Urgency vs. Panic in Bike Racing and Software Licensing

July 17th, 2009

At the beginning of this year Brad Feld posted a terrific piece on the Difference Between Panic and Urgency.  The concept- that urgency is the steady, relentless pursuit of a goal while panic is overwhelming fear that causes irrational behavior- has been stuck in my head ever since and has begun to influence how I look at a number of situations.  Here are a couple:

#1 Bicycle Racing.  I race bicycles in my spare time.  I entered a race recently that I thought I could win if everything went well.  It didn’t and I had a mechanical problem that caused me to stop my bike while the other 35 people in my race kept on going.

I checked out my bike methodically and quickly, then hopped back on and tried to catch up by riding a little faster than the group.  I knew that if I went all out I might catch up, but would probably run out of gas before the end of the race and finish poorly.

I didn’t catch everyone, but managed to pass a bunch of people and finish ninth.  I would have liked to finish higher, but I was proud of myself for riding steady, smart and salvaging a result from a bad situation instead of surging forward and then blowing up before the finish.

#2 Software Licensing.  I work with a lot of software companies that sell products in negotiated transactions- i.e. ones where I get involved to help work through agreements.  Deadlines are always tight and sales personnel are under constant pressure to close deals.

The salespeople that impress me most in this environment are the ones who view each transaction as essential and work hard to keep things moving quickly, but without creating a fire drill every time or sacrificing terms in order to close a deal by X date.

The people who view each deal as urgent, but not panic-inducing seem to do the best job of conveying their company’s requirements to a customer and working through the deal terms most expeditiously.  I model this behavior in every transaction I do, working through it steadily and with a sense of purpose to reach the best result in the fastest possible time frame.

As I said, the urgency vs. panic idea has been in my head all year.  It’s a great way to think about how to reach goals.

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