Your Highest Possible Contribution

The Highest Possible Contribution

“Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution toward my goal?” Greg McKeown poses this question in his book Essentialism.

The question is not whether something you might do is good or bad, the question is whether it is the highest possible contribution you can make.

If you donated to every good cause, you would either: 1. Go bankrupt. or 2. Give each charity a handful of pennies a year.

It is more effective to select a small number of charities that you believe can make the biggest impact and support them.


The same principle applies to any area of life. I was considering my three weekly Bible studies, and determined that one is my “highest point of contribution” for me, another is my “highest point of contribution” for others, and the third I can just listen to and occasionally skip.

This concept was revolutionary at work even though I wasn’t systematic about it. When I first started my current job, I did a lot. I actually did more work than I do now, but my boss wasn’t happy. Why? I was doing good things, but I wasn’t doing much for my highest point of contribution. I was letting “good things” get in the way of the main thing.

My boss is happier now even though I’m working less because I’m focusing on my highest point of contribution. Do I do it perfectly? No. Do we both notice a big difference? Yes.

And here’s the funny thing: Those “good tasks” usually get done. Some are eliminated as unimportant, but the others almost always get done. Not as fast as before, but pretty reliably.

Big Rocks

It’s the “Big Rocks” principle: Let’s say you have a mix of big rocks, small rocks, and sand. You want to put it all in a jar. How would you do that?

If you put the small rocks and sand in first, the big rocks will never fit. But if you put in the big rocks first, the small rocks and sand fit in the cracks. The same is true of life. If we do our most important things first, the less important things often get done in the “cracks” of life.

The core struggle is being willing to let less important things go for the sake of what is most important. That willingness is hard, but being willing to let go often allows you to do both. Often, but not always. Many of those “good” things will take longer, and some won’t happen at all. You have to be ok with that because the alternative is to never do much of significance or value.

A Question for You

What’s your highest point of contribution?

Please let me know in the comments below.



Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash


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