Is Your Sense of ‘Urgency’ Really Just Anxiety?
A question that helps me see when I’m the one making myself needlessly busy
The old marketing adage that 50% of your money is wasted, you just don’t know which half, is doubly true about time. I know this because I used to flush half my time and energy down the toilet every day in the name of stressed-out entrepreneurship.
I thought this was just the price of admission for getting to build a company from scratch, raise tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, hire hundreds of employees and serve hundreds of thousands of customers. I worked ninety-hour weeks, and whenever I was worried about the future, I just stayed all night playing out more and more scenarios on ever sprawling Excel spreadsheets. I didn’t drink water because I didn’t have time to run to the bathroom between back-to-back meetings.
Or that’s what I told myself, anyway.
But now that I look back, I am beyond certain that at least half of my effort was wasted. And even though I couldn’t see which half it was when I was in the thick of it, I have a strong hunch about it now. The answer was never in the next Excel model. Or the slap dash marketing promotion.
To make wiser investments of myself, I now I ask myself this simple question: “What I would do if I knew for sure that everything would work out okay in ten years?” Maybe not “okay” as I define it today, but “okay” nonetheless.
When I ask myself this question, a lot of busy work, frustration, complaining and alcohol consumption falls away. When I’m driven by anxiety, a false picture of the future controls where I spend my time. I’m too busy to stop to see that I’m the one making myself busy. In the name of “saving the company,” or more importantly, saving jobs, I have ostriched my head deep into the hole of speed.
This was a deceptively hard conclusion to figure out. I spent a lot of time trying to escape the bad feelings I was having over a missed revenue month, or a delay in shipments or orders. I was shocked to figure out that it wasn’t the crappy present that was terrorizing my life, it was the stories I was telling myself about the crappy future. It turned out that that staying more fully in the present was the…