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Stop Being Short-Sighted. Winning Is A Long Game

Sometimes in business (and in life) we hit a wall. We get to a point where our success slows or the progress we’ve made seems to have stalled out. Sometimes we can blast through that wall with brute force (dedicating more time, money, or effort to solving the problem) and we eventually get to the next level. This can work in some instances but it’s unsustainable. Other times, we need to rethink the problem and change our approach. This means potentially taking on losses in the short-term to get where we ultimately want to go. The process can be painful but it’ll inevitably be worth it in the end.

In sports, when a team follows this latter path, the phenomenon can be referred to as “Tanking.” And as you might expect, the team’s fans don’t particularly care for it. They’re paying to see their team win, and they believe their time (and money) will be better spent somewhere else if their team decides to eschew winning. Because of this, many teams avoid tanking. It represents clear-cut short-term losses. In most cases, this is a mistake. Succumbing to the will of the fans can be detrimental to the long-term success of the team. Too much focus on the here and now blinds us to the possibilities that lie ahead and rarely result in the greatness we seek. Truly great teams aren’t built overnight, and your business is no different.

“Trust the Process” is a notable tagline currently used by the Philadelphia 76ers (a team synonymous with tanking). They’ve spent the past few seasons mired in poor performance but collecting valuable young players in an effort to build for the future. They’re now being lauded for their patience and (assuming their future management is sound) their talent will begin to shine through, with winning as the backdrop. This effort was a significant example of the team (and Sam Hinkie, the team’s GM at the time) swallowing one’s pride—the 76ers franchise has a celebrated history and a fervent fanbase. It took a considerable amount of courage to upset the status quo and pull the trigger on such a strategy. So much so that the elongated timeline to reach a return to winning culture led to the GM’s termination. But he has now been vindicated by recent results.

This story has a valuable lesson for us in the business world. Once you’ve established a plan to reach your goals, you need to stay committed—even when the journey is painful and success seems unattainable. You must keep your eyes set on the finish line and keep making progress toward it. So long as you’ve created a thorough and well-informed strategy to get there, the remaining task is dedication. If this is something that escapes you, make a habit of revisiting the reasons why you do what you do, and let your passion carry you. Because passion never quits.


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