Three Keys to Becoming a Long-Term Thinker

We’d all like to become more strategic thinkers—to rise above the clamor of the day-to-day, think deeply about our life and business goals, and attain the perspective and skills necessary to achieve them.

In this book, through research and the stories of real professionals, we’ve discussed a variety of strategies you can use to adopt a more strategic lens and embrace long-term thinking. You’ve learned about concepts like optimizing for interesting, thinking in waves, no asks for a year, infinite horizon networking, distance to empty, and more. But at the end of the day, what becoming a long-term thinker most requires is character.

It’s the courage to carve your own path, without the reassurance of doing exactly what everyone else in the crowd is.

It’s the willingness to look like a failure—sometimes for long periods—because it takes time for results to show.

And it’s the strength to endure and persist, even when you aren’t sure how it’s going to turn out.

There are three habits of mind worth cultivating on your journey as a long-term thinker.

Independence. At its heart, long-term thinking is about staying true to yourself and your vision. In our society, there’s so much pressure toward short-term people-pleasing: saying yes to one more commitment because you don’t want to let someone down, or taking the “great job” that everyone else admires but that leaves you feeling dead inside. When you act for the long term, it can be quite a while before that pays off—and if you’re looking outside yourself for validation, the wait can be devastating. To become fearless long-term thinkers, we need an internal compass that helps us say: “I’m willing to place my bet regardless of what others think, and I’m willing to do the work.”

Curiosity. Some people are content to live their lives according to the road map that others have laid out for them, never questioning or pondering alternatives. But for many of us, a lifetime of coloring inside the lines can feel hollow, especially if our interests don’t align with what society valorizes. We may not know the exact right path for ourselves (who does, at first?), but one quality that can lead us to it is curiosity. By noticing how we choose to spend our free time and understanding whom and what we find fascinating, we can pick up clues about what lights us up—and where, eventually, we can begin to make our contribution.

Resilience. Doing something new, something unique, is by definition experimental. You have no idea if it’ll work or not—and oftentimes, it won’t. Too many of us experience rejection or failure and immediately recoil, assuming that the editor who turned us down was the definitive arbiter of taste, or that the university that rejected us obviously knew what it was doing. But that’s simply not true. Chance, luck, and individual preference play a massive role in how situations play out.

If one hundred people reject your work, that’s a pretty clear message. But one or two or ten? You haven’t even gotten started.

Becoming a long-term thinker requires a substratum of resilience, because it’s rare that anything works out the first time or in the way you envisioned it. You need to have a plan B (or C, D, E, or F) in your back pocket, as well as the resilience to say: “Well, that didn’t work, so let’s try something else.” Your number of at bats is the crucial variable in your success.

We all have the capability to hone our skills, develop new techniques, and become better long-term thinkers. It’s my hope that this book has provided you with strategies you can use to start the journey—and even more important, to persevere so that you arrive at the exact destination you want.

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