Nov 9 2023

Everything vs. Anything

I heard two great lines recently applied to CEOs that are thought provoking when you look at them together:

You have to care about everything more than anything


You can do anything you want but not everything you want

Being a CEO means you are accountable for everything that happens in your organization. That’s why you have to care about everything. People. Product. Customers. Cash flow. Hiring. Firing. Board. Fundraising. Marketing. Sales. Etc. You can never afford not to care about something in your business, and even if there’s a particular item you’re more focused on at a given point in time, you can never get to a place where you care about any one particular thing more than the overall health of the business.

But caring is different than doing. As a CEO, even if you’re hyper productive, you can’t do everything you want to do – and you shouldn’t. Others in your organization have to take ownership of things. And you can’t burn yourself out or spread yourself too thin. But you do have the prerogative of doing anything you want in and around your company as long as you do it the right way.

This second line is particularly interesting when applied to a CEO’s activities outside of work. As with anyone, it’s critical for CEOs and founders to have outside hobbies and interests, time for friends and family, down time, and even non-work work time like sitting on outside boards. Staying fresh and “sharpening the saw” is good for everyone. A CEO should be able to do anything she wants outside of work — from sitting on outside boards to being in a band. But a CEO can’t do everything she wants outside of work while still devoting enough time and attention to work.

Taken together, the two lines are interesting. As a CEO, you have to care about everything, but you can’t do everything. That pretty much sums up the job!