A few days ago, I woke up to the word, “Restraint.” I like this phrase, “If ‘the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do,’ as Michael Porter famously wrote, then the essence of execution is truly not doing it.”

One very tangible example comes from editing, where I learned to use rich words very sparingly. For example, don’t put, “idyllic dream,” together; pick one or the other. It’s too overwhelming.

In a world of growing options, restraint is the key to differentiation. Doing less, and doing it better.

In my case, it means reigning in the creative freedom and energy I have and channeling it more intentionally. It means not running with every single project, but only with the truly important ones. It means not writing a blog post for five minutes turn into a 30 minute session. (There are many more examples, like eating to satisfy your hunger vs. your appetite, having just one bite of a delicious cake, abstaining from alcohol, etc.).

Restraint will be my one-word theme. I’ve seen people set this usually for a year at the beginning of the year, but this word came to me a couple of months in and I think it’s going to stick with me longer than that. 

If you want to read more about themes, I first came across the concept in my work with Michael Karnjanaprakorn (see “be the chef”), I’ve seen it with Nik Göke (“rise”) and Kunal Gupta.

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