What is a decision we could make that would be good for us in the short-term, but may not pay big dividends long-term?
What is a decision we could make that may not have any short-term benefits, but would be huge for us long-term?
I asked these hypothetical questions of our Batch core leadership team earlier this week. It was a chance for folks to weigh in - given their assorted vantage points - on what they thought could be of most benefit to the company.
But later I realized I left out another timeframe: lifetime.
Short-term vs. Long-term
We’re trained to think in twos most of the time. Right vs. wrong. Left vs. right. Now vs. later. Him vs. her. Us vs. them.
But the reality is that so many issues, companies, and ideas are more complex than any binary system. Short-term vs. long-term is neither short- nor long-sighted. It’s incomplete. We need another viewpoint. We need a lifetime viewpoint.
Start with 100 years, not 100 days
There will be a new president elected this fall. When he or she takes office, they’ll announce some kind of 100-day plan. This is customary. But what if they announced a 100-year plan? What if on inauguration day, the new president said in his or her speech:
I’ll announce my 100-day plan tomorrow. But it’ll just be a drop in the bucket to my administration’s 100-year plan. Sure - we can only hope to be around for 8% of that plan. But America needs a big, bold idea for where it wants to be in 2117. Otherwise, if we only focus on the next 100 days, we’ll just make short-term decisions at the expense of a lifetime of prosperity for all Americans.
(Note to candidates - you can totally steal the above paragraph an use it. I just ask for unlimited use of Air Force One as compensation.)
Phil Libin, founder of Evernote talks about his company being around in 100 years and how that shapes decision making. They make decisions that aren’t just important today, but will be in a century. When you have that mindset, you choose differently and you even establish a different set of criteria that benefits the greatest amount of people.
Deciding for a lifetime
I’ve begun thinking more and more about lifetime decisions - not just what is best for me between now and December 31, or even between now and when I’m 40 in a few years. What decisions can and should I make now that will shape the rest of my life? My daughter’s life?
Some of these decisions are easy. I buy clothes now that will last me for years rather than what’s simply in style right now. I eschew certain purchases and frivolities as I pay down debt and hope to fix up an old house one day.
At work, I can help our team think about how we service customers so we can keep them for life. I will sacrifice short-term and even long-term financial gain if we get lifetime financial security as a result. Batch wants customers who will shop with us for their lifetimes, thus our policies and procedures reflect this. We’re not only focused on being profitable this fiscal year; we’re trying to build value for life.
But some decisions aren’t as easy. Excitement creeps in. Trends and FOMO trick us all. Pleasure lies to us, masquerading as fulfillment. Thrill dresses up as happiness. And a lot of the time, we - myself most of all - wind up picking what’s easy and immediate (short-term) over what’s legacy-building and meaningful (lifetime).
How to decide
I really wish I were brave, smart, and strong enough to choose lifetime over short- and long-term every time. I’m getting better, but am by no means fully there. The below list is incomplete (I’d love to hear your ideas on what you’d add), but it’s a start. Maybe these reminders can help us all decide better as we strive to leave things better than when we found them.
- Would I want this decision discussed once I’m gone (out of this position or even done with this life)? If so, how would I want it remembered?
- Am I writing a check (figuratively or literally) that my children or their children won’t be able to cash?
- This decision is planting a seed of some kind. Am I sure what will ultimately grow from it?
- Who and how many people will benefit from this decades from now? A century from now?
- Am I setting up my replacement for the most possible success and meaning?
What would you add?
Can kicking is a fun distraction but a terrible legacy.