Things That Don’t Matter

By | February 9, 2020

[February 9, 2020]  One of the desirable attributes I find among combat veterans is they are skillful at judging what is essential, in contrast to those things in life that don’t matter.  Perhaps the reason is they have seen truly horrific destruction and death and can understand that there are small things in life that are mere distractions to be ignored.  And, they are better able to focus on people and events that are consequential.

A reasonable person to watch that speaks to this is Jocko Willink.  He recently posted a YouTube podcast titled, “Don’t Get Caught Up in Things That Don’t Matter.” Excellent video and I recommend it (see link here, 7:54 minutes).  His theme is that we must learn to discriminate between important and unimportant events and you can only do that by detaching yourself emotionally from that event.  He says that if a person can focus their energy on what matters, this is how you win as a leader.1

“As leaders, I see people getting caught up all the time in little things that will not affect the outcome unless they let it.” – Jocko Willink, retired U.S. Naval officer and podcaster

Don’t get distracted by the ankle-bitters.  My grandmother, Bigmama, would say, “Don’t be misled by little things.”  This idea means being able to make sound judgments based upon experience and by thinking the right way.  While some will argue that being sentimental and emotional puts you in danger and clouds your judgment.  True enough, but I will counter that these are also keys to positive motivation.  Being two sides of a coin, emotion and thinking, when combined, can make for a stronger person.

Much of how we can push aside the irrelevant and look at the important is based on our attitude of life.  What that attitude means is being a straight shooter, telling the truth wisely, controlling one’s temper, having a tough skin, adopting discipline in one’s life, being humble, and having a winning philosophy on life.  If you can do that, all things will come to you, people will follow you, and everyone will be better for it.

The truth and discipline will set you free.2  We are told that discipline equals freedom, for freedom is earned through great sacrifice and struggle.  Freedom is not freely given and cannot be obtained without costs.  Those who first understand what is of utmost importance, like freedom and family, are those that can be free to enjoy the fruits of life and live it to the fullest.

A person who cannot determine the irrelevant from the critical, evil from good, betrayal from trust, and fear from courage, also cannot be a leader.  Our ability to make a discriminating judgment is what all great leaders strive to accomplish so that we can do good for our families, communities, and nation.


  1. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin wrote the book The Dichotomy of Leadership (2018). Jocko Willink and Leif Babin served as U.S. Navy SEAL officers in the toughest urban combat mission in the history of the SEAL teams. Their unit remains the most highly decorated special operations unit in the Iraq War.
  2. The Bible, John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I made a minor modification in the Bible’s passage.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Things That Don’t Matter

  1. Roger Yellowmule

    Go work in a food bank, feed the hungry, help out drug addicts, go and volunteer in a hospital for children, etc. Go do things that are truly good and not just being busy and having fun playing computer games in your parent’s basement with cheeto dust all over your fingers.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Big ideas and little behavior. We must learn to tell them apart. Yes, there are some things that don’t matter and we must MUST learn to tell what they are.

  2. Scotty Bush

    The key here, I believe, is being able to make sound judgments. That is gained from experience and the ability to think, write, and articulate what you have to say. It can also help if someone who is smart assists us along the way. It is not just enough to read great books for example, but also to have someone help us understand it.

    1. Jerome Smith

      True and to the point, Scotty. Well said. I think that too many people are not challenged enough and most people in America have it too easy for us to develop the necessary thinking skills necessary for a good life. That is why people are always full of regrets. Better to try and fail than to never try at all.

  3. Valkerie

    General Satterfield, as usual, you’ve put out an idea that is overlooked or forgotten. We too frequently get focused on something that is not important and spend too much of ourselves on it.

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      Roger that, Valkerie and just go to any shopping mall and you will see the silly ladies both young and old going thru the motions of making themselves ‘feel’ better by buying a lot of useless junk.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    “The truth and discipline will set you free.” Great quote and thanks. Best of the best advice.

  5. Dale Paul Fox

    I’m headed out today to church in a few minutes and these ideas will give me something to talk with my pastor about. There will be a small group of community leaders who are gathering to talk about the problem of low church attendance and why. Maybe people are just too focused on the things that don’t matter and forget that going to church (or at least studying the Bible) is better for them.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Hi Dale, religion may or may not be the answer to everyone but putting all your energy into shopping for clothes and shoes is not the way to go.

      1. JT Patterson

        Good point, Greg. We are a capitalist nation and that itself is not a bad thing. But we must also be exceptionally careful that our consumption of “things” doesn’t override our ability to relate to others and care for them.

  6. The Kid 1945

    Gen. Satterfield, thanks for a blog post that goes to the heart of what many people tend to forget. We get hung up on so many little things in life that we also don’t ‘see’ what’s is really important. Most folks are not big thinkers because there is simply too much going on in their lives. Always good to have someone like you point this out. Greatly appreciated.

    1. Harry Donner

      and I thought today was just going to be another boring day. Now I have something to tell my wife about. Ha Ha Ha.

  7. Crazy Dude

    US combat vets. Wonderful people. Grounded, sane, and valuable to be around. Better than being a crazy politician.

    1. Eric Coda

      Hey dude, good to see you’re still around these leadership websites. This one today is especially good because Gen. Satterfield is discussing a very common problem; a problem that is overlooked all the time. Have a great weekend everyone.

    2. Tom Bushmaster

      Hi everyone. Hope you are having a great day. Sunny weather at my place in New York City. Yes, I agree a really good idea that is being put forth here that small things don’t matter (but others don’t necessarily think so). The real question is how do we convince others that some things simply are not that important.

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        RIght Tom, that is a good question but that is what leaders do.


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