A $25,000 Lesson


The following story has been told in different ways by many people, but I first read it in a free one-page report written by Frank Tibolt (1897-1989). He gave me a copy of the little double-sided report many years ago and I have treasured it ever since.  He later included it in his book (now out of print) A Touch Of Greatness.  It is a $25,000 lesson on how to get things done.  It still works today as well as it did back then.  The only difference now is,  it's worth a million dollars today.   Read it carefully.

In the early 1900s Ivy Lee was a consultant in New York City. His regular clients were Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, The Du Fonts, and other big shots.

One day Charles Schwab of the  Bethlehem  Steel Co. asked Lee about his services. Lee outlined them briefly ending with the statement, "With our services you'll know how to manage better."

"HELL!" shouted Schwab. "I'm not managing as well now as  I know-how. What we need around here is not more "knowing" but more "doing" . . . not more knowledge, but more action. If you can only show us how to do half the things we already know we ought to do ... show us how to "GET THINGS DONE" . . . I'll gladly engage your services at any price."

"You're on", answered Lee. "I can give you a lesson in 20 minutes that will help you get more done tomorrow." "O.K." agreed Schwab, "I have just about 20 minutes before train time. What's your idea?"

Lee pulled out a 3 x 5 filing card, handed it to Schwab, and told him, "Spend 10 minutes every evening before retiring, reviewing the day's work. Ask yourself, "What did I forget, neglect or foul-up? What specific steps can I take to prevent these foul-ups in the future? What can I do to improve on today's work? Then spend 5 more minutes writing on this card the six things you need most to get done tomorrow." That took 8 minutes. "Now, said Lee, "Number them in the order of their importance."

"Next", said Lee, "Put this card in your pocket and the first thing tomorrow morning, look at item 1 and start working on it. Look at item 1 every hour on the hour until you've finished it.

Tackle No. 2 the same way.  Then No. 3. Do this until quitting time."

"Don't be concerned if you've only finished two or three, or even if you haven't finished No. 1.

You'll be working on the most important. The rest can wait. If you can't finish all with this method, you can't with any other method either, and without this method, you'd probably never even decide which are most important."

"Before making up your next day's list transfer all your unfinished items to it. Spend the last 5 minutes every day making up a "must list" of the next day's most urgent tasks. After you've tried this method, have your key employees try it. Test it for as long as you like, and then send me a check for what you think it's worth."

A few weeks later Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000 saying:

"This innocent-looking little lesson is the most practical lesson I ever learned in all my life.  It motivated me to make a phone call that I had put off for 9 months. That phone call brought me an order for steel beams that netted me 2 million dollars. I explained this humble lesson to all my executives. That did more to make the Bethlehem Steel Co. the world's largest independent steel producer, than all the meetings I held with my high-salaried executives."

Schwab learned, like most great men learn, that the simplest ideas are often the greatest in getting results.

This plain little lesson is so plain looking and so plain sounding that many average people won't even try it. It's so plain that its results are almost unbelievable. But it has turned more little shots into BIG SHOTS, than any "secret of success", or any high-priced "Motivation Course". It tops all methods for turning "ordinary" people into "extraordinary" producers.

If you think I'm claiming too much for this humble little lesson, let's look at what bigger and wiser men have said about it.

Walter Chrysler said, "I never started producing until I engaged a taskmaster ... a written list of things to be done each day".

Henry Ford said, "No executive is worthy of the name unless he works to a written schedule".

Thousands of other big men in business, industry, banking, education, selling, and other fields, have placed this method at the top of the list of "habits that make for success." You'll find big producers everywhere, probably in your own company, use some version of this method. For GETTING THINGS DONE, it beats all the fancy, high sounding, and high priced systems ever invented.

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The Value Of An Idea