Key logs and the path to success

In a bygone era, courageous men moved logs by the thousands with rivers, crossing vast distances and enduring enormous risks. One of the perils of the trade was the log jam, when topography and conditions conspired to bring the flow of logs to a halt. In these situations, the solution was to find the key log, the one log that, when released, would break up the entire jam.

Key logs are everywhere, in life and in business. The key to progress is to identify and eliminate them.

Let’s take a simple example. Something close to home.

I had an old computer in my downstairs closet. It was just the right size to prevent me from putting a bunch of window screens in that closet, which then wound up sitting in my third bedroom. As a result, my third bedroom became a de facto storage closet; we kept sticking things there because the screens were already there, and until they were gone, well…why not? After months of accumulation, we started arguing about the room, about how we were wasting precious space, about how we couldn’t create that library we always wanted. After a bit of thought, I realized it was all because of that stupid, old computer in the closet downstairs. That was the key log.

Move the computer into the attic. Move the screens into the closet downstairs. Move other things into the attic, closets, or other places. And suddenly, a room in our house becomes useful again…we can create that library we’ve always wanted.

It’s obvious. It’s a simple manifestation of the dependencies that exist in the world. And yet, sometimes it’s hard to see these dependencies, and how progress hinges on doing one critical thing first. And so people and businesses get stuck, their goals unrealized, with the metaphorical closet filling up all because of that one thing.

The first step: Find and eliminate the key log.

This idea isn’t new. It’s analogous to David Allen’s core philosophy in Getting Things Done: the most important thing is to understand what you have to do next. Don’t look at the list of all the things you have to do; just focus on the next thing, and take that one step. And then once that’s done, you can move to the next thing, and so on.

For businesses, key logs can be anything (e.g., people, processes, resources). Maybe it’s the lack of the right IT infrastructure. Or a team without the right players. Maybe it’s a more fundamental problem with the business or brand strategy. It could be staring you in the face, or buried under a mountain of daily distractions. It might not be easy to find, but until you change your mindset, until you look for that one key element on which other things hinge, you’ll be stuck.

So what are the key things that are holding you or your business back?