Do What Matters

An Obscure Blood Test in India

I’m spending the month living with my best friend on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. My friend was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, so one of my goals this month is to get them access to a promising cancer detection blood test. Unfortunately, the blood test is currently only available in India.

There’s something absurd about attempting to get access to an obscure blood test that is only available from a single lab in India while living on a tiny Caribbean island. It’s is a big project with a lot of unknowns.

Whenever you are tackling a new project – starting a business, adopting a habit, or supporting a friend – there are a myriad of to-dos. The key is to pick the right one.

What’s Your Objective?

I have a clear objective. I want to get the patent holder of this blood test to test blood samples from the United States or to license their technology to a lab in the US.

There are ancillary goals, too. With several family members in remission from cancer, I’d like to get each of them access to this test. And, because I’m ridiculous, I’m considering turning this into a new business.

Knowing why you are tackling any new endeavor helps you to stay focused.

The Next Most Important Thing

When you are tackling any new project it helps to identify the single thing that most needs to be done. And in a world full of bright and shiny distractions (or is that just my ADHD?), it is easy to focus on everything but the most important task.

As I learn more about this obscure blood test, there are a hundred small tasks that I could spend time on:

  • How to get blood samples to India
  • US export and India import policy
  • How much dry ice is needed to transport blood vials
  • The cost of flights to India
  • How to set up a testing laboratory in the US

The list is endless, but there is always just one or two important things that need to be done to move a project forward. And, with a little introspection, we often know what those things are.

The question I ask myself is “What’s the one thing that if I do will move this project forward?”

Is it absolutely necessary that I learn about country-specific import and export policies or begin to build a website right now? No.

Today, there was only one thing that had the potential to make a big impact: connect with the Indian laboratory – in other words, a sales call.

The Hard Thing Is Often The Most Important

The first thing I did this morning was phone the laboratory in India that provides the blood test and speak to a representative. I didn’t know if anyone would answer, but that was the single most important task that needed to be done.

I was nervous phoning India this morning. Will anyone answer? Do they speak English? What do I say if they do? But phoning the laboratory was my next most important step. Since the laboratory is the only group that has answers about this blood test, that phone call was the single linchpin that has the potential to move the project forward.

The hardest thing to do is often the thing that most needs to be done.

The First Small Step

By working backwards from the end goal, you’re more likely to be able to do the single most important thing. And while I love attempting to do hard things, I prefer making those hard things accessible, first.

My call to India this morning was, in essence, a cold call. And to make that international sales call small enough to attempt, I did a lot of things to prepare.

  • I scheduled the call at an appropriate time – First thing in my morning is afternoon in India, which gives me the best chance of reaching someone directly.
  • I planned out what I would say ahead of time – I wrote out what I would say in advance, including my questions and potential questions they might ask me.
  • Then, pivotally, I took that step – Because the only way forward is by taking a single next step.

Today my most important thing was a sales call to a laboratory in India. Fortunately, I reached someone and I got a few of my questions answered.

Tomorrow, my most important thing may be totally different. But whatever it is, my most important task will be a linchpin that moves a project forward.

Until next time, Robin

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