In the Long Run

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

  • Human beings are terrible at visualizing the future and thinking long-term. We are good at handling emergencies and short-term urgencies. It is really difficult to think like an olive farmer.
  • The law of periodic compounding favorites long-term thinking. Persistent compounding can turn the initial, small investment into a significant, sizeable gain in time.
  • Marketers, politicians, and capitalists like emergencies because emergencies feel like a matter of life or death. When urgencies are imposed on us, they activate the fight-or-flight instinct in us and compel us to do something right now for their benefits.
  • There are four reasons why many cultures prefer the immediate moment of tension, as opposed to the thoughtful and careful acts later.
  • Reason #1: We are impatient, and we want a quick return on our effort. It turns out that it is sort of boring and scary to do some work and wait a year or a decade to have it pay off.
  • Reason #2: We want proof because we are insecure that our effort is going to pay off. Ponzi schemes work because we tend to trust people who can deliver short-term results.
  • Reason #3: We want excitement and instant gratification. We have been brainwashed into wanting immediate excitement where the long-term stuff is boring.
  • Reason #4: The previous three reasons combined create a ratchet. A ratchet that is very powerful and causes the cycles to become ever shorter and even more urgent. Once we are hooked on the adrenaline of the buzzer, it is very difficult to quit.
  • There are two useful lessons to share based on what we have discovered about short-term thinking. Lesson one is that, if you want to change the behavior of a group of people, move all the stimulus forward. Make it now, not later. Make it urgent, not important. You compress things forward. The lesson number two is to sell people something that would have begun a process moving things in the direction that they needed to go.
  • Marketers have the opportunity to build institutions that can take the long-term view and use that long-term view to help people who don’t care enough and aren’t focused enough to hear what needs to be heard.
  • We need to get a lot better leveling up being a professional and have the discipline not getting tricked by short-term, Ponzi-like urgencies. We can be the long-term agents of change were capable of being, but we also need to figure out how to build resilient organizations with a mission that goes much further out.
  • Our mission statement can’t be about market share. It needs to be about the work that matters, and each of us is capable of doing it. There is a significant advantage to being willing to take a long time to evolve bit by bit. Our opportunity as people who seek to change the culture is to figure out how to build processes, algorithms, systems, methods to create this forward motion, drip by drip and step by step.
  • By looking for things like the network effect, a positive ratchet, day after day getting ever more powerful, can make significant changes to our culture. The real shifts are happening in organizations that are built for the long haul, ones that measure the right things, ones that evolve in a certain direction.