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Are You in the Business of You?

November 05, 2009

Steve McClatchy, founder of Alleer Training and Consulting, delivered an entertaining, powerful, and potentially life-changing message to more than 60 LeBow College of Business students and alumni on Oct. 22.

He started the seminar by explaining the two main motivations that compel humans to do what they do: to “prevent pain, or the loss of something that you have,” or to “move toward gain, or something that you want.” While these don’t initially seem too different, McClatchy goes on to explain there is actually a world of difference between the outcomes as they relate to these motivations.

McClatchy says that the easiest way to differentiate “prevent pain” tasks versus “move toward gain” tasks is that while “prevent pain” tasks are deadline-driven, “move toward gain tasks” are never urgent and cannot be delegated. Examples of “prevent pain” tasks might include taking out the trash, work assignments with deadlines, returning phone calls, and paying bills. “Move toward gain tasks” might include learning to play a musical instrument, learning another language, or volunteering your time for a good cause.

McClatchy says that prioritizing your life based solely on deadlines is a mistake because “you’ll be so busy you’ll never get around to doing the things you want to do.”

He says a better way to prioritize your life is to make to-do lists that include not only the deadline-driven tasks that need to be done on any given day, but also schedule a few “move toward gain” tasks. Unlike “prevent pain” tasks with deadlines that often pop into your brain each day, McClatchy says you must “put your gain tasks where you can see them because your brain won’t bring them to you.” He also says that working “move toward gain” tasks into your routine is the “only way to achieve balance in life.”

McClatchy says he came upon this way of thinking in college, when he was asked to give the commencement address. He waschosen for this honor over other high-achieving students, he was told, because of some volunteer work that he did.

“It dawned on me that I was chosen because of something that I didn’t even have to do,” McClatchy says.

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