Making the impossible, possible
When setting objectives for our careers whether entrepreneurial or corporate we often default to monetary objectives. That’s why business degrees are so popular, they appear to offer a more direct route to well-paid employment. But one of the best aspects of being an entrepreneur is that you can focus your activities on what interests you. Dorie Clark calls it optimize for interesting. One of my greatest regrets is that I spent my corporate career in a company that made products that really did not fire my imagination. My hobbies were fishing, boating and aviation, not construction chemicals. When considering where your business should take you, evaluate what you are already doing. What catches and holds your interest?
Set big goals for yourself. It may seem to you that making a living out of what interests you is impossible, so you elect to pay it safe. After all who wants to be loser. By playing the long game however, what appears to be impossible becomes possible. Making a living doing what you enjoy may not be possible in a year, two years or even five or more but given enough time you will be able to achieve success. If a goal is worth pursuing it is worth pursuing the version you really want, not a watered-down version that protects your ego. Big goals can seem paralyzing, how do I write the next New York Times best-selling novel? But big goals with small consistent steps can be the motivating force you need to achieve something powerful. Even if the odds seem overwhelming today. Your goals do not need to be world shattering, like to be the next Elon Musk. My objective is to earn as much as I did as a corporate executive but working no more than 20 hours a week. Today that is not possible, based on the rates I can currently command I would have to work around 60 hours a week. I am sure that over the next five to seven years I will be able to achieve this goal. But if I set the goal of being able to triple my rates in one year, I would almost certainly fail. That’s the power of the long game.
Do not be constrained by what is possible now. Think about where you want to be in the future.
Twenty percent time – find the time to experiment.
3M allowed its employees 15% of their time for experimentation, which famously led to the Post-it note. Google went one step further “We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google” Of course this became known as 120% time, as that 20% became additional to normal working hours.
Only 10% of Google employees make use of 20% time. Not too surprising in a busy environment, highlighting the difficulty of carving out time to experiment, time to think. But if you find a way to carve out 20% time you will be in rare company. And the results will have the potential to transform your business.
We all have times when we are least productive, for me it is after lunch. I turn this into an asset in a couple of ways. Firstly, I do not eat lunch until after 2:00 PM, thus lengthening my productive mornings. The secret of achieving this is, of course, to have a good breakfast. Secondly I buy audio books, such as the subject of this radio show, Dorie Clark’s Long View. I listen while I eat, all the time making notes of the ideas on how to improve my business that are prompted by what I am listening to. Plus, I get the content for my radio show.
You will have read the research that the human brain is not suited to multitasking. If you are on a Zoom call and writing e-mails at the same time you are not giving full attention to either. But there are some tasks that are complementary where multitasking can save you time. Such as eating lunch and listening to audio books. If you take public transport to work you can read a book that motivates you. If you drive another opportunity to listen to new ideas. Dorie Clark states that he has found an additional 29% of time this way.
Do not be afraid to think in decades. There is a well-known saying that we overestimate what we can achieve in day, but underestimate what can be achieved in a year. Think about where you could be ten years from now. Sadly, many entrepreneurs get so caught up in the day to day activities that a year flies by with no real progress. By setting long term goals and developing the ability to invest in 20% time which, like the power of compound interest, will pay exponential dividends. What seems small maybe not even measurable steps will put a massive distance between you and your competition.
No one is going to hand you development opportunities on a plate. You need to seek them out proactively.
Consider devoting 20% of your time to explore new areas. That’s enough time to get a good sense of whether you will enjoy something and whether it has the potential to get you where you want to be. But not so much of an investment that it would ruin you if it did not work out.
The best time to start something new is when you are in a strong position. Do not wait until you are in trouble to look for the next thing – begin planning now.
A ten-year plan is not too long. There are very few, if any, overnight successes. Audacious goals take time to come to fruition. Small steps deliver exponential returns.
If you want to read “The Long Game” by Dorie Clark. Please consider using my affiliate link below. It will not cost you anything and will generate a small contribution to help keep this website open.