How to keep the main thing, the main thing

The Main Thing

Is to keep THE MAIN THING, the main thing...

Stephen Covey‘s words – “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – are certainly great advice, but it’s not always that easy to identify the main thing – much less actually keep it the main thing. Recent events in the world have seen us ‘creative types’ having to diversify in order to survive. So it’s inevitable that stuff gets pushed into the background.
For each of us, there should be a main thing — the thing that fuels us and motivates us. Creative people in particular need a main thing. They keep us engaged and interested in life. But even if your not a creative having a main thing and keeping it your main thing is still a great piece of advice for life. Your main thing could be a state of mind, a life-long dream or a career path.
By the time you read this I’ll be back at work after a 3rd UK lockdown. I can honestly say that I’m a little nervous. Like, first day of school nervous.
Thankfully my business has survived. But not without some help, the fantastic support of my ‘newsletter gang’ and a fight. I’ve also had to rely on some of my other skills to survive. So I turned to art to help make ends meet and music to keep me sane.
3+ months later I’ve got quite used to being a retired ‘painter-slash-musician’. So much so that I’ve had to setup a new instagram profile for my tattoos because they were getting lost in the noise created by my latest output. @paultalbottattoo is the tattoo focused instagram in case you were wondering where all the tattoo have gone from my profile!

It's been 3 months now and at this point I'm not sure I remember what The main thing even is anymore.

My situation isn’t unique. I know musicians who still haven’t got back to work. So lets take a look at what the quote means (imo) and where it can be applied in our lives.
The ‘main thing’ should be you focus. Keep your eye on the ball and stay on top of what is really important. Of course we’re all going to drop it from time to time, but it’s important to learn from the mistake and try to come up with a better method to keep focused on what is important and less distracted by what isn’t.

How to keep the main thing, the main thing

How do you define the main thing?

What is it in your life?

How many different roles do you play in your life? Grab some paper and start with the categories of activities. Work, home, hobbies, family. Whatever broad categories you can think of. Now, select one of them and try to identify the different roles you play within that category.
Here is a few I came up with in my category of ‘work‘:
  • boss
  • mentor
  • teacher
  • IT guy
  • captain
  • decorater
  • tattooist
This list will change each time you go through this exercise, so don’t sweat it if you don’t come up with much this time around.
Let’s take the captain as an example. When I’m
But the main thing is the role of captain. The consequences of loosing focus on that particular task could be anything from running out of coffee to a serious business miscalculation. Possibly costing everyone their jobs and livelihoods. Focus; it can be that important.
I know that’s Easier said than done. So below are some ideas for identifying the main thing and keeping it the main thing in your life.

Keeping the Main Thing, The Main Thing.

1. Take a look at your current situation. 
Think about how you spend your time. Think about the people in your life (work and otherwise). Think about your job. Think about the future.
Are these things exciting and motivating you? Are they part of the path you want to be on? And if they’re not. What makes you want to get up in the morning? Why aren’t you doing that then?
If that’s not what you’re doing every single day, then you’re missing out on the main thing and it’s time to clean house and get moving.
If recent events have taught me anything then it’s that there is no time as good as right now. Because you never know what’s coming up in the future.
Remember: no one is going to make the main thing your priority for you. It’s up to you.
2. Balance focus & distraction.
If you want your main thing to stay in focus, you’ve got to push all the other distractions away in your day to day life. This is tricky and it’s really about striking the right balance for you. Become too focused at the expense of everything else in your life and you’ll become a boring, burn out pretty quickly. Everyone talks about the importance of staying focused when it comes to ‘main thing’ discussions but no-one seems to place importance on making time to be deliberately unfocused. This is important too. Don’t forget, you need time to recharge your creative energies too.
3. Do more things that require attention.
Modern life is full of distractions. Some of them are useful business tools too. And this combo is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to us losing focus daily.
“I’m on facebook/instagram/tik-tok/linkedin/twitter a lot because its for my business/brand”
No. What you’re actually doing is distracting yourself. And we all do it 221 times a day on average. This habit of distraction breeds a shorter and shorter collective attention span. Making it harder and harder for us to focus over long periods of time. So, put your phone down and practice concentrating for longer periods of time. Read a book. Play chess.
Of course, keeping the main thing — whatever that might be — the main thing is difficult with all of life’s distractions and detours. It will take effort, perseverance, and determination to keep the main thing in focus. But it’s worth it.

Spending most of your time and energy on something that inspires you and less on what distracts you is rewarding in many ways both financially and otherwise. Life is short and it can get flipped on it's head in an instant. Keep the main thing, the main thing.

How to keep the main thing, the main thing

Stephen Covey

Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®, continues to be a best seller for the simple reason that it ignores trends and pop psychology and focuses on timeless principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity.