The Long Game

Some things take a long time to pay off.

It’s worth remembering that on the days where it doesn’t seem like you’re moving the needle much. Today I finally saw a radical success in something that I’d been working on since last June, and it was great to see. Nine months isn’t that long, in the grand scheme of things – but the typical length for the kind of project that was is about six weeks, so it definitely felt like it dragged.

Which meant there were times I felt like throwing in the towel, but the long game is tricky. Sometimes it costs more to quit than to keep going.

Some projects (like this one) involve a lot of waiting. You sow the seeds and do the right things up front, and then see if they paid off down the line. You water them occasionally, but don’t have to involve yourself that much. So if you quit, you’re not really getting anything.

Quitting is a currency. You quit in order to buy something – you quit smoking to buy health and money, you quit a hobby to buy free time, you quit a bad job to buy happiness and freedom. But when a project isn’t really costing me much of those things, quitting doesn’t buy much of them back. That makes quitting a bad deal compared to hanging around and seeing if my long game pays off.

In general, this becomes a good (though unconventional) reason to front-load your work on any major project. If you do the majority of the work in the beginning, then quitting becomes a bad deal because it doesn’t buy you anything worthwhile. And then if, some time down the line, it pays off – you get to celebrate.

Cheers to that.

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