Samstag, 9. Juni 2018

Why Long-Term Commitments are Both Incredibly Rewarding but Potentially Risky

Entrepreneurship, developing valuable skills, long-term investing, cultivating deep personal networks, deep and introspective personal development—these are all long-term commitments to things that go beyond what is culturally required. My theory is that they must not be defaults for one of the following reasons:

1. They are not actually, on average, good opportunities.
2. They require talents, abilities and resources that are not possessed by a large enough concentration of the population to become encoded in norms and standards for that group.
3. They are too new or variable to have become a common set of expectations.

The first reason, is quite common. Entrepreneurship benefits the entrepreneur when he or she is successful. However, many times people fail when starting a new business. Given that failures, particularly if debt was involved, may cause more pain than being extra rich causes more pleasure, it may be that some opportunities which require extra commitment aren’t actually such a good deal on average.

The second reason is also common. If success requires an unusual set of abilities, it may not be possible to encode them as social norms, since, for most people, pursuing the commitment doesn’t make sense. Wanting to become a Fields’ Medalist mathematician is a valid long-term commitment for a select few, but probably not for you or I, who lack the one-in-a-hundred-million raw talent to succeed.

The third reason, is less common, but it also happens. The idea of creating a start-up with bootstrapped resources and succeeding at a massive scale is incredibly recent. When I got into blogging, there were very few people who did it professionally, so the idea that you could create content online and that was a viable business wasn’t widespread.

All of these reasons suggest that whenever you have a long-term commitment to a goal that isn’t culturally mandated, you’re taking a potential risk. If it were such a good idea, why wouldn’t we expect everyone to do it?—is an important question to ask yourself.

This doubt, I believe, is more important than anything in undermining the ability to commit to long-term projects. Short-term commitment is usually a matter of overcoming myopia—getting yourself to stick to things even though, in the short-term, you’d rather do something else. Long-term commitment, however, is usually more a challenge of faith. You have to convince yourself that this opportunity is worth pursuing, even though society doesn’t implicitly agree with you.

Given this, it’s not surprising that giving up faith in your goal is probably the biggest reason for failing at longer-term commitments of this type.

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