This is from a story by Earl Nightingale

The $25,000 Idea

Did you ever hear of the single idea for which a man was paid $25,000? And it was worth every penny of it. The story goes that the president of a big steel company had granted an interview to an efficiency expert named Ivy Lee. Lee was telling his prospective client how he could help him do a better job of managing the company, when the president broke in to say something to the effect that he wasn’t at present managing as well as he knew how. He went on to tell Ivy Lee that what was needed wasn’t more knowing but a lot more doing. He said, “We know what we should be doing. Now if you can show us a better way of getting it done, I’ll listen to you and pay you anything within reason you ask.”

Well, Lee then said that he could give him something in 20 minutes that would increase his efficiency by at least 50 percent. He then handed the executive a blank sheet of paper and said, “Write down on this paper the six most important things you have to do tomorrow.” Well, the executive thought about it and did as requested. It took him about three or four minutes.

Then Lee said, “Now number those items in the order of their importance to you or to the company.” Well, that took another three or four or five minutes, and then Lee said, “Now put the paper in your pocket. And the first thing tomorrow morning take it out and look at item number one. Don’t look at the others, just number one, and start working on it. And if you can, stay with it until it’s completed. Then take item number two the same way, then number three, and so on, till you have to quit for the day.

“Don’t worry if you’ve only finished one or two; the others can wait. If you can’t finish them all by this method, you could not have finished them with any other method. And without some system, you’d probably take 10 times as long to finish them and might not even have them in the order of their importance.

“Do this every working day,” Lee went on. “After you’ve convinced yourself of the value of this system, have your people try it. Try it as long as you like. And then send me your check for whatever you think the idea is worth.”

The entire interview hadn’t taken more than a half-hour. In a few weeks the story has it that the company president sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000 with a letter saying the lesson was the most profitable, from a money standpoint, he’d ever learned in his life. And it was later said that in five years this was the plan that was largely responsible for turning what was then a little-known steel company into one of the biggest independent steel producers in the world. One idea, the idea of taking things one at a time in their proper order. Of staying with one task until it’s successfully completed before going on to the next.

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