The Long Run Is Simply a Collection of Short Terms

By Jon Steinberg

The long run is simply a collection of short terms. The long term is a fiction. No one lives in the long term; there really is only the now.

Everyone talks about the long term as if it was something great and the short term as if it was the land of the foolish. Let me assure you — it is not.

The short term is where it’s at.

Short-term thinking does not disregard the long term. When you recognize that short terms add up to the the long term, you incorporate your enduring values of ethics, rigor, client service, innovation, and transparency into the short term.

You can only make an impact in the short term, because you only live in the now. We are responsible for our business future, but we can only impact that future by the hustle and work we do each day.

I love the quote by Keynes: “In the long run, we are all dead.”

If there is something that needs to be accomplished, devote 1 to 3 hours to it now. Time yourself. You will be blown away by how much analysis, deck writing, or client issue resolution can be accomplished in 60 minutes of NOW work. Don’t schedule a meeting, grab someone NOW.

“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.” — Thomas A. Edison

People often allow weeks to accomplish these tasks — leading to weeks of delay and “finding the right time,” followed by 3 hours of work.

In an AdWeek piece from a few years back, Brian Williams notes:

“NBC Nightly News doesn’t air each night because it’s ready — it airs because it’s time to do it.”

We are all competing to innovate and build businesses in markets that do not stand still. A month is both a lifetime (if we hustle) and the blink of an eye (if we don’t).

Hustle is a strategy; more cold but researched outreach is a strategy; fixing a pricing model is a strategy. Hoping for a deal to close is not a strategy.

Incumbents think about strategy and the long term until they are out of business.

Entrepreneurs and innovators grind each day and work incredibly fast in the short term in the context of an overriding set of goals and direction.

It’s no coincidence that the best companies and entrepreneurs believe things like “Done is better than perfect” (Facebook) and “Real artists ship” (Steve Jobs).

For an example of how short terms can add up to a long term, look no further than my first few months at Buzzfeed:

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. It has been reprinted for Radiate with permission.

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About the Author: Jon Steinberg is the founder and CEO of Cheddar, a new video media company sitting at the intersection of business news and culture. He was named to Ad Age’s 2015 40 under 40. He sits on the board of Bustle and is an advisor to TheSkimm and Taboola.