Living With a Sense of Urgency

I took a class in college called “Entrepreneurship”.  It was probably one of the few classes I got an actual A in because I was totally engaged and actually attended every single session.  It was taught by a (then) Merrill Lynch advisor who really had a huge impact on the way I view things.  One of the things that always stuck with me was his view on setting goals and getting things done.  He always talked about “creating a sense of urgency”.

One of the things we learn from Monetary Realism is that there are few things more important than time.  It is truly the ultimate form of wealth.  With an infinite amount of time there would be no need for urgency.  We could consume and produce all that we wanted at our leisure.  Of course, that’s not our reality.  And as I get older that reality hits home every day.  We’re not getting any younger.  As the movie Fight Club says, “this is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time”.  That’s both a depressing thought and a very powerful one.  It creates a sense of urgency.

Creating a sense of urgency compartmentalizes our time.  How is that?  For instance, I try to sign-up for races every now and then to keep me on track with staying in shape.  Running in races at 7AM is not at the top of my “to do” list.  Training for such a thing is even more tedious.  But by scheduling a race I create a sense of urgency.  I create a sense of urgency through creating a finite training period.  I condense the amount of time in which I am able to achieve a certain goal.  If I don’t do A in the allotted amount of time then I won’t achieve B which means my results (C) will be terrible.

It’s funny being a human being because the thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is often times our biggest weakness.  We rationalize everything.  What we’re really doing is making excuses for why we shouldn’t do the things we should be doing.  I laugh every morning I wake up because I have a 11 month old Aussie Collie mix who jumps on the bed at 6:00AM, without fail.  She’s ready to go.  I don’t mean “ready to go” as in #1 & #2 (well, that also).  But she’s ready to live.  If she could talk, every morning she’d say “guys, this is the best day ever to be alive”.  Her sense of urgency is just an inherent trait in her for some reason.  Probably because she doesn’t rationalize everything away.  But we need the urgency.  Otherwise, we’ll rationalize it away.  And most of the time, the difference between optimizing your time and procrastinating is creating that sense of urgency….If you want the ultimate form of wealth creating this sense of urgency is a key to getting there….

(Photo courtesy of big stock photo)


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Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

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  • Frederick

    I love this kind of stuff. Are you adding “life coach” to your services at Orcam? :-)

  • Cullen Roche

    I actually don’t run in long races. The longest I run is sprint triathlons. My workouts are split between heavy weight lifting and short runs that involve sprints. Not only is it more time efficient, but it’s more strenuous. And frankly, I can’t run very far. :-)

  • The Undergrad

    Wind sprints really is the best form of running.

  • Stephen

    I have no problem with he concept of a sense of urgency,but I’ve also seen it become self defeating.In my so called prime every minute was so precious I insisted upon filling it with something roductive. Looking back now from a point much closer to the finishing line I realise how easy it was to be so busy filling in chunks of time I failed pretty often to really take everything the moment had to offer. These days’ i much prefer to live in the moment and savour it.
    Suspect all of this really is just a function of the age you are at.

  • Cullen Roche

    I don’t disagree. I always say you shouldn’t live to work, but work to live. Get the priorities wrong and you’ll become a slave to that sense of urgency.

  • marketfowl

    “Think infinite, act finite.”

  • James Kostohryz

    Sometimes you need a sense of urgency to spur you to things that have nothing to do with work, such as developing a social life. So a sense of urgency is often necessary to kick start our quest for priorities of all sorts. Having said that, living with a permanent sense of urgency (anxiety) about all priorities is not a good way to live, in my view. In my view, making that sense of urgency work for us rather than have it work on us is part of the art of living.

  • Cullen Roche

    Great comment! Thanks.

  • Cullen Roche

    Completely agree James!


    When procrastination rears its ugly head for me, I sometimes use my life expectancy to calculate the number of seconds I have left if I make it to that number…

    A bit morbid? Pretty much…

    Kinda crazy? Probably…

    Motivating? Without a doubt…

  • David

    I actually don’t agree with the phrasing “sense of urgency” at all. It implies stress and anxiety.

    That being said, I agree that it’s important to manage time but as I get older, I get smarter about it. I realize that if I ever get stressed out about a situation where most of the contours were known from the outset, then at some point I didn’t do things right.

    Stress, if you live life in a right way, should only come when something totally unexpected happens. And even then, if you’re practicing Zen, it shouldn’t affect you that much.

