Prioritizing: The Wisdom of Knowing What to Overlook

By John C. Maxwell
Excerpt from Leadership 101

You Cannot Overestimate the Unimportance of Practically Everything

I love this principle. It’s a little exaggerated but needs to be said. William James said that the art of being wise is “the art of knowing what to overlook.” The petty and the mundane steal much of our time. Too many are living for the wrong things.

Dr. Anthony Campolo tells about a sociological study in which fifty people over the age of ninety-five were asked one question: “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” It was an open-ended question, and a multiplicity of answers came from these eldest of senior citizens. However, three answers constantly reemerged and dominated the results of the study. Those answers were:

- If I had it to do over again, I would reflect more.
- If I had it to do over again, I would risk more.
- If I had it to do over again, I would do more things that would live on after I am dead.

A young concert violinist was asked the secret of her success. She replied, “Planned neglect.” Then she explained, “When I was in school, there were many things that demanded my time. When I went to my room after breakfast, I made my bed, straightened the room, dusted the floor, and did whatever else came to my attention. Then I hurried to my violin practice. I found I wasn’t progressing as I thought I should, so I reversed things. Until my practice period was completed, I deliberately neglected everything else. That program of planned neglect, I believe, accounts for my success.”

The Good is the Enemy of the Best

Most people can prioritize when faced with right or wrong issues. The challenge arises when we faced with two good choices. Now what should we do? What if both choices fall comfortably into the requirements, return, and reward of our work?

How to Break the Tie Between Two Good Options

- Ask your overseer or coworkers their preference.
- Can one of the options be handled by someone else? If so, pass it on and work on the one only you can do.
- Which option would be of more benefit to the customer? Too many times we are like the merchant who was so intent on trying to keep the store clean that he would never unlock the front door. The real reason for running the store is to have customers come in, not to clean it up!
- Make your decision based on the purpose of the organization.

Too Many Priorities Paralyze Us

Every one of us has looked at our desks filled with memos and papers, heard the phone ringing, and watched the door open all at the same time! Remember the “frozen feeling” that came over you?

William H. Hinson tells us why animal trainers carry a stool when they go into a cage of lions. They have their whips, of course, and their pistols are at their sides. But invariably they also carry a stool. Hinson says it is the most important tool of the trainer. He holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal. Those who know maintain that the animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. In the attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal, and it becomes tame, weak, and disabled because its attention is fragmented. (Now we will have more empathy for the lions.)

If you are overloaded with work, list the priorities on a separate sheet of paper before you take it to your boss and see what he will choose as the priorities.

The last of each month I plan and lay out my priorities for the next month. I sit down with my assistant and have her place those projects on the calendar. She handles hundreds of things for me on a monthly basis. However, when something is of High Importance/High Urgency, I communicate that to her so it will be placed above other things.

All true leaders have learned to say no the good in order to say yes to the best.

When Little Priorities Demand Too Much of Us, Big Problems Arise

Robert J. Mckain said, “The reason most major goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.”

Often the little things in life trip us up. A tragic example is an Eastern Airlines jumbo jet that crashed in the Everglades of Florida. The plane was the now-famous Flight 401, bound from New York to Miami with a heavy load of holiday passengers. As the plane approached the Miami airport for its landing, the light that indicates proper deployment of the landing gear failed to light. The plane flew in a large, looping circle over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked to see if the gear actually had not deployed, or if instead the bulb in the signal light was defective.

When the flight engineer tried to remove the light bulb, it wouldn’t budge, and the other members of the crew tried to help him. As they struggled with the bulb, no one noticed that their aircraft was already dangerously losing altitude, and the plane simply flew right into the swamp. Dozens of people were killed in the crash. While an experienced crew of high-priced pilots fiddled with a seventy-five cent light bulb, the plane with its passengers flew right into the ground.

Time Deadlines and Emergencies Force Us to Prioritize

We find this in Parkinson’s Law: If you have only one letter to write, it will take all day to do it. If you have twenty letters to write, you’ll get them done in one day. When is our most efficient time in our work? The week before vacation! Why can’t we always run our lives the way we do the week before we leave the office, making decisions, cleaning off the desk, returning calls? Under normal conditions, we are efficient (doing things right). When time pressure mounts or emergencies arise, we become effective (doing the right things). Efficiency is the foundation for survival. Effectiveness is the foundation of success.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the great ocean liner, the Titanic, crashed into an iceberg in the Atlantic and sank, causing great loss of life. One of the most curious stories to come from the disaster was of a woman who had a place in on of the lifeboats.

