“. . . seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
One of the great challenges we faced working on a bond trading desk in the Wall Street world, as I did for thirty years, is the urgency of everything. Phones ring non-stop during trading hours and every one of those calls is something urgent. While in one sense the high level of activity is energizing and exciting (one never lacks for something to do). On the other hand – and this is the challenging part – it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy – the urgency – and lose sight of the greater purpose and the mission and goals of the business.
Among his countless nuggets of wisdom the late management guru of the twentieth century, the great Peter Drucker, emphasized the importance of making the “important” rather than the “urgent” our priority in life. But like most of us he struggled with it too. “If I look back,” he once lamented, “my greatest frustrations are probably, in retrospect, this is hindsight, that I have, far too often, made the urgent rather than the important my priority and that as a result, some of the books I should have written I haven’t written. And I have written books that were urgent, or I have taught the things that they needed at the moment rather than the things that were needed five years since. I have been willing to run shorter rather than long-term.”
It’s a tough call because urgent matters do matter, but they should never be allowed to cause us to lose sight of the greater purpose and the longer-term mission. That is why clear concise mission and vision statements are so critical for organizations and that that mission and vision be instilled in the organization’s culture. Thus, the most successful organizations over the long haul are those who do.
Jesus himself reminded us that we should first seek God’s kingdom – the “important” – then deal with the other matters of life – the “urgent”. By doing so we guard ourselves from being caught up in the frenzy of the urgent; or as Drucker put it, we must make the “important” rather than the “urgent” our priority in life. But sometimes life demands our attention to the urgent in order to achieve the important. Such was life on a bond trading desk, and such is the battle we are currently engaged to defeat the Coronavirus.