Momentum and the Long Game
Helping people to create better lives through efficiency, effectiveness, precision, self-awareness and game-based strategies
Q. What does the term “Long Game Mean?”
A. A Long-Game is a strategy where you define your actions based on a long-term goal rather than on small successes along the way.
There are two common scenarios often studied by game-based strategists concerning the long-game.
- Winning most of the battles (sub-games) but losing the war.
- Losing most of the battles (sub-games) but winning the war.
Both concepts are tied to an exploration of short-term failure and long-term success.
Failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success, but not always. Much long-term success is actually built on a foundation of short-term failure.
Often the slow starter can succeed with perseverance, momentum, and self-awareness, even if losing almost every battle along the way.
This video of a very slow runner is a perfect example of what I am speaking about.
“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”
Thomas J. Watson CEO of International Business Machines. 1914 to 1956.
MIT neuroscience professor Earl K. Miller discovered that the reason why we keep repeating mistakes is that brain cells may only learn from experience when we do something right and not when we fail.
Wired magazine editor Kevin Kelly explains that a great deal can be learned from things going wrong unexpectedly, and that part of science’s success comes from engineers and programmers who push systems to their limits, breaking them to learn about them. If you punish yourself for failure you are likely to inhibit your creative process, and risk isolation by not communicating important failures with others. One should assume that failure will happen and is an essential element of the LGS. The key is to keep failures small, manageable, consistent, and trackable.
When dealing with the long-game strategy, you are seldom concerned with short-term failure. In fact, the criteria for failure is heavily dependent on the context of use and may be relative to a particular observer or belief system. A situation considered to be a failure by one might be considered a success by another, particularly in cases of direct competition or a zero-sum game. Similarly, the degree of success or failure in a situation may be differently viewed by distinct observers or participants, such that a situation that one considers being a failure, another might consider being a success, a qualified success or a neutral situation.
It may also be difficult or impossible to ascertain whether a situation meets the criteria for failure or success due to an ambiguous or ill-defined definition of those criteria. Finding useful and effective criteria, or heuristics, to judge the success or failure of a situation may itself be a significant task.
There are many types of failure. Failure can be differentially perceived from the viewpoints of the evaluators. A person who is only interested in the final outcome of an activity would consider it to be an Outcome Failure if the core issue has not been resolved or a core need is not met. A failure can also be a process failure whereby although the activity is completed successfully, a person may still feel dissatisfied if the underlying process is perceived to be below the expected standard or benchmark.
Often we perceived that we have failed because we had high expectations without any logic or reason behind these expectations. It may be a significant financial investment, a relationship, or widespread publicity for some business or personal project, that fell far short of success. Due to the subjective nature of “success” and “meeting expectations,” there can be disagreement about what constitutes a “major flop.”
One of the greatest examples used in motivation books and articles concerning short-term failure and long-term success is the political career of Abraham Lincoln. Of course Lincoln also had many successes, still, his short-term failures deserve note. Here is a list of Lincoln’s road to the White House:
1816: His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
1818: His mother died.
1831: Failed in business.
1832: Ran for state legislature – lost.
1832: Also lost his job – wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
1833: Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
1834: Ran for state legislature again – won.
1835: Was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
1836: Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature – defeated.
1840: Sought to become elector – defeated.
1843: Ran for Congress – lost.
1846: Ran for Congress again – this time he won – went to Washington and did a good job.
1848: Ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state – rejected.
1854: Ran for Senate of the United States – lost.
1856: Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention – got less than 100 votes.
1858: Ran for U.S. Senate again – again he lost.
1860: Elected president of the United States.
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