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We overestimate what we can accomplish short term. And we underestimate what we can accomplish long term.
I know you're asking - Why am I starting my email with you with this random phrase???
Because it really struck me a couple of months ago. I had been going in circles on a project and feeling a bit depressed about it. But, just at the moment - a "captain obvious" moment - this phrase entered my head. And for some reason, it "clicked." I began to see projects as incremental milestones and really began to really envision how things could be accomplished after 1-3 years of incremental effort.
If I do the little things week to week and day to day the long term isn't too far away!
Now I am working on projects with a completely different mentality than the one I had just a few months ago. With my new "head," I am more positive, less likely to get discouraged and more motivated to do the little things that many of us would overlook with the assumption that it "just wasn't that important in the big picture."
For those who want to do good work, these little things Do matter. so I got motivated and for some reason I thought of John Quincy Adams.
I Made a Video of Course
And I was inspired to shoot a video discussing John Quincy Adams and his life story as an anecdote for short term vs long term thinking. Few may be fully aware that after losing his bid for re-election as President - something that made him very bitter because all 5 of his predecessors had served 2 terms - he ran for Congress and served for almost 2 decades!
In that time, he developed into one of staunchest allies of the abolition of slavery in all of Congress. He earned the term Old Man Eloquent - probably for his unique way of getting under the skin of slaveholding congressmen. And he began to see and relish the long term in what he was doing. Want to know more?? Watch that video! here's the link (or click the book image below):
I also shot a follow up video on this topic of overestimating short term goals but underestimating long term goals. It's a short vignette of a school principal I met recently. Years ago she was a principal in the city of Boston. The superintendent gave her the task of turning around the worst school in the city. And she did just that in 3 years.
Did she face aggravation, struggle and heartache in those three years? of course - but in 3 years she did it. If she had focused on those negatives in the short term, she might have expected too much and lost hope. But she didn't. And in the "long term" she got it done.
Interestingly, the long term really isn't that long when you think about it. What's 3 years? By the way, to watch that video just click here or the image below:
And lastly, what do you know, from all of this comes my book recommendation of the summer:
The Life and Times of Congressman John Quincy Adams
It's an easy read and you will be inspired for reading it. Also above for those of you that caught it, there's a link to a clip from the Steven Speilberg movie Amistad where Anthony Hopkins portrays JQA in an amazing performance. For those that missed it, here's the link of JQA arguing the Amistad case in front of the Supreme Court:
John Quincy Adams in front of the Supreme Court
Oh and by the way, watch the movie Amistad if you have not yet seen it - it's awesome:
In summary, never underestimate what you can do long term. And at the same time, don't frustrate yourself with what you can or can't accomplish short term. Whether it's work, health, study. Focus on incremental improvement. And then in no time, short term incremental improvement will become "long term" BIG GAINS.
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Thanks and talk soon,
P.S. Don't forget to drop by my upcoming talks:
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- June 22; 11:30AM Lunch 'n Learn; Watertown COA - Estate Planning for Real Estate owners
- June 26: 1PM; Bedford COA - Downsizing Your Home in Retirement
- June 29: 11:30AM Lunch 'n Learn; Watertown COA - Downsizing Your Home in Retirement
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