The Sunday Mail
Whenever I hear or see the word “margin” I picture my Masuku Primary School teacher who insisted on it without compromise.
She would walk up to you and insist that before you write anything you must draw a margin in your Writing Book. Not carrying a ruler to school therefore was anathema. The cardinal rule of writing was spelt out: “Draw your margins first!”
So it is with all life — no margin, no magic! Margins are the magic of greatness. You need a margin and perhaps lots of margins to preserve focus and do what matters most.
The biggest discovery on the journey of greatness is not that you can do a lot of things. Rather the opposite: that you cannot do everything, have everything and be all things to all people.
However, focus your effort, clear of your priorities you can do some great things. Hence the need for you to take whatever you use for measuring the worth of your life and drawing big and bold margins.
Margin is about creating boundaries, space and room. In business margin is the difference between the money that comes in and the expenses you have. There is no hope for profit if you do have any margin.
There is also no hope of a profitable life if you have no margins. Margins in life refer to the space that you create between the many things to do and the significant ones.
You could think of margin as a “breathing space”.
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, in his 1886 paper “Cours d’économie politique” while he was at the University of Lausanne, demonstrated that approximately 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population.
This observation was extended to other behavioural and business relationships by later management thinkers like Joseph M Juran, who put it forward as the Pareto Principle.
This is the cardinal principle of margin: 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of activities. The Pareto Principle is the law of the vital few. Margin means that you define these vital few activities and protect them.
It means that you deliberately stop doing things that do not matter but just crowd you up and compromise your focus. The key to greatness is to stay focused and that means creating margin in your life. Do more of what matters and gives you leverage.
To do more, do less
To accomplish more, do less unimportant things.
Focus on your high payoff activities that give you the highest return on effort. Life is painfully reckoned if you have spent it chasing your tail.
Time is unforgiving if you have spent it on things that have no relation to your priorities and values. The essence of strategy is articulating clear goals of where you intend to go and then creating margin that clearly specifies what you will do and what you will not do.
Margin allows you to do more of what takes you in the desired direction. Your resources are too precious to be squandered on things that do not matter much. Your life will not matter if you spend it on things that do not matter.
Margins help you create laser focus and precision in action. Many things will cry for your attention, but not everything deserves your attention.
You do not have to feel guilty for saying “No”. What traffic light fulfils its purpose by always being green? With no margin you will find yourself so overwhelmed to the degree that you begin to accomplish less. Do important things and discard the rest.
It is a human tendency to want many – the best, the latest, the smartest and perhaps the biggest! Margin is being able to drill deep into your heart and to articulate what you want.
If you do not know what you want everything will be good enough. Make quality choices. Do not let your life run on default settings. Not everything that is for sale is for you to buy. Some things are simply not meant for you. Be comfortable with not having it all. Margin means knowing what you want and what you do not want.
Do not buy things to please the sellers: buy because you need to.
Create margin in your goals. Do not pursue things in order to make your friends happy while you cringe inside with sadness and agony. Your life is too short to be lived in misery. Cut out goals that are not yours that you were pursuing to make other people happy.
Live your life in your context, there is no global contest that you have been left out of. Play to your gallery and to the audience that is paying to watch you.
Get your goals and activities right and your life will be right. Live in your shoes and you will not complain so much that the shoes you are wearing are too painful.
You have started on the path to greatness when you respect yourself enough to create margins and focus on your supreme goals, while respecting others.
You can have many things. Whatever you desire you can have. You just cannot have everything at the same time. Some things you have to be content seeing them in pictures and letting them fly past.
Narrow your focus and then focus on your focus. What do you really want? Many people know what they do not want. They loudly complain about what they do not want?
They are willing to fight against what they do not want? They may even name their organisations and programme based on what they do not want. The kicker for greatness is always what you really want.
Without a clear goal and ambition you are swept into the activities of the “Don’t Want” malcontents.
People who know what they want are clear, focused and have margins. Those who do not know binge on everything and wonder why they are being victimised.
Narrow your focus to critical outcomes. Reduce your game plan to a few key things that will take your life forward, give you clarity and momentum. It is easy to score when you know where the goal posts are.
Keep clear of the flag and aim for it and this will give you a feeling of accomplishment. It is better to focus on a few things that to be all over, overwhelmed and feeling that you have not accomplished much simply because you think other people “have it all”.
A little that means a lot to you is better that a lots that you do not value.
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and executive coach. He is a cutting strategy, innovation, team-building and leadership facilitator and a consultant. His life purpose is to inspire greatness. Feedback: [email protected], Twitter @MiltonKamwendo and WhatsApp +263772422634. Website: www.miltonkamwendo.com