I recently ran into a quote that rang true to me. It is from Bill Gates in “The Road Ahead”, but is wise enough that it may have older origins than that:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

A game designer colleague, Ryan Macklin recently wrote on this topic, but his version of the quote is “underestimate what they can do in three years”.

Both of these certainly ring true for me. Many of my longer-term projects have been more successful and fulfilling than the short-term ones. Of course, our modern day popular culture seems to be focused on short-term solutions and fixes. How do we encourage the longer term?

KEY QUOTE: “When I’m feeling like I’m too consumed by work, I remember that I’m overestimating how much I can get done in a year, and that it’s okay for me to throttle down or shelve some stuff I’m working on, because that’s necessary for preserving my sanity… and sanity is a necessary component for getting the work complete and of quality.

The second half of that statement, that people underestimate what they can get done in three years, was curious when I first heard it, but I understand now. Many people are so focused on the short-term that they don’t realize the power of the long game. It’s a reminder that the progress we make in life is for keeps, and that if we can only achieve half of what we set out to do in a given year, over time that’s still a hell of a lot.

Impatience is part of human nature, especially the younger you are and the newer you are at something. It’s important that we keep in mind the natural tendency to overestimate in the short-term and underestimate in the long-term.”

A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.

Life With Alacrity

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