Saturday Musings - The Bucket Theory

Saturday Musings - The Bucket Theory

I often find myself talking to my own kids about buckets. These aren’t the regular buckets that you carry water around in but relate more to the short, medium and long-term plans for your life. Over the years, I’ve found that having buckets has been really advantageous in understanding my own direction in life.

Items in the short-term bucket are things such as earning money to put food on the table and a roof over your head. Without this bucket being constantly topped up then you’ll find it a lot harder to get through life.

The medium-term bucket is sub-five years. It has things such as education, training and gaining experience in it. This bucket is all about investing in yourself so that you can become better at whatever you do.

Then there’s the long-term bucket. This covers who you are and why you do the things that you do. In this bucket are items such as character building, relationships, guiding life principles and typically spiritually related issues. There’s only two things that are certain in this world, death and taxes.. This is the bucket that is all about what you would like people to say about you when you die.

Many people get stuck in the short-term bucket believing that if they can just earn more money then all of their problems will vanish. I’ve met a number of these individuals and they’ve climbed the ladder of success to find that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. They are very wealthy, have no close friends, disaster of a family and are often very shallow.

Those people that only focus on the medium-term end up starving and having bad relationships. These sort of people are often amazingly smart but incredibly unwise.

I could summarise the “long-termer” in one sentence….They’re so heavenly minded that they’re often no earthly good.” In other words, the people that focus entirely on this bucket believe that it’s a waste of time working to pay the bills and it never occurs to them that skills are worthwhile.

So back to my kids. I counsel them to work a little at all three buckets. There will be times in their life that they may have a focus (eg. Studying) but to never completely neglect any single bucket. They need to live now, develop skills and never forget that character is vitally important.

For example, this week my daughter had a flat tyre. She had no idea what to do so I went out and put the spare tyre on and discovered that it was also flat. In the process I found that the tyres weren’t just flat, she was driving on the metal belts on the inside edge.....not good!

She had to go out that night (urgent friend business) and said that she would just drive the car on the flat tyre. This caused me to relieve her of the car key. This then meant that Dad was the worst enemy in the world at which point I asked her why she was getting so angry at the person that was about to help her.

So here was her problem. The short-term bucket didn’t have any cash in it to fix the tyres, the medium bucket didn’t know what to do with the situation and the long-term bucket of our relationship was taking a beating.

The next day she took a bus to her part-time job (Dad still had the car key) and unbeknown to her I started solving the problem. I managed to get the car to a tyre workshop (that’s a long story) and had three of them replaced plus a general check-up. It was no longer a death machine...which is always good!

When she returned home she was so happy that her car was up and going (short-term). I then took her through (again) some basic car maintenance (tyres, brakes and steering) to help improve her skills (medium-term) and to point out the disaster that driving on a flat tyre could be. We then had a talk about our relationship and that working on the problem is far better than yelling (long-term).

Later that night, this is what she posted on Facebook:

I would just like to take a moment to acknowledge how amazing my father is! I found out my car was more like death on wheels yesterday. And while I was at work today (I took the bus) my dad took my car to a mechanics and got 3 brand new tires and a wheel alignment done for me. Thank you to the best daddy in the world! Even when I yell and scream at you, you always amaze me with how selfless and thoughtful you are xx

This story wasn’t to show how great a Dad I am….trust me when I say that all Dad’s struggle. It does illustrate that working on the different buckets is so important. If I had left my daughters car broken and tried to mend our relationship then my guess is that I wouldn’t have received the above post. After all, what’s the point in talking to a starving man about their character? Give them a meal first dummy!

I find the buckets can be used in many different areas of my life and help me approach problems by considering the implications of the short, medium and long-term. I hope that you find this blog interesting and even share a few of your own experiences. Have a great weekend!


Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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