How to play the LO…..NG GAME

I’ve noticed two trends in our ecosystem of late which I think is text book short term thinking.

The first is writing people off if they don’t meet some predetermined standard of ‘your people’.

Now, I’m not saying one should tolerate people behaving badly, but refusing to deal with people because they are inexperienced, or abrasive, or not as smart, or make a social error is just regular ol’ superiority dressed up as offense.

I’ve worked with a lot of dickheads in my life, many of which I have wanted to punch in the throat, or storm out from a meeting with, or mock them openly for their blatant stupidity / assholeness etc. But, many of these dickheads have since gone on to be quite critical at later times in my life, like facilitating a critical introduction, or providing an excellent reference, or being in a position of decision making power that makes or breaks something important to me.

And, they only did provide that reference, or introduction or positive decision, because I didn’t punch them in the throat, storm out from, or mock them openly. Not because I’m some fucking saint, but because my volatile and prideful Dad showed me what happened when you don’t do that (you get fired, or hated and your reputation is irreparably damaged).

I feel the hotness rise in my neck when someone is being a douchebag, I am aware of the burning desire to prove the entitled prick is as dumb as a doornail, I’m just like everyone else, but burning bridges is just dumb business.

The second is not being prepared to do things that have little immediate payoff or have a long or immeasurable payoff, seeking Instant Gratification.

The efficiency focused among us will argue that with limited resource of time, why should one spend time on those things with a long, at risk, or worse NO pay off? Well, the reality is because there is a whole bunch of things we do in our personal lives that have no immediate or even any payback, but it’s part of the social fabric that helps us identify others as good and trustworthy.

Like, letting a stranger in when in traffic. Or giving back when a cashier gives you extra change. Or doing favours for people, when you expect no return. Our business lives are no different.

Building a business is a marathon AND a sprint, but you have to play the LONG GAME. This means that there isn’t always an immediate ROI on your time and effort. I know 24/7 access to people, emails, social media is a Pavlovs dog like experiment training us for instant gratification, however there is another famous experiment. The Stanford kid marshmallow experiment, that showed that an individual’s propensity for delayed gratification is highly correlated with success.

Those who can see the long game, and are prepared to put in the time effort and sacrifice of time or effort (or the short game), are the ones most likely to be successful.  Techstars have a motto of #GiveFirst which is exactly as it says – give first – with no expectation of return. This is the very definition of long to no pay back for time and effort. But, guess what…it does pay back. Many times over. In credibility. In reputation. In trust. In referrals. In networks. In goodwill.

……..

None of these things can be accurately measured, and they take years to develop, but these intangibles ARE the long game, and are the most valuable thing we can build for our personal lives and for our business.

The rest is just noise.

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Walter Mischel – The Marshmallow Test – 4:21 video

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