The Long Game: A book review by Bob Morris

The Long Game: How to be a long-term thinker in a short-term world
Dorie Clark
Harvard Business Review Press (September 2021)

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
African proverb

I was again reminded of that admonition as I began to read Dorie Clark’s latest book. Also this observation by Warren Buffett: “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”

Clark possesses a unique combination of defining characteristics: empathy and candor, a focus on short-term progress and long-term achievement, passionate idealism and no-nonsense pragmatism…all in combination with what Hemingway once described as a “built-in, shock-proof crap detector.” She is committed to helping as any people as possible to succeed playing both the “short game” (e.g. managing day-to-day challenges) and the long game (e.g. achieving ultimate objectives).

I have read and reviewed all of her previously published books and read most of her articles. With all due respect to her talents, skills, temperament, and experience, I think her greatest value is best measured not by what she has done but by the personal growth and professional development that she has encouraged countless others to achieve.

These are among the key points that Clark asks her reader to keep in mind.

o Schedule and set limits around your true priorities. Work could theoretically expand to fill all the time you have — so instead, put firm boundaries around it. (Page 30)

o Four questions can help you determine whether something is worth doing: (49)

– What is the total time commitment?
– What is the opportunity cost?
– What’s the physical and emotional cost?
– Would I feel bad in a year if I don’t do it?

o What kind of person do I want to be? Identify experiences [yours and others’] that will help you grow into that. (72)

o How can I think bigger? Don’t be constrained by what’s possible now. Think about where you’d like to be in the future. (72)

o To get more done, alternate between head’s-up and heads-down modes. During the former, you’re actively seeking connections and exploring new possibilities (112)

o Ask yourself some of my favorite questions for achieving leverage: (128)

– What should I spend my time doing?
– What are the 20% of my activities that will yield 80% of the results?
– What can I stop doing?

Note: Peter Drucker and Jim Collins as well as Clark are among the most staunch advocates of the “What Not to Do” list.

o To gain notice in your field, it often takes two to three years of effort before you see [begin italics] any [end italics]. At that point, you’ll often start to see “raindrops” — small, intermittent signs of progress.(171)

o Get started in a very small way. Any goal can feel overwhelming if you look at it in totality. But you’ll create positive momentum if you start small and can see your success build. (207)

Dozens (hundreds?) of business thinkers can identify the WHAT. Simon Sinek, for one, brilliantly explains the WHY. Clark thoroughly explains HOW to answer questions such as those just cited. Among the most distinguished thought leaders, she is unsurpassed as an [begin italics] educator [end italics].  Robert Greenleaf would cite her as evidence that servant leaders are not limited to the C-suite. She is an evangelist for (literally) SELF improvement throughout our society. The Long Game is her greatest achievement…thus far.

I presume to add a thought of my own. I am certain that if those who read this book really do absorb and digest, then act upon the material in it, they will accelerate their personal growth and professional development. And perhaps help others to do so. Meanwhile, I hope they will keep in mind this reassurance by Margaret Mead: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

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