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In 2013, I did something mainstream investors thought a big mistake at the time: I bought Bitcoin. It was only $100 worth (or about 8.3 Bitcoins at the time), and I purchased them directly from a friend — part of my motivation that I saw its potential as a successor to traditional currency. I was focused on that future I wanted to see, as well as on the long game. The value of Bitcoin as of this publish date is $38,560.60 USD. Even in a volatile year for the currency (it reached more than $63,000 in the middle of April), this is a return that would have shocked investors who initially steered clear, and thought I should, too. But I wasn’t listening to them; instead, I followed three key lessons that have helped me achieve long-term goals, both at work and in life.
Be Wary of Fake Gurus with Different Values
Every industry has influencers or self-proclaimed gurus adept at building a community of attentive followers. Some have earned expert status, others have just capitalized on hashtags and search engine optimization. So, do your due diligence on people you’re listening to and ask yourself, “Am I philosophically aligned with this person? Does their advice resonate with my beliefs?”
For me, expertise comes from a select group of professionals who not only understand the fundamentals of my industry, but share similar values. I didn’t invest in Bitcoin to make a quick return. I wanted to put my personal earnings into a system I believe is more fair and equitable than the status quo. Whether you’re vying for a coveted position in a company or determining how to build a next venture, ensuring goals align with personal values is a key factor in determining whether or not you’ll stay focused.
This is certainly the case in business, evidenced by a growing body of research linking purpose to motivation and performance. A 2015 study from Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management shows that when people feel their personal goals are aligned to an organization’s higher purpose, they are more committed to taking and completing steps needed to realize that long-term vision.
So, what matters to you? How does what you value align with the goal you’ve set? The more honest the answers are to these questions, the more motivation there will be to weather the inevitable storms faced when trying to achieve.
Avoid the “Shiny Object Trap”
Even when you’re deeply committed to values and a resulting process, it’s easy to get distracted by what I refer to as “shiny objects”. In the cryptocurrency world, non-fungible tokens and decentralized finance, to name but a few, are emerging trends making a lot of noise. Every industry has any number of disruptors screaming, “Look at me!” One of the hardest things to determine in our over-connected world is what to pay attention to and what to filter out.
One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid the shiny object trap is to create noise filters based on what stage in the game you are in. For instance, if you’re still figuring out what your long-term play is, it’s actually good to pay attention to more noise. This is an exploratory phase, so it’s important to learn and evaluate new trends. Once you’ve done the research and found the right opportunity, you can start to establish filters.
For example, in my business, the end goal is to make buying and selling cryptocurrency a safe and easy process for everyone. Given the nature of that goal, listening to customers is critical, but it’s simply not feasible, or helpful, to act on every comment or piece of feedback. So, we train our customer team to look for trends. If 1% of customers complain about the user experience, it won’t get escalated to a level of action. However, if 7% have that same complaint, we act on it quickly. In other words, don’t expend energy on a vocal minority, but absolutely do look for patterns and take action to address common requests or pain points.
The same approach applies for just about any long-term planning. Once you’ve decided on a goal and how to get there, evaluate opportunities based on whether they will get you closer to or distract you from it. You still want to be receptive to what’s happening around you and be able to pivot if needed, but you don’t want to let shiny objects take you away from the end game.
Cut Your Losses When You Fall off Track
Sometimes distractions win out; we misjudge an opportunity or veer off course altogether. In 2015, after I sold my first cryptocurrency company, I decided to explore the emerging social commerce space with a startup called Linkbrandr, which allowed companies to share branded article links. I was trying to learn a new industry, but my passion wasn’t there. As the crypto market heated up again, I re-evaluated the end game, cut my losses, and realigned my attention.
Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture, other times we fail to prioritize the tasks right in front of us that will keep us on track. Stress and anxiety are big signals that you’re not putting energy in the right places. When I have trouble sleeping, I know I didn’t deal with the issues I should have prioritized. It’s important to listen to those signals and make changes, but don’t dwell on lost time.
The great advantage of playing the long game is you’re not meant to reach a destination overnight. Enjoy the journey of getting there, even when it involves an unexpected detour. You might even surprise a few of your own skeptics along the way when your so-called mistakes prove to be sound decisions in the long run.