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List Your Priorities

A number of years ago a fascinating interview took place between Mr. Charles Schwab, then president of Bethlehem Steel, and Ivy Lee, a self-styled management consultant. Lee was an aggressive, self-confident man who by his perseverance had secured the interview with Mr. Schwab, who was no less self-assured, being one of the most powerful men in the world. During the conversation, Mr. Lee asserted that if the management of Bethlehem Steel would follow his advice, the company’s operations would be improved and their profits increased. Schwab responded, “If you can show us a way to get more things done, I’ll be glad to listen; and if it works, I’ll pay you whatever you ask within reason.” Lee handed Schwab a blank piece of paper and said, “Write down the most important things you have to do tomorrow.” Mr. Schwab did so. “Now, “ Lee continued, “Number them in order of importance.” Schwab did so. “Tomorrow morning start on number one, and stay with it until you have completed it. Then go on to number two and number three and number four…Don’t worry if you haven’t completed everything by the end of the day. At least you will have completed the most important projects. Do this every day. After you have been convinced of the value of this system, have your men try it. Try it as long as you like, and then send me your check for whatever you think the advice is worth.” The two men shook hands and Lee left the president’s office. A few weeks later Charles Schwab sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000—an astronomical amount in the 1930s! He said it was the most profitable lesson he had learned in his long business career.

Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, K Hughes, Tyndale, 1988, p. 54

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