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Weekly 3: Using a long-term lens


Idea Journal Weekly 3

May 5 · Issue #85 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Chase your dreams. Stack the future. Work with high-integrity people. (~6 min read)
Note: Idea #1 is taken from a previous issue, and we’ve included it here because it fits well with the core them: using a long-term lens.

#1. Look beyond the next 24 hours.
How do you ensure that focusing on your essential priorities and tasks each day is moving you closer to your longer-term aspirations?
Simplicity expert Leo Babauta writes in his book The Power of Less that you should do your “most important tasks” first thing in the morning. And he recommends that one of these should relate to your long-term goals and interests.
To help you identify which tasks will have high impact beyond the next 24 hours, he suggests considering a task that has the potential to do at least one of the following:
  • Advance your career.
  • Be beneficial to your business (e.g., in terms of revenues, branding, expanding into new markets, etc.).
  • Boost your recognition.
  • Change your personal life in an important way.
  • Earn you a lot of money in the long run.
  • Make a positive contribution to society.
For Babauta, this simple step “makes all the difference in the world” because each day it increases the odds that your dreams will come true.
#2. "Don't be a donkey"
Entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog that, “Most people over-estimate what they can do in one year, and under-estimate what they can do in ten years.”
Ask yourself:
  • Are you trying to pursue many different directions at once?
  • Are you frustrated that the world wants you to pick one of them, but you want to do them all?
The problem is short-term thinking — the flawed perspective that if you don’t pursue all of your interests now, you’ll never get to them.
Sivers illustrates the point with the following story about a donkey:
Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.
The donkey couldn’t think about the future. Otherwise, it would have realized that it’s possible to drink the water, and then eat the hay.
For Sivers, there’s no reason to act like the donkey. You can do everything you want to do, as long as you have foresight and patience.
For example, say you’re 30 years old now and have 5 different directions you want to pursue. If you spend 5 years on each one, you’ll have all of them completed by the time you’re 55.
This way you can pursue each direction without feeling conflicted or distracted, knowing that you’ll get to the others.
Sivers notes that we already do this on a smaller scale. When something is urgent and needs to get done today, you focus. A distracting thought may come up (e.g., It would be nice to watch a movie right now), but you put it out of your mind so that you can complete the task at hand. Once it’s complete, you can move on to other things.
The key is applying this same approach to months and years.
#3. Take advantage of compound interest
Entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant says in an interview that many of the benefits in life come from compound interest — whether in learning, money, or relationships.
As Ravikant notes, to be successful in business, it’s important to play “long-term games with long-term people.” Staying in the game increases your chances of success, and consistent interactions with the same people over time reduces friction, and creates familiarity and trust.
This is a key factor behind Silicon Valley’s success: a network of people in a relatively small geographic area who know each other, do deals together, and have built trust over time: “… they do right by each other because they know this person will be around for the next game.”
But he acknowledges that this long-term approach doesn’t always work. When it’s possible to make a lot of money with a single move, people sometimes betray one another, thinking: I’m going to get rich enough from this one deal that I don’t care.
For Ravikant, this is why it’s important to determine a person’s integrity and long-term orientation early on.
He defines integrity as “what someone does, despite what they say they do” and offers 2 signals for gauging it in a person:
1. Their track record: As Ravikant points out, people are “oddly consistent” and if someone has has acted in angry, unethical, or vindictive ways with colleagues or rivals in the past, then they are likely to continue doing so in the future.
2. How they treat others in non-work situations: For example, if a person treats a waiter or waitress really badly, “then it’s only a matter of time until they treat you badly.”
Quote of the Week
“They got us hooked on data. Advertisers want more data. Direct marketers want more data. Who saw it? Who clicked? What percentage? What’s trending? What’s yielding?
But there’s one group that doesn’t need more data…
Anyone who’s making a long-term commitment. Anyone who seeks to make art, to make a difference, to challenge the status quo.
Because when you’re chasing that sort of change, data is the cudgel your enemies will use to push you to conform.
Data paves the road to the bottom. It is the lazy way to figure out what to do next. It’s obsessed with the short-term.
Data gets us the Kardashians.”
- Entrepreneur and marketing guru Seth Godin on his blog
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