How to Play the "Long Game" in Business and in Life

By: First Union


How to Play the "Long Game" in Business and in Life

Many people attribute measurable success in business (and in life for that matter/) to part hard work and a lot of luck. And while certainly given particular circumstances, luck may have had a part in how profitable a company becomes or how rich an individual is, it is about far more than just that. What it comes down to is whether or not you play the long game…

The thing about the long game though is that it's not necessarily exciting, it's not all that sexy, and in some instances, it can be downright boring. And yet, the most successful people, across the board, are those that have engaged in the long game from an early age. They allowed it to shape both their personal and business agendas.

Certainly, there are numerous people out there searching for that winning lottery ticket. They want that elusive short cut sure to bring them riches galore. More often than not, this is the prevailing attitude that you will run across. Why do things the long way, the hard way, when that faster more thrilling way is beckoning? The thing is, however, the longer that you play that long game, the more the eventual rewards will be. If you're consistently sticking to a short game territory, you can expect that suddenly shifting modes is not going to be all that easy. The shortcuts don't pay off the way you expect, well, let's just say disappointment awaits.

The Short Game Mindset

For many people, the short game seemingly offers immediate gratification. If You do something fun and easy, and the payoff is right there, right within reach, then why not go for it. Why take the harder route, when there's a straight shot to what is perceived to be happy? Examples of the short game way of thinking:

  • I don't have to do my homework now; the sun is shining, time to go outside!
  • Why wait to purchase that big-ticket item you always wanted? You have a credit card at your disposal after all.
  • Go to the gym or go to a bar with my friends…no brainer.
  • Why take the time to learn something that seems boring and arduous versus learning something trendier so that you can impress others?
  • Why take the time to prepare all relevant materials for a meeting—and review those materials, when you can just skim it and wing it?

The longer you play this short game and consequently adopt this type of life approach, the harder it will be to change the effects therein. Sure, today the impact of such a decision maybe be relatively small, but if you consider the big picture, ultimately the damages could be quite costly. Most often, those who do opt to play the short game, fail to recognize the problems that arise until they can no longer just ignore them.

For instance, deciding to save ten dollars today is probably not going to do a great deal for you. So why do it, right? Or deciding against going to the gym for a day isn't necessarily going to make you any less healthy. Reading a certain book is probably not going to do too much by way of diminishing your intelligence. If a short game person is motivated to try such things then they will, but if the immediate return isn't there, they are probably not going to try them again. The problem, however, is that a day turns into weeks, and that turns into months and so on. Now the results of their short game decisions are compounding. It's not a one-day decision—it is a lifetime choice.

The Long Game Mindset

On the total opposite end of the spectrum you have the long game; that which says that yes, you might pay a bit of a price today, but that price is small in comparison to the eventual payoff it will bring. Maybe today is a little harder, but that only serves to make tomorrow easier. And yes, this ostensibly seems the boring approach—but it almost always turns out to be the more profitable one, in all aspects.

  • Save money today and you are investing for your future.
  • Leave the bar early and get a good night's rest.
  • Don't spend another night on the sofa watching Netflix, go to the gym instead.
  • Do your homework before enjoying the sun's rays.

It is a no brainer—there's no debating the effectiveness of this long game mindset. If you are more short game leaning, now's as good a time as any to shift things around. It may be an inconvenience today, but think of what you stand to gain down the road. This change could very well mean the difference between financial freedom and living paycheck to paycheck.

In conclusion…

With every life choice, you are choosing to play the long game or the short one. And some choices aren't necessarily one or the other either. There are times when you have to switch between the two mindsets. Overall though, what is your general approach to life, to business, to decision making? A good place to start in terms of taking a long game approach, the big things, finances, business, relationships…It is about seeing what you can do today to benefit tomorrow.

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