Long game: Working for four years to get a college degree. Payoff: Having a greater understanding of the world and how it works. Acquiring knowledge and having the ability to apply it makes one more able to contribute in a meaningful way. Sacrifice: Consistently applying oneself over a period of years represents a lot of time that could be spent doing something else.
Short game: Studying for a week to pass a test. Payoff: You get to stay in school. Sacrifice: A weeks time.
We see these concepts over and over in our lives. Some people are psychologically able to delay gratification while pursuing goals more easily than others. But having the discipline to stay in the long game isn’t enough. You also need to have a credible vision of where the long game is taking you, otherwise you risk wasting time on an unobtainable goal. It’s easy to see why people avoid this strategy.
It’s almost impossible to predict the final results of any given long game pursuit. But the alternative is leaving the outcome to random chance. My money is on those playing the long game. People who are able to stay focused, disciplined, and flexible tend to be the formidable leaders who get things done.