    Therefore, I think the phrase is flawed. To truly master life is to be relaxed and in harmony, while still getting a lot done. And, if there are hiccups along the way(which is impossible to avoid), not getting stressed out about them and affected in a negative way.

    But that’s more Zen than “sense of urgency”.

  • steve

    Paleo/Primal and MMT/MMR are two things that have really changed my perspective on life. They both seem like deep thruths, similar to e=mc2, evolution, the big bang, and Jennifer Aniston.

  • Jason H

    Ya, great posts.. while we’re on the subject of dogs & exercise since I have 3 dogs & I used to be a fitness trainerj, educated as molecular biologist/biochemist at UCBErkeley, work as a Oracle/SQL developer/adminstrator now) & most of you already know this but for those that don’t:

    Since you have a pets too, great site like the Consumer Reports of dog food is & & run by independent biologists/veterinarians & they are essential since the leading market leaders in dog/cat foods like Pedigree, Beneful, Hill’s Science Diet use bad unhealthy ingredients in their pet foods like cancer-rate increasing preservatives banned but in human foods but still allowed in pets foods like menadione & ethoxyquin –and they use gluten or corn, which dogs/cats have trouble digesting since they lack much amylase for digesting them, resulting in gas, soft stools, & function as sugar… (this is one of the reasons why pets have increasing rates of diabetes & cancer)

    DNA tests show that dogs have the same DNA as wolves (which is why they can still interbreed with them) are really just a domesticated wolf…

    .. and they do best eating a grain-free hi-protein diet since they evolved to eat mostly meat & not corn nor wheat

    –the best grain-free dog foods like Instinct, EVO, Origen, Wellness have meat-based protein ranging from 32% to 42% protein versus most brands that are just 21% to 24% protein.

    Just like humans do best on a hi-protein/low-stach diet (strontium analysis of human bones from multiple archaelogical sites from 10,000-50,000+ years ago) show that most humans ate a diet that was 65% animal protein (which was about the same levels as foxes/wolves in the area) which shows how most humans were hunter-gatherers who ate mostly animal meat as part of their diet.

    Most people don’t realize that corn & most other starches(which are just sugar molecules chained together) turn into simple sugars within 30 minutes of digestion, leading to easily becoming overweight or diabetes unless you exercise, which returns your biochemistry back into healthy levels.

    Eathing starches is fine as long as you exercise.. for those sedentary that don’t, hi-protein/low-starch is healthiest.

    Speaking of which, there’s a great misunderstanding in that people confuse low-starch with low-carb –there are good carbs like green vegetables & most fruits.. just like there are good fats (omega-3) & “bad” fats (transfat & if there’s too much omega-6).

    Just like Monetary Realism or MMT, hi-protein diets were fought against & unaccepted by the mainstream for 30+ years.

    Just like the myths that the US deficit spending/federal debt will cause the US to “go bankrupt”, “US is out of money”, “hyperinflation”,etc …the “all fats are bad” myth was taught & accepted also fro 30+ years until the 1980s when studies showing omega-3 fats were actually good instead of bad

    Transfats used to be taught & accepted as good for 30+ years also, which was why margarine was encouraged as a substitute for butter…

    Those myths died out though as the old dinosaurs who occupied positions of power/authority died out or retired.. but the economic myths remains because they are still spread & funded by rightwing donors & think-tanks like Mises, CATO, Heritage,etc that are funded by Koch, Peterson, Schiff, Scaiffely-Mellon

    Just like creationism lives on despite all the scientific evidence & empirical data like DNA, radiometric dating beause some fundamentalist churches still teach it (even though the CAtholic Church said in 1957 & John Paul II said evolution was compatible with the church & was for it)

  • El Viejo

    In a similar vein: I was a type A personality. (some say still am) I could never achieve any long term success such as a marathon run because I could not train consistently. I would train furiously and then quit. When I crossed forty I realized I wasn’t gong to win any races and forced myself to quit my workout early each day. This started a bifurcated conversation (argument) with myself. But I was firm with myself and continued to force myself to quit early. (swimming laps) After a while I noticed that I kept coming back to the health club on a regular basis and did not quit. It kept that intermediate/ short term goal out there like a carrot. After two years (a record legth of time for me) I was swimming over a mile in a respectable time for 40+ (about 35 minutes)