New York Subway

Priorities and Perspectives

In 5 Minute Read, Leadership by Stephen Zakur0 Comments

New York Subway

This morning’s commute was wrong right from the beginning. On the way to the train station, it felt like every light was red, a van recklessly entering the highway avoided disaster by the grace of attentive drivers, and the side street that is my shortcut was blocked by fire engines. Miraculously early to the station, I watched the local train, relatively empty, pull away in favor of the express. The express arrived short two cars due to mechanical problems with standing room only on the rest. The express made an unplanned stop at a station down the line and we took on even more passengers. Little bits of stress start to pile up.

On top of this, I have spreadsheets for a financial review today that don’t add up. I owe a response to a customer on a proposal that has been coming together too slow. And, worst of all, I’ve been spending too much time with lawyers on a sticky contract issue.

Like most folks, I find myself underwater at times. It’s especially prevalent in the start-up game. So many opportunities and demands. It’s easy to let events take you along and be in response mode. It’s especially those urgent/not important items Stephen Covey talked about that create the most disruption. It feels good to swoop in and fix those things but at the end of the day, they don’t move the ball forward with the intention necessary to achieve goals.

Swimming baby

Knowing where you’re going is especially helpful during these times. If you’ve taken the time to develop a sense of the desired end state, whether that’s a business or personal goal, at least you have a framework for beginning to dig out. You can say “No” to the things that aren’t going to get you where you need to be and “Yes” to the people and tasks that need attention today and build muscle for the fight ahead. My system isn’t perfect and my goals are not always optimal, but when I remember where I’m going I can usually break the reaction cycle and act with focused intent.

A medical emergency on board the train required the unplanned stop I referred to earlier. That guy’s day is starting with an ambulance ride. My car didn’t get struck by a plumbing contractor in a rush. My apartment isn’t on fire. All I have are sore feet from two hours of standing. I wouldn’t chose to start my day this way, but others have it worse.

Today’s commute was inconvenient but I’ve also had time to consider what’s important. I have a sense of where I’m going and the discipline to focus on what’s important. I’m going to say “No” today to a few things and “yes” to customers and opportunities. It was a hard day for many, but in comparison, my day wasn’t all that bad, start to finish.

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