Day 127: “Two Twenties”

About ten years back, I spent parts of three summers working with a woman whose job entailed managing more responsibilities – and supervising more workers – than I could count (much less keep straight in my head). As you can imagine, over the years, she had developed a number of strategies for addressing problems and managing stress.

One of her most famous strategies centered on keeping two twenty-dollar bills (which came from her own wallet) in one of her desk drawers. Whenever someone came into her office to report a “crisis” (be it real or imagined), she often took a moment to determine whether or not it was something that could be remedied with the two twenties in her desk – especially when it seemed like the issue in question otherwise would involve more hassle than it was actually worth.

Don’t get me wrong: she was a great manager: people liked and respected her, and she got things done. She just focused her attention on the things that actually deserved it – and, sometimes, spent a little of her own money to take care of some of the ones that didn’t.

Even if you don’t have a spare forty dollars lying around, you still have to respect her pragmatism, because, at its heart, her approach isn’t really about keeping forty dollars – or twenty – or even five – in your desk.

It’s about being able – and willing – to decide that certain things just aren’t worth the stress they induce (or time they take – or money they cost), not being afraid to admit it, and – perhaps most importantly – giving yourself permission to let go of those things so you can focus on the ones that really matter.

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