Stop Thinking Short-Term


“An act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.” “ A thing that is worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future.” We live in a world of instant gratification. Deliveries, social media, notifications, email, games.

Everything is optimised to grab your attention and/or make you feel good in as short a time as possible.

We are used to this as our default state of being. We crave it even.

In and of itself the attention economy is a problem. One that distracts us from getting meaningful things done. From having meaningful connections with each other even.

But the affects go further than just one’s individual attention.

The idea of a “quick fix” has become a cultural norm. Short-term-ism is the norm. It’s how we tend to act. It’s expected of us. Yet nobody seems to really criticise this, or even notice it.

The financial crisis, big companies failing to adapt to the modern economy, remaining in a dead-end career, giving up on going to the gym.

The list is endless.

Every bad behaviour, every bad decision can be traced back to somebody thinking short-term & not investing adequately in long-term thinking or planning.

Ray Dalio, one of the most successful investors on the planet, views this as a cornerstone for success.

He suggests that those focusing on first-order consequences, rather than second- or third-, tend to consistently fail.

Failure is the athlete pushing himself to the limit in his first week of training, only to injure himself or burn out by the second.

Failure is the company rushing to build a product in phase one, only to find the code base unusable and unmalleable at phase two.

Failure is the CEO focusing on paying out a strong dividend at the expense of investing in re-training his work force to better compete with disruptive competition.

But it’s hard for us to know otherwise.

Society promulgates this myth, this short-term-ism, because it makes for a better story.

We all know the story of Facebook. Of the massive growth. Of it’s founding story. Of the seemingly overnight success.

It’s not sexy or cool, however, to discuss the story of the guy who built his company up over 10 years. Who still retains total control of it. With no investors. With a limited number of trusted clients. With a small team.

We don’t hear about these arguably greater success stories, so we don’t even know that it’s possible. It’s not even an option.

We think of the “quick fix”. Of the first-order consequences.

Of starting a business and scaling it as quickly as possible. It doesn’t matter how much equity you give away. How hard you work your team. How far you drift from the vision. Just get in and get out with a lucrative exit. Then let your investors throw the company on the rubbish heap.

Start to train yourself to invest in the long-term, in the second- & third-order consequences, however, & that’s where you’ll really find value.

That’s where you’ll be reaping the rewards where others gave up years ago. That’s where you’ll create a sustainable, ideal lifestyle in 5 or 10 years time. Where you’ll stick to your principles, trust in your dedication, in your hard work.

Just don’t get sucked in by the lies we tell ourselves & that society reinforces.

Don’t go for the short-cuts.

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Henry Latham

Henry Latham

Founder, Prod MBA

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