“First Who” is Not Just a Business Concept

Audio Transcript

Of all the concepts that have come from my years of research into what makes great companies and enduring great organizations, the one that has perhaps had the biggest influence on me as a person as I go about leading my own life, about what I think it takes to have a great life—it’s the principle of First Who. First, the right people on the bus; first, who you spend your time with.  Because, the truth be told, we can be doing a whole lot of whats in our life.  But if our hours and days and minutes and seconds and months and years are not spent with people whom we love and respect, it really doesn’t matter where our bus is going; it doesn’t really matter what we’re doing. We really probably can’t have a great life. 

On the other hand, when you think about it, there are a lot of different whats we can do with our life. But if our time is spent—our hours, our days, our minutes, our seconds, our years, our months—with people whom we love and respect, our bus can go a lot of different directions, but whatever direction it goes, there’s a good chance it could turn into a great life.

On a practical level, I’ve found this idea to show up in all sorts of surprising arenas, for example, rock climbing. When I was younger, I used to think a lot about what I was going to climb, what I was going to accomplish, what cliff I was going to get to the top of. Everything was sort of wrapped up in the notion of accomplishment. Then I noticed a very interesting sidelight on all this, which is that I’d get to the top of difficult climbs and somehow it felt lonely, barren. It was about as warm and meaningful as the rock itself, which is impersonal, dead. 

I began to realize that, in fact, the quality of my climbing, the way that I felt about it, and to some extent even how well I climbed, depended less upon what I decided to do and much more upon whom I decided to go do those things with. 

So now, after years and years of climbing, when the weekend comes around, I don’t think first and foremost in terms of what climb I want to go do, at least not very often. I usually think first and foremost in terms of whom do I want to go climbing with this weekend? Then, once I’ve got the who figured out, we figure out what climb to do. My experience and my climbing are both thereby improved. 

First Who, Then What. It’s not just a business principle. It’s a life principle.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Collins, All rights reserved.