strategic consultant to:  

~ serial CEOs & CTOs in software, Internet, technology & digital media
~ experienced consultants in all fields to maximize their practices

If A equals success, then the formula is: A=X+Y+Z. X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.”
Albert Einstein

I love this quote. It doesn’t, of course, offer any mathematical values to X or Y or Z, but it could imply that they come in equal measures.

The balance of work and play is essential to success. And the virtue of Z, keeping your mouth shut, is incalculable.

We learn different lessons at different times in our lives. I learned to balance work and play rather early in my career. I look like a Type A but I am good at being a Type D as well, especially when living on the sailboat, or summering in Maine while working. Both conditions slow me down, and in fact can make me more effective.

Now, Z took me longer to learn. Perhaps more than 20 years. I had experienced my 15 minutes of small fame, and settled into a deeper experience of consulting, with more wisdom and less noise. I had seen a lot and learned more each year as I progressed. Every year I would review my calendar (the big paper A4 Architects Diary I use to track my life – never mind the electronic version) and notice what I had learned that was new, and what I had learned yet again.

But then I learned Z: keeping my mouth shut. I found I didn’t have to jump in with an answer. I could wait to see what the CEO or the team thought first. Someone else might come up with it, or with something adjacent, that was perhaps more interesting, or more suited to the team or the market.

And part of Z is this, too: you don’t have to raise your hand. You can watch and wait. Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you are the one who should do it. It may be better to let someone else do it. And it may not be part of your role, so it may even be inappropriate for you to do it. If you are the CEO, or the consultant to the CEO, it may be better that the team learn and do this task. After all, as CEO, you can’t do all the operations (you have other tasks only you can do), and as the consultant, you shouldn’t be usurping the team’s responsibilities.

And, when you consider X and Y, if you keep raising your hand for the stuff others should be doing, there will be only X and no Y.