Monday, August 21, 2020

Taking Your Time

One hot day, two lions were lying in the long grass on the side of hill in the African veldt. As they looked down into the valley below them, they could see six fine antelope grazing. The first lion, who was young and full of energy, could barely contain himself. “Let’s dash down there right now, ” he said to the other lion. “Between the two of us we could probably grab one of those antelope.”

His companion, and older lion who often seemed to do little except sleep, shook his head. “No . . . no . . .” he said. “You haven’t thought about this. We’ll just sit here and watch them for a while, and we’ll think about the way the land lies down there. Then we’ll creep down—nice and slowly . . . and catch them all.”
Too many managers today are like the young lion. They dash into action as soon as they see an opportunity. All their rushing about and causing a disturbance alerts everyone else to what they are doing; not just their “prey,” but also every competitor. It’s amazing how many people cannot hold back from telling everyone they meet about this great deal they’re about to pull off, or this wonderful new product that will amaze the market. Is it surprising others decide to muscle in on their action?

There is a time for action and a time for thought. For too many managers, action comes first and though comes after. They dash headlong into the first opportunity they come across, moving so fast they fail to spend any time thinking, and therefore gaining only part of the benefits. If they had given themselves time to look and listen, they might have worked out ways to produce far greater results. They are like the young lion. They catch just one antelope and think how splendid their achievement was. Successful people know that thought always comes first—a great deal of careful thought—followed by even more patience until the time is just right. Then comes the action: swift, purposeful, and tightly focused on what will produce the best possible outcome. They catch all the antelopes. They take even a modest opportunity and turn it into something big.

Even if they fail, they go on thinking: analyzing what happened and how they can do better the next time, and learning every lesson experience can teach them. They don’t rush, or fret, or give way to impatience. They don’t waste their energy on high-speed chases, or try to impress their colleagues by constantly rushing about. Warren Buffet is the richest investor in the world. Is he the typical Wall Street type, focused on putting together swift, high-profile, flashy deals full of complex financial tricks? It’s clear he is not. For years he has stuck to a simple investment philosophy and a down-home style. But none of those Wall Street types has made anything like the money he has made. He crept down the hill and patiently caught whole herds of antelope, while they have been dashing about trying to catch just a few.

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