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Stop looking for instant success

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Stop looking for instant success

Scott Miker

The other day I was reading an article that talked about how startup tech companies have gone mainstream.  The article pointed to these and tried to make the argument that more startups need to be able to scale to succeed.

The article used typical examples such as Facebook and Dropbox.  It tried to make the argument that if we can help more companies achieve this level of success, then we can significantly improve the economy.

Investing in startups, it argued, will be good for the economy and is the solution to growing the economy.  When I looked up the author he just happens to be the founder of a startup looking for funding.

While the focus of the article seemed to be on the importance of startups being given the support to be successful, it made sure to emphasize that this type of thinking has never before been around. 

But if we take a step back and look at the fascination currently with startup businesses I think we can see that it is actually familiar.  A few people have enormous success quickly and everyone wants to search for that same level of instant success.  We say, “see Mark Zuckerberg did it so it is obviously possible.”

But this just glosses over reality.  I see this in many areas, not just with startup businesses.  We all seem to have this fascination with instant success.  We seem to see instant, extreme riches and complete failure as the only two possible outcomes. 

It is the reason people play the lottery.  It is the motivation behind many athletes dreaming of being a professional.  It is the motivation for many aspiring musicians. 

But the problem is that we lose control when striving for the extreme.  It isn’t about us continuing to work hard and incrementally improve.  It becomes something external.  It shifts our mindset away from slow improvement, which is what we have control over.

If we start to buy into the idea of incremental and slow, gradual improvement, we can start to make progress.  We can do this and get better and better. 

But if we keep trying to hit a home run right away we will keep striking out.  Yes someone may hit a home run their first attempt but what is more likely is that they have been working for years to improve and we only saw this one attempt.  We thought it was instant success when it was actually slow, gradual improvement that led to this moment.  Or they simply got lucky.

Focusing on the extremes leads to failure most of the time.  But if we focus on slow incremental improvement we have much greater odds of being able to succeed. 

But for some reason human nature is to sacrifice slow improvement for a chance at instant success. 

Instead start to shift your focus.  Don’t try to figure out how to have extreme success, just focus on trying to improve a little.  Then systematize it and find another way to improve a little.  Over time this will lead to greater success for most people in most situations. 

There will be extreme examples of sudden success.  But we can’t confuse this and get too caught up in extremes and think that extremes are the answer to improvement.  So be content in your improvement over time rather than thinking you need to seek extreme levels of success to avoid failure.