She asked if she could return to her stateroom for something and was given just three minutes. In her stateroom she ignored her own jewelry, and instead grabbed three oranges. Then she quickly returned to her place in the boat.

Just hours earlier it would have been ludicrous to think she would have accepted a crate of oranges in exchange for even one small diamond, but circumstances had suddenly transformed all the values aboard the ship. The emergency had clarified her priorities.

Too Often We Learn Too Late What is Really Important

Gary Redding tells this story about Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts. In January 1984 he announced that he would retire from the U.S. Senate and not seek reelection. Tsongas was a rising political star. He was a strong favorite to be reelected, and had even been mentioned as a potential future candidate for the Presidency or Vice Presidency of the United States.

A few weeks before his announcement, Tsongas had learned he had a form of lymphatic cancer which could not be cured but could be treated. In all likelihood, it would not greatly affect his physical abilities or life expectancy. The illness did not force Tsongas out of the Senate, but it did force him to face the reality of his own mortality. He would not be able to do everything he might want to do. So what were the things he really wanted to do in the time he had?

He decided that what he wanted most in life, what he would not give up if he could not have everything, was being with his family and watching his children grow up. He would rather do that than shape the nation’s law or get his name in the history book.

Shortly after his decision was announced, a friend wrote a note to congratulate Tsongas on having his priorities straight. The note read: “Nobody on his deathbed ever said, ‘I Wish I had spent more time on my business.’”


The Season Is Not Yet Over

Reprieve for Capitalism
By Mon Casiple

The news was unsurprising. The US Fed and the Bush administration unleashed a series of policy moves including more than US$240 billion in cash for beleaguered investment banks, tighter regulation of the financial sector, and new taxes. The European, Canadian and Japanese central banks followed the US lead in setting up a global fund.

The market reaction was also expected. From gloom to bloom, all stock markets went up.

Is the crisis over? By no means. It bought time but the root causes of the crisis remained. What the measures did was to emphatically underline the end of the free market as Reaganism defined it, and with it, the unmasking of the state underwriting of neo-liberal economic policies of the advanced capitalist countries.

It is a graphic economic lesson of the peril of the financial market far outstripping the limits of the real economy–you cannot forever add artificial value (by trading on uncreated capital) based only on market confidence. When that confidence fell, the whole financial house of cards collapsed.

The current business model of the investment banks has proven to be fragile when measured against the forces of collapsing stock values, illiquid mortgage bonds, and cash shortage to meet panicky demands by its individual investors. In collapsing, the industry threatened the stock values of all its network companies and banks–virtually the entire house of finance capitalism, created rapidly rising pressure on the banking system’s liquidity, stressed loans and investment opportunities and otherwise induced fear and unease among consumers, depositors, and investors.

By invoking the massive intervention by the State, the Bush administration and other governments stood free market capitalism on its head. What happened almost reached the level of a state capitalist model–far, far beyond a normal capitalist order can expect. The taking over of AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae–even if temporary–smacks of state capitalism and a complete opposite of the mantra of privatization of state assets.

However, it must be made clear that the beneficiaries are not the small people in America or even its beleguered middle class. The principal beneficiary are the titans of capitalism themselves. The American people will shoulder the costs in terms of higher taxes, higher prices, diminished incomes, and lost jobs. They will have lost the American dream.

The Philippine economy, particularly the stock market and affected businesses, will immediately benefit from this development. However, the contraction of the American market and economy will penalize the domestic economy in the medium term, in terms of less investment, withdrawal of foreign capital and closing of marginal businesses. There is also the negative impact on the Filipino overseas labor market, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. The Filipino dream may be lost as well.

Click here to read full text.

Until the last of the fruits of the trees shall have touched the ground, the season is not yet over.

(You may be interested to read this old entry in one of my blogs.)


Unusual Coincidences About The 9/11 Deadly Incident?

