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To Achieve Long-Term Success, Slow Down

Just because we are busy does not mean we are productive.

Key points

  • The journey to success is never linear. You need strategic patience.
  • Calendars are the prisons of our own making.
  • To accelerate your success, think and act in waves, which each step building on the one before.

Whenever I interview high achievers, such as Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, and Olympic champions, I always tell them that I am not interested in what I can Google about them; that is the tip of the iceberg. Instead, I am more intrigued by what is below the water line—the path it took them to become so successful. But, of course, that journey is never fast or linear. In her new book, The Long Game, Dorie Clark calls this ‘strategic patience.’

As counterintuitive as it may appear, saying no to opportunities today, can lead to long term benefits.
Source: Pixabay

Strategic patience is a daily practice especially needed when your success has stalled or even taken a step backward. It requires you to work toward your goal without the regular confirmation of recognition or accolades. Success is manageable, but it is not like instant coffee, ready if you just add water. Instead, you need to be methodical and persistent, taking small, deliberate steps toward your goal. Each step provides an exponential benefit, building on what came before it.

Just because we are busy does not mean we are productive. Dorie Clark argues that stuffed calendars are the prisons of our own making. “If we’re always so busy, then we’re always in ‘reaction mode’ because you’re so focused on what’s being thrown at you that you don’t have time to create your own agenda,” she writes. She also warns that you wind up being average at everything when you agree to every meeting and opportunity.

Most people fear trying as they are afraid of failing, but failing can be leveraged if you ask yourself what you gleaned from the experience. Dorie Clark recommends six steps to accelerate your ability to accomplish your goals:

  1. Get the proper support: Find someone who can hold you accountable.
  2. Hire a coach: This will fast-track your learning.
  3. Give yourself a deadline: It forces you to start.
  4. Keep your learning going: Keep trying and experimenting.
  5. Win, even if you lose: Identify the minimum benefit you will get out of a situation or opportunity.
  6. Think in decades: Develop long-term thinking, make and act on a plan, one step at a time.

Dorie Clark recommends thinking and acting in waves, where each builds on the next.

  1. Learning: Study everything you can about a specific topic and your industry. This practice will make you stronger and more relevant once you are invited in.
  2. Creating: Develop your intellectual property. Create and share content for people to connect your name to a topic. Consider newsletters, articles, speaking, podcasts, or webinars.
  3. Connecting: If you want to be known in a specific field, make yourself known in that field. Surround yourself with interesting people, network, make new connections, which can lead to referrals.
  4. Reaping: Reap the rewards of your hard work—money, rank, time off, etc. Note that reaping has an expiration date, and you will quickly be out of vogue if you do not consistently create new content and continuously restart the process.

This is what the top thinkers and leaders do. “Our experience at Thinkers50 is that successfully bringing new ideas to the world and changing management practice is a long game, for some a really long game,” says Stuart Crainer, co-founder of the global ideas platform Thinkers50. “Someone like Dorie Clark, who features in our ranking of management thinkers, has acquired skills, experience, and insights over a number of years. They epitomize some of the elements Dorie highlights in her new book: patience, a willingness to try things and learn from mistakes, and a constant willingness to embrace learning. Insight is a long game.”

The Long Game is a reboot to your internal operating system. It will force you to stop focusing on what you can accomplish today and instead focus on achieving more and having a significant impact in the future.

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