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The Long Game
Is this a rebrand?!
This is the rebrand post. If you want to get more of my writing in your inbox, feel free to subscribe!
There is an old tale about Picasso that goes like this:
A woman sees Picasso in a restaurant and approaches him, asking if he can sketch something on a napkin for her. She says that she is happy to pay whatever it's worth. He accepts, draws something quickly on a napkin and asks for $10,000. “$10,000!?” the woman replies in shock, “But you just did that in 30 seconds!” “No,” Picasso tells the woman, “It has taken me 40 years to do that.”
More and more today it feels like everyone is chasing quick results. We want 10x gains in crypto, viral videos on YouTube and TikTok, and tweets that get us thousands of followers overnight. The internet has become about sound bites and quick memes that will engage the masses. Why spend time listening to an hour long podcast when you can watch three 20 second videos and get the highlights. Move fast and break things, they say.
The only downside of this is that great things take time. Quick engagement grabs that generate thousands of views overnight don't stand the test of time. They fade away into the abyss just as quickly as they rose to glory. But real greatness requires time. You can't have one without the other. You hear see it over and over again in history. The Picasso story is one example but even current generation creators like Peter McKinnon talk about how their "overnight success" was actually 10+ years in the making. My favorite example is of course The Black Mamba - in this iconic video, Kobe talks about why putting in the work in practice and showing up every day, multiple times a day is what will really separate you from the rest of the pack.
A quick word about "greatness" because it's not a word that I love. Greatness doesn't mean that you have to be super well known and famous or that you are the best at whatever thing you are doing. Greatness to me just means that the output that you create - be it art, writing, coding, film, whatever - creates a feeling of awe, wonder, inspiration, or emotion. As in, when you see the output or outcome, you know that it is great. It could mean that others resonate with what you are doing, but for me it's about you yourself seeing it and saying to yourself "Wow I'm really proud of that and it's something that's really meaningful to me." Maybe quick hits can fulfill that requirement for some, but not really for me (the dopamine will fade at some point).
So on that note, I'm trying to adapt the mindset of greatness taking time, or as I'm calling it "The Long Game," into multiple parts of my life (hence the newsletter rebrand). The first and most obvious one is my profession as a doctor. I recently finished medical school and started my residency in internal medicine. I'm still very early in this game but the compounding effects of spending hours and hours in the hospital and seeing lots of patients across different parts of the hospital has already become so evident to me in just my first month as a doctor. Medical culture definitely has its flaws and areas that I disagree with and want changed, but I will say that putting in the hours and taking care of patients (really sick ones where I work) is the best way to become a good and competent doctor.
But the easy part of medicine is that the long game is built in. You don't really have a choice because there is a path that is already laid out if you want to be a doctor - pre-med, medical school, residency, fellowship, attending. There are lots of exams in between and hoops and obstacles to jump through, but if you can do it then you know that putting in 10+ years will get you to attending status.
However, the long game is not as well-defined in other domains, especially creative work. This makes creative work even harder because you don't know the outcome going in. There is no attending physician paycheck and lifestyle at the end of the road waiting for. In fact, it's more likely that your work may get better over time and you may even think it is great but it probably won't generate tons of income or be recognized in the way that you think it deserves to be. Furthermore, the internet generally rewards quick wins. Hop on a trend and it's way easier to grow your channel. There are balances here of course - some creators create some things for the algorithm and some things for themselves, but it's not easy or guaranteed in any way.
On top of this, we tend to be creatures of comparison. We see how we are doing and where we are in our creative journey and immediately compare it to others who are posting online. For example, I'm trying to learn how to code (for maybe the one millionth time). I'm really good at watching YouTube videos on how people learned to code in 6 months but not as good at sitting down and putting in the time it takes to actually learn how flexbox works because I think I should already be better at this by now. I learned it at some point but because there hasn't been constant practice, those skills go away and you have to start back at square one.
To remedy this, I'm trying two different strategies. One is to understand that the internet is an onion. There are layers to whatever you see. YouTube will only show you 0 to Google engineer in 6 month videos but won’t show you that same person staying up till 2 AM trying to figure out how for loops work for the first time on week 2. It's kind of like seeing Kobe play in Game 7 and not thinking about how he practiced four times a day for 10+ years to actually get there. The internet is an onion. You have to peel back all the layers to see the truth.
The other strategy is to truly enjoy the process of learning, building, making, creating. If I like writing this newsletter, I'm more likely to do it again and again. Same with making videos. Same with coding. If you can fall in love with the process then you've already reached the outcome that you desire. Easier said than done but here is me putting it out into the world. It's a tough pill to swallow when you write something or make a video and only 3 people read or watch it. You put a lot of time into that thing and crave the dopamine of views. But the goal is to associate the dopamine with playing the long game in the first place. If you can do that, then you've already won.
Are you playing any long games? If so, I'd love to hear about them! Thanks for reading and if you think someone else would like this post feel free to share it with them!