1.) New York City has 11 letters

2.) Afghanistan has 11 letters

3.) Ramsin Yuseb (The terrorist who threatened to destroy the Twin Towers in 1993) has 11 letters

4.) George W Bush has 11 letters

This could be a mere coincidence, but this gets more interesting:

5.) New York is the 11th state

6.) The first plane crashing against the Twin Towers was flight number 11

7.) Flight 11 was carrying 92 passengers. 9 + 2 = 11

8.) Flight 77 which also hit Twin Towers was carrying 65 passengers. 6 + 5 = 11

9.) The tragedy was on September 11, or 9/11 as it is now known. 9 + 1+ 1 = 11

10.) The date is equal to the US emergency services telephone number 911. 9 + 1 + 1 = 11.

What unusual coincidences! There's more:

11.) The total number of victims inside all the hi-jacked planes was 254. 2 + 5 + 4 = 11

12.) September 11 is day number 254 of the calendar year. Again 2 + 5 + 4 = 11

13.) The Madrid bombing took place on 3/11/2004. 3 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 4 = 11

14.) The tragedy of Madrid happened 911 days after the Twin Towers incident

Here is one more very unusual coincidence. Open Microsoft Word and do the following:

a.) Type in capitals Q33 NY; this is the flight number of the first plane to hit one of the Twin Towers.

b.) Highlight the Q33 NY

c.) Change the font size to 48

d.) Change the actual font to the WINGDINGS

The most recognized symbol for the US, after the Stars and Stripes, is the Eagle. The following verse is taken from the Quran, the Islamic holy book:

"For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and lo, while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced: for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah and there was peace."

That verse is number 9.11 of the Quran.

The Eagle is not alone. Other birds of prey and beasts of prey will be there too -- particularly the Wolf.


Olmert to Resign as Israel PM

By AP/Josef Federman

Ehud Olmert pledged Thursday to immediately resign as Israel's prime minister once his party chooses his successor as leader next week, shooting down speculation he would try to hold on to his office.

The announcement means Israel could find itself racing to form a new government in as little as a seven days. And it raises new questions about Washington's stated goal of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement by year's end.

Olmert, who is battling a corruption investigation, announced in July that he would resign after his Kadima Party chooses a new leader in Wednesday's primary. But some felt he was vague about the timing of his exit, raising speculation he would try to keep power.

Addressing a Kadima Party meeting Thursday, Olmert said he never intended to delay his resignation. "As I have said before, immediately after the selection of a new chairman of Kadima, I plan to resign and recommend to the president to pick the new head of the party to form a government," he said.

However, under Israel's complicated political system, Olmert could find himself in office well into next year, even if that is not his intention.

He would stay on as a caretaker while the new Kadima leader tried to form a ruling alliance. If that failed, Israel would have to hold elections a year and a half early. Coalition negotiations after a ballot could last until spring, and Olmert would remain in office until then.

Police have been investigating for months a string of corruption cases involving Olmert. In one, he is suspected of improperly accepting cash and fancy gifts from a U.S. supporter. In another, he is suspected of submitting multiple bills for trips abroad, pocketing the difference or financing trips for relatives.

Though Kadima holds its primary Wednesday, it could be forced to hold a second round the following week if none of the four contenders gets 40 percent of the vote.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's lead negotiator in peace talks, and Cabinet minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and military chief, are the front-runners.

Opinion polls, meanwhile, indicate a tight race in any national ballot between Livni and hard-line former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose election could set back the U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace drive.

If elected, Livni, who hopes to become Israel's first female prime minister in four decades, would likely push ahead with the peace talks she has been leading. Mofaz would be expected to take a tougher line, particularly on the sensitive issue of Jerusalem. He opposes sharing control of the city, whose eastern sector is sought by the Palestinians as a future capital.

Read also: Israel After Olmert

At an appointed time, a wolf shall resurface.

In the seasons after the last of the fruits of the trees shall have touched the ground, the mighty eagle shall be healed of its injury.

The wolf is a skilled archer. The eagle is a veteran flier.

When the wolf and the eagle hunt, they both will set their eyes towards the fields in the direction of the rising of the sun.


Becoming A Leader Is A Process

What Every Leader Needs To Know
Excerpt from Leadership 101
By John C. Maxwell

“If you want to be a leader, the good news is that you can do it. Everyone has the potential, but it isn’t accomplished overnight. It requires perseverance. And you absolutely cannot ignore that becoming a leader is a process. Leadership doesn’t develop in a day. It takes a lifetime.”

