How to Think Long Term
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How to Think Long Term: Becoming a Grand Strategist

Here’s an interesting tidbit:

A study was done on extremely successful individuals on the types of personality traits they possessed (or lacked) in an effort to see why they were so successful.

The result?

The people who were wildly successful all took into account what’s called “long time perspective”. They planned out their long and short term goals when deciding their current and future actions. They were willing to sacrifice and pay the price in order to have greater rewards in the future.

(This comes courtesy of Dr. Edward Banfield)

Now you may be wondering: why is this so important?

Hm… well… I’m guessing you want to be ballin’ in the future, right? You wanna make it rain? You wanna have a big house, five cars, and money you use as napkins.

Or…maybe not.

Either way, I’m just guessing you want to be “successful” (whatever that means to you).

Well, you’ll need to have a “long time perspective” in relation to your long and short term goals.

Why you should read this article…

Listen… I’m not here to force anyone to do anything – but I think you should read this article and take action on it.

If you use the strategies I talk about here, you will:

  • Make less mistakes, meaning you waste less time (yay!)
  • Start to become “psychic” and see into the future (ooooooohhhhh)
  • Train your brain to resist instant gratification (always great)

Sounds stellar to me. But first, let’s talk about mindsets.

Make up your mind(set)!

One of the best discoveries in the world of psychology is that of a fixed vs. growth mindset.

Carol Dweck explored this in her aptly titled book, Mindset. The idea has been around for a while…but it’s taken new meaning in our modern world.

Dweck introduces the concepts of growth vs fixed mindsets and how they can add or to or detract from our short and long term goals.

Here’s what it is in a nutshell:

Fixed Mindset

I cant… I’m just not good at that… Some people are cut out for it, I’m not… I’m just not a musician… I’ll never be good at math…..

Do these statements sound familiar to you? You may have said things similar to these in the past or you may have been told you’ll never be this, that, and the other. Well, I’m here to tell you – it’s mostly bullshit.

The human capacity for growth is virtually unlimited, especially when you introduce deliberate practice into the picture. You can do whatever the hell ya wanna do, bro.

People with a fixed mindset are usually quick to point out how they’ll never be successful in any undertaking because they just “weren’t born with it”. These are the losers who believe in “luck” and “talent” and worst of all… they believe in “genetics“………..

(That word makes my fucking blood boil.)


This is contrasted with the ultra liberating growth mindset

Growth Mindset

You know, I’m not that great at it – but I know I can get better…I don’t know how to do it, but I’ll learn it… I can be a great piano player, if I tried…

These statements characterize the essence of the growth mindset. Open to change, flexible, and interested in pushing boundaries.

These are the people who understand either intuitively or outright that the brain is plastic. These are the people who strive towards self-actualization. These are the people….who are reading this!

Your adoption of the growth mindset will determine whether you’ll be able to think long term and play the long game – or not.

There’s another reason to have a growth mindset… It strengthens your self-image.

Your self-image is how you see yourself. Think of it as your “inner mirror”. You consult this “inner mirror” every time you make a decision.

With the growth mindset, you will say “I don’t know how to do it…YET. But I’ll learn“.

How do you change your mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

You must make it a habit.

Your brain only learns new behaviors through repetition.

Habits lock in after 66 days or so and become hard-wired, allowing you to access them in a flash.

The Grand Strategist

In 33 Strategies of War, Robert Greene calls the person has long term goals and a vision on how to get there – a “grand strategist”.

This person is always devising ways to think ahead of the curve and to “win the war” instead of being content with short term victories.
This is what YOU need to do. You must think of yourself as a “grand strategist”. You are on a campaign to improve yourself and attain all the success that’s possible for you. The grand strategist is a slight edge thinker.

The grand strategist doesn’t fret about things he can’t control. Instead, he takes action on the things he CAN control and affect in his immediate area of influence.

He is a chess-master that is cool, calm, and detached from the outcome. He has an unearthly nonchalance, as if he can see into the future. He may have setbacks and disappointments, but he is looking to win the war – not just one battle. He is self-assure because he knows he will win.

Ask yourself this: “If I were to continue on the path I am on, where will I be in 5 years?” That should give you some idea.

Super small actions lead to incredible results over a series of time. Every second counts. Every minute counts. Think of time as something you spend to something you want to buy later in the future.

Want a good paying career? Peace of mind? …Anything you can think of (within reason)? Good. You must spend the time to “buy” those things.

You can only do two things with time: spend it or waste it. Choose wisely. Click To Tweet

Ah….. IT BURNS!!!!

As with anything in life, you will inevitably encounter some opposition, some “friction”.

Something didn’t go as planned. A family member died. You got into a car accident. You got fired from your job.

