The impact of your “top idea”

Matt Stauffer

Lifehacker’s Kevin Purdy has discovered a great essay by Paul Graham about the Top Idea In Your Mind. Kevin did a great job of introducing the concept at the Lifehacker post Consider What Your “Top Idea” Is Making You Do, but I wanted to share this pull quote to show why fundraisers could really benefit from considering this idea.

I’d noticed startups got way less done when they started raising money, but it was not till we ourselves raised money that I understood why. The problem is not the actual time it takes to meet with investors. The problem is that once you start raising money, raising money becomes the top idea in your mind. That becomes what you think about when you take a shower in the morning. And that means other questions aren’t.

I’ve always wondered why the time commitment for fundraising is never limited to just the hours actually spent on phone calls and in meetings. This is why, at least in InterVarsity, new staff spend time off campus when they’re first fundraising; the wisdom that leads to this choice is the knowledge that once campus work is your “top idea,” fundraising no longer will be.

I’ve found in my personal life that working a part-time job to supplement my income has often led to clients, projects, and ideas with my part-time job becoming my “top idea”–meaning that I’m not innovating or leading with my campus ministry work, but rather continuing with the same things I always do.

Do you have any ideas or thoughts about what your “top idea” is making you do, or how our varied responsibilities can clash with only having one “top idea?” Check out the essay and leave your thoughts in the comments.

The top idea (via Lifehacker)

By Matt Stauffer | Posted: Dec 19, 2010
Category: Time & Task Management | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.


  1. December 20, 2010, 12:33 am | Permalink

    This is so true. Great article.

    Speaking from what is closer to a sponsor point of view, it’s usually very apparent when the fundraising has become the top idea, as opposed to the real vision of what the ends are that are requiring the means.

    • December 20, 2010, 12:40 am | Permalink

      Drew, that’s interesting. I know that I wrote this thinking that it’s not bad for fundraising to be your top idea at times, just like it’s not bad for increasing your numbers or prayer or evangelism or fun large groups or any of our other roles being the top idea.

      I think what you’re addressing, though, is when you lose sight of the overarching top idea–Why Am I Doing This Work? What am I fundraising for? Why do I want students to increase in prayer or evangelism? Why do I want to see my chapter grow?

      Thanks for your thoughts!


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  1. By What do you see when you close your eyes? on May 18, 2011 at 10:05 am

    […] written before about the impact of your top idea, and I want to think a little more about what’s on our brains at any given […]

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