I’ve had a ridiculously fortunate life and career so far. One of my “problems” is that there are too many interesting things to work on. I’m developing an approach to this problem, which I call the 5-95 Rule. It’s a work in progress, and I’d like to share it in case it’s helpful and selfishly to learn how it might be improved.
Assuming a long and healthy career, I expect there will be about 5 projects that will be THE things I work on. These are the ones that have the highest potential impact and are most uniquely suited to my background in medicine, product development, and informatics. My last such ‘project’ was my fabulous job at Google. The current one is a startup company called Smart Patients (more on that another time).
I estimate that over the course of my career there will be another 95 projects where (a) the project could have important impact on the world and (b) I could significantly improve the project’s chance of success. So, a career with 5 projects that I’ll work on full time, and 95 others — hence, the 5-95 rule. I’ve developed a pretty good sense of how to choose the 5 and dedicate myself to them. But how do I find the other 95 and what do I do about them?
I don’t think I’ll ever have a perfect answer, but I actively think about this now. Why try to find them at all? I’m an impact junkie and I love to learn. I’ve also learned lessons about how critical focus is, so we’re talking about small, targeted commitments. One might be a formal advisory role, another a lunch and a few emails.
Currently, I’m an advisor for three companies: Qpid.me, ShareTheVisit, and Hobnob, and I’m on the board of directors of a non-profit, Medic Mobile. One not-very-humble principle guides me: if I’m a formal advisor for a company, I want to be their best advisor. If I can’t be, that’s a signal that it might not be a good enough fit.
I love that I often get asked for informal advice. If I don’t think I can help much, I’m not shy about saying so, sharing my quick thoughts, and wishing someone good luck. Probably once a quarter, I have lunch with a young entrepreneur. I’m certain that much of the time, I learn much more than they do. (Another discussion for later: I’m convinced that the only useful definition of expert, is that someone thinks you’re an expert. The rest is self-fulfilling.)
One of the many reasons for starting to blog again is to have an easy to find “contact me” page. If you’re one of the 95, let me know!