We live in a place characterized by short-term commitments: six months in this job, a year in that one, then on to the next position or even the next city.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
When you’re a staff assistant barely covering rent and working a job that you could have done nearly as well at 16 as at 22, you jump at the chance to move up for a bit more pay and more substantive work. When you get married and have kids, wanting to move closer to home and closer to family makes perfect sense.
But it’s also true that those who make the biggest impact – who make the biggest difference – are typically the people who make a long-term investment. This is true whether you’re building a business, working a job, or even simply being a friend.
There are three phases to any endeavor.
The first is the start-up phase. There’s always an initial learning curve. You have to figure out how to do the accounting for your new business, who’s who at your new job, or the basic life history of a new friend. This phase might last a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.
But once you’re through it and have reached the second phase, you’re probably fairly competent. You put in the time and effort; you’re seeing results. You have a profitable business, you get good reviews at work, and you’ve built a meaningful friendship.
Most of the time we bounce between the start-up and competency phases. We start something new. We figure out how to do it. We do it for a while. We get bored. We move on to what’s next and start the cycle all over again.
When we do this, we miss out entirely on the third phase.
In the third phase, the simple “how-tos” fade into the background. You can run the business, do the job, and relate to the friend almost without thinking about it. Instead, you’re able to focus on excellence. Your mind is free to see the things you didn’t notice when you were preoccupied with getting the job done, to root out inefficiencies, to look past the façade to the true condition of a friend’s soul.
In the third phase you’ve built the trust and relational capital that allow you to get more done because it’s easier to convince people your ideas will work. You get more latitude to operate. You know who to go to in order to get things accomplished.
It’s in this phase that we truly see dividends on our investment. We begin to experience more significant and more meaningful results because we’ve put in enough time to achieve excellence.