To Lead Tomorrow, Learn Today

Leadership is developed daily, not in a day – that is reality. The good news is that your leadership ability is not static. No matter where you’re starting from, you can get better. That’s true even for people who have stood on the world stage of leadership. While most presidents of the Untied States reach their peak while in office, others continue to grow and become better leaders afterward. Some people may question their ability to lead but it can’t be denied that their level of influence has continually increased. Their high integrity and dedication in serving people through their works with many organizations have made their influence grow. People are impressed with their lives now more than before.

Fighting Your Way Up

There is an old saying: Champions don’t become champions in the ring – they are merely recognized there. That’s true. If you want to see where someone develops into a champion, look at his daily routine. Former heavyweight champ Joe Frazier stated, “You can map out a fight plan or a life plan. But when the action starts, you’re down to your reflexes. That’s where your road works shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning of the morning, you’re getting found out now under the bright lights.” Boxing is a good analogy of leadership development because it is all about daily preparation. Even if a person has natural talent, he has to prepare and train to become successful.

One of this country’s greatest leaders was a fan of boxing: President Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, one of his most famous quotes uses a boxing analogy:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know nether victory nor defeat.”

A boxer himself, Roosevelt was not only an effective leader, but he was the most flamboyant of all U.S. presidents.

A Man of Action

TR (which was Roosevelt’s nickname) was known for regular boxing and judo sessions, challenging horseback rides, and long strenuous hikes. A French ambassador who visited Roosevelt used to tell about the time that he accompanied the president on a walk through the woods. When the two men came to the banks of a stream that was too deep to cross by foot, TR stripped off his clothes and expected the dignitary to do the same so that they could swim to the other side. Nothing was an obstacle to Roosevelt.

His enthusiasm and stamina seemed boundless. As the vice presidential candidate in 1900, he gave 673 speeches and traveled 20,000 miles while campaigning for President McKinley. And years after his presidency, while preparing to deliver a speech in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a would-be assassin. With a broken rib and a bullet in his chest, Roosevelt insisted on delivering his one-hour speech before allowing himself to be taken to the hospital.

Roosevelt Started Slow

Of all the leaders the U.S. has ever had, Roosevelt was one of the toughest – both physically and mentally. But he didn’t start that way. America’s cowboy president was born in Manhattan to a prominent wealthy family. As a child, he was puny and very sickly. He had debilitating asthma, possessed very poor eyesight, and was painfully thin. His parents weren’t sure he would survive.

When he was twelve, young Roosevelt’s father told him, “You have the mind, but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make the body.” And make it he did. TR began spending time every day building his body as well as his mind, and he did that for the rest of his life. He worked out with weights, hiked, ice-skated, hunted, rowed, rode horseback, and boxed. By the time TR graduated from Harvard, he was ready to tackle the world of politics.

No Overnight Success

Roosevelt didn’t become a great leader overnight, either. His road to the presidency was one of slow, continual growth. As he served in various positions, ranging from New York City Police Commissioner to President of the United States, he kept learning and growing. He improved himself, and in time he became a strong leader.

Roosevelt’s list of accomplishments is remarkable. Under his leadership, the United States emerged as a world power. He helped the country develop a first-class navy. He saw that the Panama Canal was built. He negotiated peace between Russia and Japan, winning a Nobel Peace Prize in the process. And when people questioned TR’s leadership – since he had become president when McKinley was assassinated – he campaigned and was reelected by the largest majority of any president up to his time.

Ever the man of action, when Roosevelt completed his term as president in 1990, he immediately traveled to Africa where he lead a scientific expedition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.

On January 6, 1919, at his home in New York, Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep. Then Vice President Marshall said, “Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake, there would have been a fight.” When they removed him from his bed, they found a book under his pillow. Up to the very last, TR was still striving to learn and improve himself.

If you want to be a leader, the good news is that you can do it. Everyone has the potential, but it isn’t accomplished overnight. It requires perseverance. And you absolutely cannot ignore that becoming a leader is a process. Leadership doesn’t develop in a day. It takes a lifetime.

He [Jesus] sat down, and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)