I was hanging out at a friend’s apartment a few months ago and I came across a very valuable self-improvement program. Her laptop was sitting on the table and what sounded like an audiobook was playing. The narrator had a commanding deep resonant voice that grabbed my attention immediately.

“I remember the time when a man and his wife bought a home across the street from me in Florida. They had moved there from Minnesota. They had planned to move there for years,” the narrator said. The narrator implied that he imagined the couple would love it in Florida as they had grown weary of the Northern winters and because Florida offered the man a great opportunity to enjoy his fishing hobby.

He was therefore surprised to see them months later packing to leave. He walked over to the man and asked why they were leaving so soon after moving to Florida. “My wife hates it here,” the man said. Apparently, the wife was finding it hard to make new friends in Florida. The women of the community did not embrace her as much as she thought she would be embraced. They had not asked her to join them in the various activities of the community.

Surprised, the narrator asked the man, “Has she let the other women know that she is interested in participating in community activities?” “No. No, she hasn’t,” the man replied. She had been waiting to be invited to take part in community activities. And there, clear as day, was the problem. See, the narrator pointed out, the woman was like a person sitting in front of an empty stove with no fuel and asking for heat. Without supplying any wood, you can’t get heat from a stove.  

Because she had stayed in the house and not bothered to interact with the other women of the community, the women were completely justified in thinking that she was not interested in making friends. The point of the story was the importance of a positive attitude. The world can only give you back a mirror reflection of the attitude you hold.

Impressed by the message, I asked my friend to tell me the name of the audiobook that was playing. She told me that it was not a book but a self-development program by a man named Earl Nightingale. She had CD copies of the program and she gladly lent them to me.

Enter Earl Nightingale

Earl Nightingale, I came to learn, was one of the most notable figures in the world of self-development before he died in 1989. Respected speakers and authors such as Bob Proctor and Mark Victor Hansen call him the Dean of Personal Development.

The program my friend had lent me was called Lead the Field and it is one of the most popular works of Earl Nightingale. In one of the messages in the program, Nightingale talks of an idea for which a man was paid $25,000. It is a productivity strategy that Ivy Lee, an efficiency expert, shared with a steel corporation president.

If you are looking for a way to get things done effectively and in their proper order, you will find Lee’s advice incredibly valuable. As a business owner, you have to do a lot of things such as writing sales copies, recording and sending videos, putting new products together, and managing relationships with customers and suppliers, among others. How do you do all these things? Lee has the answer.

A Surprisingly Simple Productivity Strategy

The steel corporation president was asking Ivy Lee for advice on how to get things done. He said that he already knew what to do to get the results the company needed but was at a loss on how to go about doing these things.

Lee handed the executive a piece of paper and asked him to write down the six most important things he had to do the following day. It took the executive around four minutes to write these 6 to-dos. When he was done, Lee told him to number the items in order of their importance to the steel corporation.

When he was done numbering the items, Lee told the executive to put the paper in his pocket. He instructed him that the first thing he should do the following day when he gets to work is to look at item number one. He was not to worry about any other item on the list except item number one. The executive was to work on only that item until it was done after which he could work on item number two, number three, number four and so on until the end of the day.

If he could only complete one item on a particular day, he was not to worry about any other item on the list. Since the items were numbered in their order of importance to the company, postponing other activities till the top item on the list was completed was totally warranted. If he could not get the things done through this system, there was no other way he could get the tasks done. Lee stressed the importance of staying with one task until it is successfully completed.

Lee asked the executive to try out this strategy and send him a check for what he thought the idea was worth. In a few weeks, Lee received a check for $25,000. This was several years back so the payment is definitely bigger in today’s money.

Closing Thoughts

I tried the idea myself and I have found it extremely useful. Often, we know the things we need to do to get the results we want out of life. The problem is always how to go about doing these things.

If you follow Lee’s strategy, you will have in your possession an extremely simple strategy that was responsible for the success of one of the biggest steel corporations in the world.