After giving the hard yards of everything you have got, when there is nothing more to give, what do you do?
Well, there is one thing left to do. Step back a little and give it some time !
We all know that the world is fascinated by speed. Faster stands for better. But pointless speed is precisely that – pointless.
Years ago, a friend made it 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 gloomy silence and a deadpan response. “Nothing”, she said. “Forty is not a finish line. Nor is it a list. At best it is a narrow scoreboard. And frankly, scoreboards are distractions”.
I remember being taken by her advanced knowledge on the subject. 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 – Focussing on the Scorecard
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.
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 eventually become in the process of getting to the scoreboard.
Over the weekend, I was watching a good friends daughter being mentored by her tennis coach. Remember him articulating his thoughts about the players mindset – “I don’t care about the match or the tournament. For I am only watching your game”, he said.
The tennis matches won and lost are but faded recollections. But in the process, the game teaches that winning and losing are necessary to get better at the game. That experience by itself is priceless.
Changing Our Perception
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 period of time story.
“As I write this”, he says, “Warren Buffett’s net worth is $84.5 billion. Of that, $84.2 billion was accumulated after his 50th birthday.”
Or take the example of the inspiring American businessman, Colonel Sanders who not only didn’t retire at the age of 65, but sold his first restaurant, and began developing the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in earnest.
It takes time! The payoffs come in not for spectacular one time grand effort but for relentless discipline in staying at it. Warren Buffett is a classic example! As much as the power of compounding of 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 definitely at work.
The successful people usually having a high net worth have a few habits that we continuously learn from. They are conscious 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, and how much actually has 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.
They regard themselves lightly and are ever so self-forgiving that they are committed to working on themselves. They give it some time to grow into the people they can become over an period of time.
Stay Calm and Give It Some Time
Sure, we need to have a sense of progress. A benchmark or a milestone as an 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.
Surely 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 our lives and careers?
Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy – the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation. As is commonly said, If Lehman Brothers, were Lehman Brothers and Sisters, it wouldn’t have gone to bankruptcy !
If we would go as far as replacing “bankrupt” with “overnight success” we would have immediate examples from people we work with already. 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”
These people are relentless in building themselves. They step back time and again to reinvent themselves. They give it some time.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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