If you are like me, then you get excitement from making difficult situations manageable and impossible scenarios work. Business, and startups specifically, strive on people disrupting monolithic systems and solving long-term problems.
The issue is that the very same bug that gets under our skin to fix things can also make us addicted to the rush of chaos. VC Mark Suster calls it "urgency addiction" and defines it well better than I can:
People with the "urgency addition" thrive on the pressure. We rise to the occasion as it stirs our creative juices. There is something about the adrenaline rush of being under time pressure that excites us and teases out our creativity. We get away with having the urgency addiction BECAUSE we perform well under pressure. Not everybody does.
The problem, Suster says, is that there a lot of things that are urgent, but few that are important. As he mentions, productivity guru Stephen Covey discussed the idea many years ago in the seminal First Things First.
I have sympathy for Suster and his type of urgency addiction, but I believe it goes a bit deeper than that.
There are two types of urgency addition: personality and environmental.
Suster's great post breaks down what it's like for someone who has a personality leaning towards urgency. As he says, everything is a crisis, and rushing to get things done makes him feel accomplished. More worrisome, he gets a great adrenaline rush from when he finishes things, saving himself from ruin just in the nick of time.
My urgency addiction, however, is different. Throw me on a proverbial desert island and I will be as calm as the breeze. Put me around other people, though, and it can be terribly easy to absorb their attitude - particularly if they are in crisis mode. I'd call this an environmental urgency addiction.
A good personal example for me would be my young family. If you have kids, then you know that minor things to adults are big, imposing things to little ones, which means meltdowns, tears and frustrations. Transpose that energy into a startup (yes, there is a direct parallel between the two experiences) and you can see how a chaotic environment can put me into urgency mode over things that are relatively minor. You are orbiting the giant hairball, as the late Gordon MacKenzie put it, and trying not to get caught in it.
Whether you are a personal or environmental urgency junkie, there are a couple survival tactics to keep your head together.
- Remind yourself that it isn't a crisis: And if it is a crisis, then read about these other methods
- Ask yourself if it will matter 5 minutes, 5 months or 5 years from now: As I've talked about in the past, I love the technique of transporting yourself into the future. Looking back, will this really make a long-time impact on your business?
- Forgive yourself for going there: It means you screwed up, not that you are a screw up