This is a topic I have talked about for a long time–how to retain and energize our inner sense of urgency to focus on what we are doing and what we want to do. Urgency is continuously putting the most important things on the top of our to-do list and investing ourselves into that agenda. Urgency is assigning personal importance to what we do, making a commitment to what matters, without any anxiety or stress. Acting with urgency everyday, defies the gravitational pull of distractions, complacency, and unproductive activities. Complacency is a highly contagious disease that kills off all energy, entreprenuership, creativity, and real change. It infects those that are too comfortable, those that have had success and lost the drive, those who have settled for whatever comes their way. I see these symptoms often and they are frightening. Any time potential, great potential, is wasted, it is a tragedy. Complacency can befall your job, your career and your life and you may not know it until it is too late. For me it has always been about time and regret. I have little time and I want to avoid regret. When I was young, I did not understand the advice of so many. "Make today count" my Dad would tell me a thousand times. Or Coach John Wooden filling my ears with so many profound thoughts in a car ride back to his Encino condo, "Make everyday your masterpiece," he urged. I get it now. I really do. Eckhart Tolle's Power of Now is a treatise on this subject.
There are so many subtle and brutal reminders if you pay attention. A friend of mine, Randal Lee, came over to my house to give me some UCLA football tickets less than 2 weeks ago. He greeted me at my door with his ever present cheery cherubic smiling face. A few days later he suffered a massive aneurysm and passed away. He had no other symptoms. At 55, he was successful, happy and a joy to be around. In a nano-second he was gone. Another heart wrenching wake-up call that screams how fragile and precious the here and now is. Every Sunday, for the last 5 weeks I have been attempting to counsel my second daughter about her college apps. It has been fun and frustrating, but that is the life of a Dad of a teenage girl! Looking at the calendar, I have barely 50 Sundays left before she goes off to college. For some that seems anal, but for me it reminds me that the sands of time are fewer and I must make the most of them. These events give me a sense of urgency, not to waste any time to do what I want to do, to nurture relationships that are important to me, and to make the most out of my career.
"The few people who do have smoke pouring into their offices are furious that somebody has
started a fire. But instead of demonstrating a real sense of urgency to solve the problem,
starting today, they complain." Sense of Urgency
But I say, we also have to build our own fire from within, a fire that is fueled by what we want, by our recognition that the status quo is unacceptable, and a deep desire to be the change agent, to succeed.
Just finished this interesting but long read–John Kotter's Sense of Urgency (be sure to scroll down and see the video). There is a lot of good material here and a focus on leading and managing with urgency. Here are a few tidbits that might be useful for you and increasing your personal sense of urgency:
Your thoughts, feelings and ultimately your behavior are driven by urgency. Breaking this down, you must think it, feel it and then do it. And the feeling part may be the most important. You may have the thoughts and the tools but you have to emotionally commit to make it happen. This is what former Harvard Prof Kotter preaches:
- Don't be complacent–This seems obvious and maybe almost insulting because who is just sitting around?!! But there is a big difference from acting with urgency and being busy. And what if the actions you are taking are not really addressing the real problem–sound familiar?
- Avoid false urgency–Again, being busy is not acting with urgency. It is about priorities and then continuously pursuing them.
- Bring in external sources–Force yourself to see, hear, and touch the realities of your work. Get out of your office and visit your customers, see the needs you are addressing, remind yourself of the value of your work, and get motivated about what additional efforts will accomplish.
- Make progress everyday–Your urgency grows with each advancement you make toward your goals and deepens your desire to win.
- Lead by example–Model urgency in your commitment to the goals and to the work.
For my money, urgency has always been my number one booster shot against the scourge of complacency.