Most people are either exclusively short-term thinkers, or exclusively long-term thinkers. Both of these are bad. The people who are this will assure you they aren’t, of course, so you need to look at their actions to tell who’s who.
In project management or entrepreneurship, exclusively short-term thinkers:
- Only want to work on projects with near-term payouts or end dates
- Are sold on flipping companies and think “buy and hold” is for granddads
- Only invest their own time and money if they expect a fast payout
- Aren’t in it for the long haul
In project management or entrepreneurship, exclusively long-term thinkers:
- Are comfortable having no revenues or results for a long time and no payouts
- Will constantly reassure you that the reasons things aren’t working yet is that “we’re still building”
- Only invest their time and money in things they expect will be big in the long-term
- Are in it for the very long haul
Both of these people run into major problems, though:
- Exclusively short-term thinkers tend to have limited income and “impact” (their ability to affect the world) potential, because they never stick around long enough to do anything terribly meaningful, or to take their good ideas and entrench them, build them up, and make them legendary
- Exclusively long-term thinkers also tend to have limited income and “impact” potential, but for an entirely different reason – they move so slow that opportunities pass them by, and they fail to get the “trial by fire” testing in the market they need to refine their plans and come up with things that will really make the project take off and go far
The funny thing is, someone might be an exclusively long-term thinker on one project (say, a book they’ve been working on for 10 years) and an exclusively short-term thinker on another (say, a new project at work they start on but end after it seems too hard only a few weeks in).
What’s the solution?
Balance. Kill extremes before they kill you.
Build for the long term. Make things happen in the short term. Do this with everything you’re involved in, no matter how good the reasons appear to be to ignore the long term or the short term.
And don’t get so comfortable you lose all motivation to do anything other than be an exclusively long-term thinker, or so desperate you lose all ability to be anything other than an exclusively short-term thinker.