There are many people we admire as “great,” and their stories are all different—but within all their particular histories, you’ll find two essential elements that led to greatness: systematic thinking and movement with urgent purpose.

We’ve all experienced this: concentrated thoughts cause results, while scattered mental patterns do not. Hold a magnifying glass still over a piece of paper, concentrating the sun’s rays to a focal pinpoint, and you create fire! Keep the glass in constant wavering motion: no fire. When your thoughts are scattered, your energy has no focal point and no intensity. No fire—and no sense of urgency.

History recognizes those individuals who accomplish more in a single year than most people do in an entire lifetime. These super achievers stand out in the crowd like a brilliant beacon in the dark of night. They earn a large share of the world’s rewards, and never stop earning these rewards. They just keep moving forward—systematically and with urgent purpose—toward another goal. They are systematic and alive with purpose, and that’s the kind of thinking that not only gets the ball rolling but keeps it rolling, and in just the right direction, through to its conclusion.

The world has always cried out for men and women who can get things done, who see a task through to its completion, simply because this capacity is so rare. The biggest handicap that prevents us from great accomplishment is not a lack of brains, character or willingness. If we fall short, it owes only to our lacking the habit of systematic purposefulness.

The millions of people who fail to do something great with their lives know what to do. What’s more, they almost do it all the time. They almost win promotions. They almost become leaders. They may miss by only a minute or an inch—but they do miss.

Greatness derives not from working harder, but from working more effectively through systematic thought.

Those who almost make it in life are not lazy. Often they are busier than the very effective few. They putter around all day and half the night, yet still fail to accomplish anything of true importance. Their purpose is drowned in unimportant details.

As Ernest Hemingway put it, “Never confuse movement with action.” Make your work count.

Lao Tzu said, “When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.” When you think systematically and move with urgent purpose, all falls into place—and it happens naturally, efficiently and effectively.

BOB PROCTOR is Publisher of Networking Times.