A number of years ago, I attended a mastermind meeting that had a consistent theme running through it.
The most successful people have a sense of urgency.
I believe this to be true because those I view as successful act quickly and decisively. They hustle. They get things done.
If we take it at face value, the phrase sense of urgency seems turbulent. It sounds like we should be moving hastily and acting immediately on ideas without much thought or care for anything else.
It’s Not Really About Hurrying
As I read more about a sense of urgency as it relates to business, I discover that it’s not necessarily about hurrying.
John Kotter, who wrote the book A Sense of Urgency, says the following.
True urgency focuses on critical issues. It is driven by the deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing. Many people confuse it with false urgency. This misguided sense of urgency does have energized action, but it has a frantic aspect to it with people driven by anxiety and fear. This dysfunctional orientation prevents people from exploiting opportunities and addressing real issues.
Michael Hyatt gets to the point.
Cultivating a sense of urgency is all about producing results. All the stuff that it takes to produce results—paperwork, approvals, processes, committees, and budgets—are not an end in themselves. They are only the means. If you do all this and don’t accomplish your goals, you have lost.
Too often people think that the objective is to complete their task list. If they do so, they think they have actually accomplished something. This is not necessarily the case. Tasks are a necessary but insufficient condition of achievement.
Hyatt explains that it’s not about the tasks or how you get there. It’s about staying focused on the desired outcome.
6 Ways to Adopt a Sense of Urgency for Your Art Business
1. Know what you want.
When I think of successful people, I think of people who know exactly what they want.
Success doesn’t seem to strike people who are wishy-washy and vague. Success doesn’t have time to wait for you to figure out what you want.
When you don’t know what you want, you create that frantic urgency around tasks that don’t matter in the long run.
My course, the Art Biz Accelerator, helps you set your priorities while giving you a system for increasing your income, which you can use repeatedly throughout your art career.
2. Be clear about why you do what you do.
This isn’t always evident, but it will change the way you work. If your purpose is as I suspect—to communicate with the world through your art—you will begin to understand how critical it is for you to get the work out of the studio and in front of people.
You will see that self-expression is only a small part of your purpose. It’s more about the connections you make with the rest of the world.
3. Favor action.
Don’t spend unreasonable amounts of time looking for the best technology, taking another class, or searching for game-changing answers. These can be forms of procrastination in order to avoid what is much harder.
Do. The. Work.
4. Build on momentum.
Successful people are constantly improving and innovating. They never think they’ve gotten to the top.
Yes you need a little rest thrown in, but you must also build on your successes before people forget about them.
5. Get to the point.
You’ve got to learn to summarize and bullet point your thoughts and ideas. The busy people you’re going to be dealing with during your career don’t have time to make sense of your rambling thoughts.
Learn to speak with brevity and impact and, Please!, write shorter emails.
What’s the bottom line?
6. Try speeding things up.
I know I said it isn’t about hurrying, but there has to be a little speed on the trajectory to success. Simplify your systems and environment so you can respond more quickly to opportunities.
How does a sense of urgency show up in your art business and career? If it doesn’t, what can you do immediately to instill this in your work life?
This post was first published in 2014. It has been updated with the original comments intact.