It’s easy to get caught up in details.  Solving details gives us a hit of dopamine, and lets us feel good.  But the big rocks are the ones that matter.  And because we’re all dealing with an uncertain and largely unknowable future, getting those rocks rolling is likely to lead to unexpected (and potentially game-changing) results.

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