Plate spinning is an old circus act popularized by 1960’s American television. It’s a reference my Dad would make when I was a kid. I’m not sure who would get the reference these days. But there are old Ed Sullivan shows on YouTube. (I find this video oddly stress-inducing, so let the viewer beware.)
The performer’s task is to get as many plates spinning on a pole as possible without any of them crashing to the ground. The tension builds as more plates are spinning on more poles. The performer moves from one pole to the next to the next, keeping the inevitable disaster from happening. The audience gasps. The frenetic performance continues.
Much like the modern workplace.
I’m no longer a fan of doing my work in such a way that it feels like spinning plates. At one time, this was the only way I did my work. Not so much anymore. Too much stress. Too much tension. Too much at stake.
The cardinal principle of “Essentialism” is my North Star now.
Weniger aber besser.
Less, but better.
Plate spinning is no longer my talent. And when I do find myself having to spin a few plates, I make absolutely sure that those plates are made of unbreakable plastic. Because we should never place essential things in such a precarious situation.
Don’t even try to spin irreplaceable china wear.
That could be the worst decision you’ve ever made.
What is essential?
How do I do what is essential to very best of my ability and leave everything else alone?
I’m still not great at answering those questions.
But it’s where I aim.