These are two actual news stories reported one right after the other, given nearly equal emphasis in CNN.
The first, lead story given the greatest emphasis is that polar bears’ testicles may be shrinking, somehow in response to global warming. Presumably Gore has been wandering around the North Pole with a ruler and a bag of bear treats, documenting this alarming phenomenon. I’m not sure why it’s alarming to anybody other than polar bears.
The newshounds on CNN thought it was a big deal and I’m willing to take their word for it.
The second story, deemed less scary, was that this year’s crop of kids taking the SAT’s achieved the worst scores in THIRTY-ONE YEARS. Nothing more was said about it.
Just mentioned as a fact of life. And I’ll bet you the biggest whale steak in the Arctic that more is being done to work on the global warming and testicle shrinking crises than is being done about the stupid-and-lazy epidemic.
Which brings me to my points. Yes, wise guy, I have points here.
First, we are pretty darned indiscriminate about what we let scare us, what we pay attention to, what we invest political capital in. Seems to me we ought to convene a special session of Congress to pass laws requiring military enlistment by any kid turning in SAT scores lower than a polar bear’s. And, in general, we ought to all start setting sane priorities, ourselves; as a society, holding govern-ment, educational institutions, and our own sons and daughters accountable.
My bigger point is: be very careful not to fall into this “everything is of equal importance” thinking and reactions in your own business. This is a big part of my advice on time management:
“You have to set and stick to an agenda of priorities, not react to whatever pokes its head through your door next.”
You must determine the relative importance, significance, value and urgency of the big crowd of people and things outside your door, assign them numbers, and make them get into an orderly line.
By the way, a Delta pilot making a wrong turn, blithely going down the wrong, too-short runway, crashing a plane and killing 147 people scares me more than Osama Bin Laden. Our own FEMA scares me more than Hezbollah. The ever-growing, ever-more-popular “eat the rich” ideas of liberals scares me more than the H1N1 virus.
But let’s get back to business.
Every business is full of ghosts, ogres and demons. The ghosts have names like “We’ve Always Done It this Way”…. “We Can’t Do That Because We’ve Never Done That And That’s Not The Way It’s Done”.
The ghosts are in active conspiracy to make the future the past.
The ogres are the unwilling, the uncooperative, the incompetent, the uninformed and ignorant who sabotage change and progress at every opportunity.
The demons are our own fears, doubts, insecurities and anxieties, our worries about what others will think of us if we do ‘x’, our hostage-like separation anxiety over firing the employee or client who so obviously needs to exit, our timidity in positioning or pricing, our fearful preference for what we have even if it is not working well or making us happy or prosperous vs. a different path with uncertain outcome.
Most millionaires that I know and work with are fearless even to a fault, most ordinary businesspeople are fearful to fault.
It reminds of General Schwarzkopf’s insistence that making a bad decision and plowing ahead implementing it is better than making no decision at all, because it is usually easier to change course than to get started.
He said “usually”; he didn’t say “always.” And hardly anything is “always” true. Which connects to a particular aspect of most millionaire fearlessness: we are quite willing to take a lot of lumps, to suffer losses and embarrassment and occasional public flogging in order to get
what we want, and quick to rebound from our mis-steps.
Egg on our faces just doesn’t scare us.