People who have worked in my startups have heard plenty of sayings and analogies I like to use (things like “walk them down the road,” “what moves the needle,” “sell with paper,” etc.), but one of the more recent ones I’ve grown fond of using is “don’t polish brass on the Titanic.”

The idea here is simple: there are lots of things you can be doing that make you feel good and might seem important, but in the big picture, you are wasting time!!

Clearly, the Titanic analogy is based on the notion that the ship is sinking, so doing anything other than trying to save lives is insane. It’s an extreme analogy to point out how we often waste time and try to convince ourselves we are being useful.

When you look at your day, remember to only work on the FEW things (as there are truly only a few) that will move the needle. These are often the things you don’t want to do (make the tough cold calls, finalize the presentation, etc.), but they are the ones that matter.

So, next time you are polishing brass, remember there are probably lives to save. Do what matters!

Yours in startups,