After giving the hard yards everything you have got, when there is nothing more to give, what do you do? Well, there is one thing to do. Give it some time! Let’s step back a little. We all know that the world reveres speed. Faster stands in for better. But pointless speed is precisely that. Pointless.
Years ago, a friend got to a list called “Forty under 40”. “What does it mean to be featured in the list of forty women under the age of 40?”, asked another colleague. I remember the sepulchral silence and a deadpan response. “Nothing”, she said. “Forty is not a finish line. Nor is a list. At best it is a narrow scoreboard. And scoreboards are distractions”.
I remember being taken by her prescience. Life after all, is a marathon. And a marathon is not an aggregated series of sprints. Those who have run a marathon will tell you that it’s a victory of the mind over the body and it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens to those who give it some time.
A Common Mistake
Most of us mistake the present day scoreboard to signify perpetual results. We seek the grand outcome that will promise us “Lived Happily Ever After” endings that happen in fairy tales. Some people call it ‘Financial Freedom”. Others call it “arriving in life”. But life usually is no fairy tale.
“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”ANAIS NIN
Here is some inconvenient truth. Success is not getting the firm to the IPO. Or getting promoted with a huge raise. Or the funding netted from a famous venture capitalist. Sure it does point in some direction but that doesn’t define much and guarantees even lesser. It’s not the scoreboard that’s as important as what we become in the process of getting to the scoreboard. I remember my tennis coach telling me calmly when I won a close match in a tournament many years ago. “I don’t care about this match or the tournament. For I am only watching your game”.
The tennis matches I won and lost are but faded recollections. But the game taught me that winning and losing are necessary to get better at the game. That is priceless.
Shifting perspectives from the joy or sorrow of an immediate result to examining efforts and their results over time is important. So if it’s not the immediate result, what should we look at? Morgan Housel in ‘Psychology of Money’ narrates an important arc of time story.
“As I write this Warren Buffett’s net worth is $84.5 billion. Of that, $84.2 billion was accumulated after his 50th birthday.”
It takes time! The payoffs come in for not for spectacular one time grand effort but for relentless discipline in staying at it. Ask Warren Buffett! As much as the power of compounding if money is real, it is far more defining in personal habits and routines as well. Working with diligence and discipline often doesn’t get immediate spectacular results. But in deliberate effort and discipline, long term compounding is at work.
The successful people I work with have a few habits that I continuously learn from. They are deliberate with thinking about options and choices for action. And after choosing to act, give it their all and keep measuring how much of what they had committed to do, actually got done.
Occasionally they do look at the results of their effort. But that is always to check if their choice of action was right. To gauge the field, if you will.
They regard themselves lightly and are committed to working on themselves. They give it some time to grow into the people they can become over an arc of time.
Give It Some Time
Sure, we need to have a sense of progress. A reassurance that we are on the right path. Increments, promotions, Top line growth etc are outcomes that give us a sense of progress. But real progress comes with time.
I am sure you have heard the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree! The plant that lies dormant for a long period of time and then spurts to huge growth in a relatively short time. Why can’t many of us take that as a view to building lives and careers?
Ernest Hemingway wrote,
“How did you go bankrupt?”
“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly”
I would go as far as replacing “bankrupt” with “overnight success”. I have immediate examples from people I work with. These people concern themselves with questions like
“What new skills, ideas, networks are we building?
Who have we become in this process?
How relevant am I to the market of opportunity”
They are relentless in building themselves. They give it some time.
The OWL Despatch
The OWL Despatch is a labour of love where I curate five interesting posts from the world that I am compelled to share. This is edition number Seventy. Here are five posts for this edition.
1. Did you know Samsung started as a fish exporter from Korea to China? What a set of pivots to where the company is now! Read about other famous pivots that organisations have taken.
3. With offices slowly opening, what are the new normals that are showing up there? How about surveillance technology? Well, quite something!
4. Interruption: Lets get honest here. When was the last time you got to speak your mind without someone interrupting you? Here’s a piece that might interest you. It sure did interest me. Its titled “Let me finish: how to stop interrupting… and change the world“
5. Finally, how do Japanese stay fit for life without ever visiting a gym? Simple and neat. Take a look!
That’s that for this edition. The image comes from Deepak’s hand. Thanks to him and good people like him! Thank for you for spreading the word. And before you start getting busy all over again, remember to give it some time!