Chapter 9

A Sense of Urgency: Setting Priorities

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.

—Abraham Lincoln


I never cease to be amazed at the difficulty salespeople have establishing daily work priorities. They actually appear to welcome distractions from the task at hand, the task of making money. Sales reps surf the web, gab on the phone, drink and linger at lunch with other sales reps, whine to each other about their bosses, the product line, and anything else. The only explanation for this time-wasting behavior I'm able to comprehend is that, unlike me, other people are confident of the future based on their good fortune in life so far. Otherwise, they would never fritter away precious moneymaking time recounting David Letterman's monologue or detailing the minutiae of management's shortcomings. If a salesperson wastes time in the way I describe, he or she grew up in another, much more forgiving universe than I did. What I live with is a compelling sense of urgency.

And it's urgency that helps me set my priorities. People like me, with a deep appreciation of the difference they can make through their own effort, understand the critical importance of mapping out a day's tasks toward a particular goal. The ability to know what's important and to set priorities accordingly is essential to success in any venture. If economics comes down to the choices made between alternatives in a world of scarcity, as the British economist Lionel Robbins observed ...

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