You probably hear this all the time. Especially at a younger age, it difficult to fathom your demise. In fact, many of us grow up under the illusion that we will live forever. If you are fortunate enough to not have a brush with death, through a family member or friend until later on in life, it may seem that people do in fact never die. But it happens to all of us, it is a fact of life that you are not getting out alive. No one does.
However, in complete contrast to this concept, most people these days live like they are running out of time. Our society has gravitated towards instant gratification in all facets, and this unfortunately includes accomplishment. Since immortality is a common thought when we are young, maybe we should live like this is actually the case. We need to play the long game.
Whether you are a competitive athlete, a student on a mission, or an entrepreneur, you have to have the long view in your mind. There are lessons learned along the way that cannot be skipped over; you cannot miss out on the pain and struggle, as they are an important part of the process. Its where you develop your grit, where you learn your lessons. The struggle is what makes the win in the end some much sweeter. And I think we need to reevaluate what we consider the measures that define success.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book OUTLIERS, he discusses the concept of the rare individuals that rise above all others. He contrasts, in typical Gladwell style, a wide variety of examples include some obvious choices like Bill Gates, but others that may not jump to mind such as Paul Revere. In some cases, he is illustrating the extreme amount of work needed to get to this level of competency, and this is where the now commonly referred to “10,000 hours of practice” concept was really brought to prominence. The idea that to be a master of any skill, it is going to take ten thousand hours of practice. To quantify that, this would be three hours of practice a day for nine years. While the actual authors of this study that Gladwell references somewhat dispute the manner in which he used their findings, if you ask the average person walking down the street how long mastery takes, many will throw 10,0000 hours at you, not having any idea where that reference comes from.
Now, contrast the last paragraph with the first couple, and see the problem the our society suffers from. It is a proven fact that nothing happens without a lot work, and there are very few that reach that level of success. And yet far too often we look at the “instant success” of some of the start up companies that sold for huge money in a short time as the standard, and not an outlier.
You have to keep in mind that a billion dollar exit or a Pro contract is not the only measure of success.
I just spoke with a business colleague about this, particularly because he revealed that he had a recent buy out offer. The money wasn’t enough for him to sell; partly because he loves what he does and the monetary figure to replace that in his life was too large for the competitor to cover. Please reread that….he likes what he does, it brings him happiness. His company brings him a quality of life and happiness that he couldn’t replace with money in the bank. That’s a guy who has things figured out; exit wasn’t off the table, but exit for anything less than what he valued his happiness through the company was not an option.
Think about this: If you are going to pretend that you are going to live forever, why would you operate on accelerated timelines? If you are really in it for the long haul, do you want to build, sell, exit…..and then what? If starting over and redoing it, bigger and better next time, maybe that makes sense if you find happiness and satisfaction in that process. But if you think that the exit you want is going to let you lay on a beach sucking down margaritas for the rest of your life, allow me to be your wake up call. You’ll be bored out of your mind in a month, drifting with no purpose and no reason to get out of bed in the morning. Human beings need purpose; the reason we used to wake up every day is to find food and water to survive. In today’s soft and cushy world, those bare minimums are long gone for most of us. But, that underlying desire is still there, you need the right amount of challenge and struggle in your life to make you feel like you are accomplishing something.
Speaking from personal experience, when I did manage to accomplish a monumental task I had set out to do, I felt lost. I played one season more than I should have on the Pro Tour, mainly because I had spent ten years pursuing this goal and I had no idea what to do next. Once I did come to this harsh realization, I wandered, lost for quite a while, before I really got my feet under me and figured out what was next for me. Obsessive pursuit of a goal is the only way you are going to achieve it; I put in my ten thousand hours and then some. But in the grand scheme of things, it will have been a portion of my life, not the totality. I wish I had done it differently; I wish like I would have approached it like I was going to live forever. If I had the foresight to look ahead at my career as a competitive racquetball player, instead of only as a Pro, I would have been a much happier person throughout that process. A longer view of the situation may still have me playing today, competing in national events in my age division instead of in the Pro division. I am sure I would have enjoyed the journey a lot more if I had approached it in this manner.
The long play goal has to be geared to doing what makes you happy. Wealth may be defined in a bunch of different ways; mine would involve way more fly fishing than most people would include in their definition. I’d be nervous every time I left my Lambo with a valet, but don’t think twice about parking my Toyota anywhere I go. I like that peace of mind more than the initial thrill of driving a fancy sportscar. And I couldn’t drive a car like that without piling up the speeding tickets either, so for me that makes no sense. Put some real thought into what is going to make you happy, not necessarily rich. If you want to truly enjoy as much of your time on the planet you are afforded, aim for happiness on a long time line.
There was a famous study done a long time ago called the Stanford Marshmallow Test, and basically what is was supposed to help determine was a child’s ability to delay gratification and how this outlook […]