There’s a popular story about Warren Buffett. Well, there are a lot of those, but there’s one in particular that stands out to me. I don’t know where it started, but you can read about it in detail here. But I’ll summarize it.
The story involves Buffett chatting to his private pilot. He starts talking to his pilot about goals and careers and gives him an activity to do:
1) Buffett asked the pilot to write down his top 25 career goals.
2) The pilot was then asked to circle his top 5 on that list.
3) Buffett then asked the pilot to put the circled items in their own list.
Buffett asked the pilot if he knew the significance of the two lists. The pilot said that the list of circled goals should be the top priority. And the other twenty items should be a lower priority, but still given time and effort.
And that’s where Buffett stops him.
The pilot was right with the circled items: They should be top priority. But he was wrong with the other items. Not only should they be of no priority, but they should be avoided at all costs.
The idea is that if you try to do too many things, your focus is spread too thin and it’s hard to accomplish anything, let alone anything at a high level. So instead, it’s better to focus on the things most important to you, and actively avoid the things that may distract you.
And while the exercise was focused on career goals, it can be applied to life in general.
And that’s how Warren Buffett killed my love of pro wrestling.
For my entire adult life (and on-and-off before that), I’ve been an unapologetic pro wrestling fan. My fandom has shifted and evolved over time, but wrestling and video games have been the two constants in my hobby library. No matter what’s happening in my life, I can watch pro wrestling.
I’ve done two list-based activities over the past few days: One was Buffett’s 25-5 rule. The other was something I thought up on a whim. I made three lists: “Things that always give me joy,” “Things that sometimes give me joy,” and “Things that don’t give me joy (or affect me negatively)”.
I would then think of a hobby, interest, or activity that I’ve been involved with in my post-collegiate life and assign it to a list, without consideration. And those two staples of my interests fell into the “sometimes” list. Later in the day, I was looking it over, thinking about what I had written, it surprised me. Why would I put something I love so much in the “sometimes” column. Did it not deserve higher?
No it didn’t.
There are times when I’m watching pro wrestling and I love every moment. A match that grabs me emotionally. Or a wrestler that amazes me. Or a show that’s as complete as any other piece of visual entertainment. But just as often, I’ll watch something, shrug and think “that’s not my kind of thing” or “it was fine, but whatever.” And even if I think something is objectively good, it doesn’t always equate to joy. The same point applies to video games, my oldest interest (other than dinosaurs).
Compare it to the feeling of playing golf: I suck at golf. But I don’t really care if I’m great at it. I don’t get out too much (only own one club and even if I had a full set, it’d be annoying to take on the bus), but every time I go to the driving range and hit some balls, I love it. It’s a great feeling, even when you only drive it about 150 yards and you suspect the attractive women next to you are laughing at your piss-poor shot, and not at some joke they told each other.
And there are others, as well: Writing is always a winner for me. Playing pinball is something that always makes me feel great, at least when I play in person. Learning (reading, online classes, etc.) gives me joy, as well. Even when I find myself disinterested in what I’m trying to learn, I’ll at least learn that it doesn’t click with me and I’ll move onto the next thing.
Poking at my ukulele is something that I adore wholeheartedly, too. Maybe I’ll take an actual lesson sometime. Or maybe it’ll fall in the list of 20 “DO NOT TOUCH” activities. I don’t know.
But other things that I’ve loved–or have thought I loved–are almost certainly on the list of 20.
I don’t know where I go from here, when it comes to interests and hobbies. I know I need to take a step back from certain things. Maybe I’ll watch very little wrestling online, but make a point to go to more shows in-person. Perhaps the money I’d spend on video games should go to a “let’s hit up some pinball machines” fund. The time I’d spend learning languages could go to Udemy courses or playing the ukulele or just flat-out reading cool stuff.
When I was a kid, I loved basketball. I haven’t watched more than ten minutes of a game in over 6 years. It does nothing for me anymore. Interests change over time. Maybe this is just the next step for me.
I have a hard time choosing five things from my first list of 25 (“writing” is the only sure thing). But if you just had me choose the five most important things in general, they’d be: Writing, laughing, experiences, learning, connecting with people. Maybe I’ll lean heavily toward those right now.