I’m interviewing Marcus Buckingham for my podcast, and I got to thinking about a quote from an old book of his that can be best paraphrased as what’s common sense and obvious to you, isn’t always obvious to the next person. Your insights seem like “Well, of course, that’s obvious!” to you, but they aren’t always that “stupid simple” for others.

I decided I’d put down a few of my favorite common sense principals here, just in case they are no obvious to everyone else, and I’d love you to add yours in the comments!

  • Everyone defines success differently, and may measure success with a different ruler. Make sure you know what it is to you before you start on that new project/goal. Otherwise, you’ll never know how far you are from the goal.
  • Most businesses get into trouble because they are unable to keep up with the growth of their business, or are unable to weather cash flow variances if things get tight or if a client does not pay promptly.
  • You always need to build a strong foundation for any business/career/project. This can be time consuming, but it will never “backfire” and you will have something that is more likely to survive changes in the market.
  • Paul Newman said “You can do anything, as long as you are prepared to deal with the consequences.” He was 100% right.
  • There’s no substitute for honesty, kindness and transparency.
  • If you are always true to yourself, you will never be disappointed, even when things don’t work out- because in the end, you’ll be able to look at the risks you took as a learning experience, not a gamble.
  • Evaluating risk maybe as simple as saying “If this all went horribly wrong, what would I do? ” or “If this doesn’t work, what’s the next step/plan?” If you have a backup plan, then taking risks can actually be fun- see Paul Newman quote above.
  • Connect the dots for other people- it may not be as obvious to them as it is to you.
  • Just because you have experience in one field, doesn’t mean you can’t use it in another- you just have to be able to make a case that the experience translates. For example, parenting is managing short, unruly and often illogical employees, with high needs and a necessity for external structure. Sounds like managing a business to me. Add in managing budgets, deadlines, and long term growth (ie saving for college) and you have a resume fit for any business.
  • Know all the tools you have at your disposal, and learn how to use each of them well, in many different circumstances. A screwdriver is best used for tightening or loosening screws, but it can be used to open jars, cans, scrape stuff off the bottom of a chair, or even as a hammer in an emergency- but if you know how to use it in all of these ways, you can improvise when necessary.

What are the stupid obvious things to you? What would you add to this?