One does not

What you don’t do is at least as important as what you do. To recognise your limitations and adapt your approach with humility is to take your first step on the correct path. 

I came across two perfect examples of this over the past week, via the words of Mark Ritson and Jocko Willink.

Strategy by rejection

In a brilliant Marketing Week article on Starbucks’ newly-inked licensing deal with Nestlé, Mark Ritson restates the principle of core competencies in business:

“Successful firms develop and then strengthen a small set of core competencies that lie at the centre of their ability to make money and grow.”

Success lies in identifying the two or three things that your company is good at, and focusing your efforts on those activities.*

Ritson describes this paring down of what you do to match your core competencies as “strategy by rejection.” He explains:

“Every company is going to do something. But what often defines a successful strategy is deciding what the firm will not do and focusing on a much smaller set of activities for strategic success.”

The opposite approach is to be avoided at all costs. Reject strategy by rejection, and failure will certainly be yours.

Strategy by rejection succeeds through simplicity, clarity and focus. Playing to your strengths. Ritson says:

“A shit strategy takes a day to come up with and then requires a workshop and a 70-page presentation to explain. A great one takes months of thinking but never needs more than a page, usually half a page, to explain to anyone.”

One does not


It takes humility to acknowledge that there are things that you cannot do.

Former Navy SEAL, podcaster and author Jocko Willink is a humble gent, as well as a wise one (although he would never admit to either quality).

I love Jocko’s recent response to one of his Twitter followers, who asked how one masters humility:

“One does not.”

I complimented Jocko on these three words of wisdom. I was delighted not only that he replied to me, but that his reply consisted of a further three words. These further three words demonstrate not only wisdom, but humility:

“Far from perfect…”

The words “one does not” can also be used in the process of strategy by rejection.

What you don’t do (what one does not) is at least as important as what you do.

What do you do best? Is what you do best what you do?

Strive towards mastering humility. But have the humility to know what you can never achieve it.

One does not.

UPDATE (Saturday 25 August 2018)

Where I tread in this blog post, the mighty Dilbert has trodden before me. I am indebted to David D’Souza for linking me to this wonderful wee Dilbert video, in which Dogbert reminds us that “all companies need a strategy so the employees will know what they dont do.” Thank you, David!


* It is almost too obvious to say, but (gentle reader, kindly indulge me) this principle of identifying and focusing on core competencies is as relevant to human beings as it is to companies.

** For a quick taster of Jocko Willink’s outlook on life, the “Good” video is a neat way in…

And for a significantly more in-depth insight into Jocko’s world, his epic appearance on the Tim Ferriss podcast (which resulted in the Jocko Podcast being created) is highly recommended.


  • Jocko image: A screengrab from Jocko Podcast 139. I make no claim to the copyright for this image, and will remove it from this post immediately if required.

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