Create A Sense of Urgency

As many of you know, I wrote a book titled “Don’t Just Dream About Success: Stack the Odds in Your Favor” which is available in paperback and the Kindle version with the proceeds going to support the mission of CPAreviewforFREE.

Although sales have been great so far, we have a lot of people ask the obvious question:

“What is the book about and how could it possibly help me?”

Fair question. So, I wanted to provide an answer. The book is nearly 150 pages long but here are a couple of pages that I believe can help anyone who is looking to become more successful (but especially more successful on the CPA Exam). This is an excerpt from “Don’t Just Dream About Success: Stack the Odds in Your Favor” specifically for you (yes, YOU).

“Because they are human beings, college students have a strong tendency to procrastinate. Whether scheduled to write a paper, take a test, or create a presentation, most prefer to find other activities to occupy their hours and days until the last possible minute. As a student told me recently, ‘If a requirement is not on fire, I’ve got more interesting things to do with my time.’ Not surprisingly, when the deadline finally looms large, they are often forced to rush through the process so that results suffer. Every teacher knows that students are likely to upgrade their work if a touch of urgency is added to the daily routine.

‘This information will probably show up on your test.’

‘I am thinking about handing out a pop quiz sometime next week.’

‘You will be expected to explain the material in the third chapter of the textbook.’

“In classrooms, almost every day, teachers rely on such warnings and 10,000 more like them to motivate students to action. The learning process improves whenever urgency is introduced. Students work harder and are more focused. The message is clear:

To be successful, do the work now instead of waiting until it is too late.

“The benefit of instilling urgency goes beyond education. On The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels is successful as a trainer because she gets in the face of her team members and makes dieting and exercise an urgent matter to be taken seriously. They have failed for years in the quest to lose weight. Immediate action is essential. If Michaels exerts only mild pressure, (‘Let’s all think about eating better when we have enough time.’) results will be abysmal. Nothing will be different. No one will lose a pound. To impact the lives of the contestants in a positive manner, she must provide a direct push. She needs to elicit a strong effort right then: ‘Give me 40sit-ups and then run a mile. You are never going to lose that weight if you don’t stop being lazy. You can do this. Now get to work!’ Although intense, her methods are not radical. They are effective. Most winning coaches in every sport use the same type of techniques so their players will feel an urgent need to practice hard every day and perform in games at a high level.

“Similar routines are apparent virtually every day in the common experiences of life. A boss introduces the tactic by telling an employee ‘I want that report finished and on my desk before you leave tonight.’ Urgency. A parent relies on the same strategy by warning a child that ‘there will be no television this evening until you finish your homework.’ Urgency. William S. Burroughs, a writer best known as a member of the Beat Generation in the 1950s, described this motivation rather succinctly: ‘Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.’

“The opposite is equally true. If urgency is eliminated from a project, do not be shocked if forward momentum slows down appreciably. The odds for success only shift in your favor if you keep pushing for immediate progress. That is why the sense of urgency is essential.

“When I taught CPA exam review programs, I found that motivation was important to keep the participants on task: ‘You can avoid sacrifice today, but then you’ll miss the benefit tomorrow. You can eat cake today or you can be slimmer tomorrow. In this way, life is simple. That is how it works. You can skip exercising today or you can be stronger tomorrow. You can study today or fail the exam tomorrow. You are an adult. The decision is up to you. Success comes to the person who makes the best use of today. If the goal is important, get started (and do it now).’

“After growing up, people often fail to experience the fulfillment in their lives they had expected. They find themselves disappointed and bored without a sense of purpose. That is, at least in part, because they have left behind much of the external motivation system of childhood. No coach or teacher is likely to hang around to push them forward through adult life. They’re on their own and life can suddenly seem aimless without outside urgency to provide direction. The void needs to be filled. A life missing urgency can feel a little trivial. Take control. Start looking to identify and then achieve yourLevel-3 goals. Supply your own urgency.

“Why do we require an external force (a teacher, trainer, coach, boss, or parent) to provide the urgency that helps us overcome our tendency to procrastinate? The answer, of course, is that we really do not need outside motivation. As children, we become dependent on having others march us along a chosen path. As adults, that role now belongs to us. In the transition, this change is easy to overlook. If you have genuine Level-3 goals, a key step in stacking the odds of success in your favor is being able to create your own sense of urgency. Determine the objective, chart the course, and get to work.

“In the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams portrays a high school English teacher at a fancy boarding school. He wants his students to break out of their shells and urges them onward:

“‘Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.’

“Carpe diem, as the quote explains, translates as ‘seize the day.’ This Latin term is just another way to point out the need to maintain a level of urgency as we tackle our daily challenges. No one experiences an extraordinary life through procrastination.

“How can a sense of urgency be created without Jillian Michaels or a coach, a teacher, or your mom? For a lot of adults, the answer to that question is the difference in success and failure.

When I first became a college professor, I wanted to be a great teacher (and still do). Getting by was not good enough. I took notes every day and soon made a startling discovery—the more I prepared for class the better the students learned. In hindsight, that seems rather obvious, but I was young and inexperienced at the time. For me, this logic morphed into ‘Joe’s Theorem for Success,’ an equation I have explained to countless students over the decades. The theorem states: If X number of hours is required to be average (earn a C for a particular task), then 2X hours are required to be good (earn a B), and 3X to be excellent (earn an A). For any objective, you want to accomplish, answer two questions and the necessary level of urgency becomes easier to gauge. First, what grade do you really want? Second, are you willing to put in the required time? For example, if I am satisfied to be average, I only need to invest X amount of time. But, if a specific goal is so important that I want to perform at an A level, then I must find a way to squeeze out 3Xhours of work. Never be naïve; excellence takes time. A shortage of time helps stimulate urgency.

“Next, I start every morning by writing down the jobs I want to accomplish that day. I place a single X by each one and estimate the amount of time needed to achieve a grade of C. How long does a specific task take to be mediocre? That is a fascinating question. It might be a half-hour, two hours, or whatever. Finally, I consider each of the listed items one final time and ask myself whether I will be satisfied with average results or if I truly want the outcome to be good (2X amount of time needed) or great (3X).

“For me, this daily scheduling brings urgency out of the theoretical and into the practical world. What really must be accomplished today? How much time is needed? Excellent results never happen without a serious commitment. The estimated hours are required, starting immediately. The choice of where to focus energy is mine and not handed down by some outside motivator. For each task, I decide how good I want to be and start putting in the time to reach that goal. The theorem provides a solid approximation of the work needed to achieve success. Knowledge of that time requirement forces me to dig down each day and find the urgency that will get the work started without being hindered by procrastination.

“You can do it. You do not need an external motivator to provide urgency. Instead, that essential ingredient must come from inside. Make it happen. Do the work and do it now.”

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