Ways to distinguish yourself #14 – Think long term

Ways to distinguish yourself #14 – Think long term

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 28 Mar 2005, 11:06 AM – 4 Comments

If we ask a kid “What are you doing?” the response you will get is

something like “playing”, “reading”, “watching TV” etc. The time

horizon for kids are very short. If we ask “What do you do in school?”

again the response will be about what they will do on that particular

day in the school.

When we grow up, unfortunately (for most of us) the time horizons don’t

extend much. When we ask “What do you do?” to someone, most often the

reponse will be related to their job and their role in the company.

Very rarely, we will hear a passionate answer about how someone is

going to change the world. Very rarely you will hear an answer that

will cover the time horizon of a lifetime.

I continue to believe that we are becoming a world of “short term thinkers.” My good friend Vallal told me a few months ago that “we over estimate what we can achieve in a day and we underestimate what we can achieve in a year” 

This is so true. Take a look at some of your daily “to do” lists. Very

rarely you will check off everything that you planned to do that day.

Now, take a look at your annual plan (if you don’t, please create one

right away) and see if that’s the best you can do in a year. You will

be amazed at what all you can pack in a year with some discipline and


We can distinguish ourselves just by refusing to give in to the temptation of “short term results.”

Next time, when someone asks “What do you do?” think of your lifetime

as the time horizon and try to answer the question. Again, if you have

not thought through this, please don’t try to get an answer to this

question in the next few minutes (short term) it may take a while to

figure this out (long term)


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4 Comments so far, Add Yours

Anonymous  on March 28th, 2005

My question is why do we typify short term approach as bad? During the economic slump of the recent past, companies cut R&D costs in the short run to survive but when the economy started showing signs of recovery they again ploughed back more money to the R&D.



Anonymous  on March 28th, 2005

Good point Ravi. Short term approach is not bad in any sense but what we do now has to have some relevance and alignment with what is our purpose in the long term. Sometimes, we get so busy and lose that connection. We just have to watch out for that.

Anonymous  on April 4th, 2005


This is where ‘prioritising’ comes into play. In the excellent example you have provided, surviving in the long run is the ‘approach’ – one of the desired long-term goals for any company. With that in mind, cutting the R&D budget in the short run is more of an action with the long-term survival in mind. ‘Think Big, Act Local’ springs to mind.

Instead of day-dreaming about a rosy future, doing the right thing at the moment so as to enable our long-term goals to unfold is not called a ’short-term approach’ or short-sightedness. It is a step, a right step in a long journey. A journey is comprised of so many steps, each enacted in that ’short-term’ moment.

Any long term approaches or goals, have to realised in terms of short-term actions.

with regards,

-Ram Rathakrishnan

Anonymous  on April 11th, 2005

Ram: Thanks for sharing interesting perspective.

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