He who will not economize will have to agonize.

--Confucius

I have to tell you that I can relate to the "agonize" in this Confucian saying. As someone on the receiving end of conversations by people who do not know how to edit themselves, I know what agony means. I think to myself, “How long is it going to take for this person to get to the point? We could’ve flown to Australia by now, and they’re still in the middle of take-off.”

Business is no place for stream-of-consciousness babbling, no matter how colorful you might think you’re being. Whatever you’re doing, keep it short, fast, and direct. It’s also more polite. Most people don’t have time to waste. I realize that Confucius was referring to the non-economizer, and they will suffer, too, but why make everyone miserable by being unnecessarily chatty?

I mentioned in my book Think Like a Billionaire that Ricardo Bellino had exactly three minutes to give me his business presentation. I was extremely busy that day and not particularly in the mood for a presentation, so I thought he might decline, which would free up my day a bit. Not only did he not decline, he gave me such a great presentation within those three minutes that we became partners. It’s surprising what people can do with a deadline.

I mention that because sometimes we have to give ourselves deadlines. Practice giving your presentation in under five minutes. Practice giving your introduction in less than three minutes. You will discover that you can be an effective editor by cutting out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Your audience, or your superiors, will be grateful for your ability to distill the essence for them.

We probably all know what it’s like to receive junk mail. Sometimes there are piles of it waiting for us, and we have to sort through it all to get to the important stuff. Don’t offer any junk mail to anyone. Just give them the good stuff--the necessary items. That can get you places faster than you can imagine. I had to fire a very qualified guy once because he was just too slow at getting to the point. That may sound harsh, but when you have a lot to accomplish every day, you have to keep the momentum going with people who know how to keep up.

In that sense, business is often like a relay race. To have a tight team, a winning team, you can’t have someone who lags behind or everyone will suffer because of it. Make sure you’re not the one who holds things up for everyone. Learn to sprint when it comes to being clear. Have a contest with yourself by asking “How concise can I possibly be?” Then, best yourself every time. Get to the essence immediately.

Someone who analyzed my negotiating technique said I had an advantage over most people because I had the ability to get to the point faster than anybody else. While they were still formulating their sentences, I’d already written the book. I already had the deal done in my head. That ability didn’t happen overnight; I’ve worked at it for a long time. But we can all put that technique to work every day, whether it’s relaying a message to someone, writing a letter, or ordering lunch.

Those of you who have watched The Apprentice will notice that the candidates who can present the facts with the least amount of verbal decoration will have an advantage. Listening to a five-minute explanation that could have easily been edited to 30 seconds automatically sends a red alert to me and my advisors. We don’t have the time for loquacious colleagues, and the longwinded diatribes we often have to suffer through will greatly diminish their chances of winning.

Simple as it sounds, there is great wisdom in the short, fast, and direct route. Knowing where you’re going in your conversation and demonstrating to others that you know where you’re going by being concise is a big step towards leadership and respect. Hone these skills in every situation and with every opportunity you have, whether you’re in line at the corner deli or in the boardroom on The Apprentice. Learn to economize. People appreciate brevity in today’s world. Enough said. Now go for it!

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