Anything you can think of, it can and probably will happen. Nothing moves in a straight line for long. We’re not all going to be eager young guys with tons of testosterone pumping through us forever.

So, we’re gonna need to be able to mitigate or lessen the impact of some future blows. We’ll do this by taking preventative action in the present so that we’ll be able to act appropriately later.

This is also known as a step towards being “antifragile“.

Here’s some examples:

  • Emergency Fund (or the I Fucked Up Fund)
  • Getting jacked
  • Choosing a great career

Basically, you want to create a “safety net” to fall back on in case anything happens to you.

By having a stockpile of cash that you can readily access, you can be ejected from your job and still have something to fall back on. You won’t panic and go searching for another job like a chicken with its head cut off. Instead, you’ll think rationally and calmly about your situation.

By having a great physique, you’ll increase your self-esteem and you’ll feel really good about yourself. Not to mention, you’re less likely to get health problems. This self-esteem

By choosing a great career, you’ll have a lot of gusto for the job and throw your whole heart into it. Which means, you’ll be paid more and promoted faster. Meaning you’ll have more money to spend and save, making you more antifragile as a result. It’s an upward cycle.

How will you pivot?

This is another consideration to think about when you decide to play the long game. This requires thinking about your long and short term goals.

As I said earlier, nothing stays the same. Things are constantly moving and changing. We live in a time where change is the only constant.

What’s dandy today is not always good tomorrow. The more comfortable you become with change, the better off you’ll be.

When things aren’t working, you need a way to “pivot”, To take what’s working for you right now and change it into a different form.

If you were an athlete in school and didn’t turn pro, you can use that knowledge you have of different sports and apply it to a career. Maybe you can be a personal trainer or a physical therapist.

Always ask yourself: “how can I leverage the skills I have right now and turn it into something better“?

The book Pivot is a great tool on how to do this.

Long Game and Long Time Perspective Strategies

Unsurprisingly, there’s many different ways to play the long game. There is no one-size-fits-all method. This can be disheartening to hear because most of us are used to one-size-fits-all solutions

Those with creativity can develop their own ways. Here are some of mine I’ve used over the past couple of years to great effect. For these strategies I’ll use the example of something near and dear to the hearts of many: paying off student loans.

The Slow-Burn Strategy

This is by far the most popular method to play the long game. In this strategy, you stay consistent over a period of time. This eventually builds up to a large body of results. Think of your your efforts like a candle with a long wick. Bright, but slow to burn.

Let’s say you have a $3,000 dollar student loan debt that you want to pay off: you make the minimum monthly payments (or a little bit over). You eventually pay it off in 4 years. You did gather some interest, but you had a lot more cash to use on different expenses, rather than throwing them at student loans.

The disadvantage to this strategy is it can often take some time for results to materialize.
If you don’t have patience, you will find yourself twitching to accomplish the goal. This strategy also leaves you open to the happenings of chance. If you’re suddenly unable to maintain consistency, the output stops.

The Incineration Strategy

This is a pretty extreme strategy. You pretty much go all in and hammer something with everything you have until you can “recharge”. This is the “live fast die young approach”.

In this example, you throw everything you possibly have at the student loan debt. You end paying off the $3,000 in 2 months (!).
The consequence to this is that you can find yourself with no reserves left towards anything. When it comes to monetary matters, this can be a very devastating strategy. It’s your call if you decide to take the risks that come with going “all in”.

This is good to use if you feel that your “reserves” that you have (be they money or what have you) are going to run out soon and they’ll be replenished pretty fast.

The Oven Strategy

This is the middle ground of the two. in this strategy, you manage to work in “waves”. Sometimes you’ll do nothing at all, other times, you’ll make great progress towards your goal(s).

In this example, you pay off a lot of debt – then you back off. Some months you’ll find yourself paying a lot of money towards it and other months may be more moderate.

This strategy is similar to the Slow-Burn strategy but it lacks consistency, so it can be hard to measure progress.
Go forth.

Playing the long game, “thinking from the end”, having long term goals…whatever the hell you wanna call it… is not easy to do.

We live in a society where we have been seduced into the lure of instant gratification and ultimate irresponsibility.

We’ve been told that success is right around the corner… just don’t lift a finger… We can have it NOW with no down payments or sacrifices whatsoever.

Unfortunately, this runs contrary to nature. If you want anything worthwhile, you’re going to have to pay a certain price. The only way to see the worth of that price is to look into the future and see if the outcome is worth it for you.

For YOU. Not anyone else. From that vantage point, you can then align your present actions to lead up to that ideal future.

Now, I want to hear from you. How are you going to play the long game? Do you have long and short term goals? Why or why not?

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