The Long Game: How to be a long-term thinker in a short-term world by Dorie Clark – Here are my five lessons and takeaways

The Long Game• In The Long Game, my goal is to lay the process bare and to share the unvarnished reality behind what it takes to build long-term success.
• The Long Game is intended to be a clarion call on behalf of long-term thinking.
• The truth is, none of us can predict the future. But we can certainly identify goals we want to head toward, or potential vulnerabilities we want to avoid.
• Long-term thinking protects us during downturns (of all kinds), because it keeps us moving toward our most important goals. …We need to be nimble, and adapt when circumstances change. But long-term thinking is what undergirds everything and enables us to make those adjustments.
You have to study what’s worked before and what you wish to emulate, and then determine where you want to do something different.                                                                                                                                    
• Playing the long game—eschewing short-term gratification in order to work toward an uncertain but worthy future goal—isn’t easy. But it’s the surest path to meaningful and lasting success in a world that so often prioritizes what’s easy, quick, and ultimately shallow.  
• Playing the long game means being patient enough to wade through that self-doubt and persevere.
All of us can learn to delay gratification and enhance our self-control. In other words, all of us can become long-term thinkers.
• …the foundational skills necessary to become a long-term thinker: a willingness to say no, because you’ll never achieve your own agenda if you don’t have room to set one in the first place; a willingness to “fail,” understanding that what most people call failure is simply useful data you’re gathering; and a willingness to trust in the process long enough to see results.  
• The only goal of this book has been to show you how to think, and act, for the long term, to make that possible. Now it’s up to you.
Dorie Clark, The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term


I presented my synopsis of The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World by Dorie Clark at the November First Friday Book Synopsis. The book provides a clear call to the long game, to being a long-term thinker in a very short-term world.  And it provides some very specific ways to become just that.

I especially appreciated one strong suggestion;  when you meet a new person, in any setting, but especially in any networking setting, you should ask nothing from that person for at least a year:  “no asks for a year.”  In other words, first build the relationship; slowly.  Play the long game!

As I always do, I include in my synopsis a number of elements to help us capture the key content of the book:

What is the point? Here it is for this book:  In this pandemic era, we seem to be hit hard by the short-term realities.  But, this, as always, is the time to take the long view, and plan for the long game.  Taking the long view is the only view to take.

Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book:
#1 – This book is a career-counseling tutorial.  It will help you map out the next chapter(s) of your career.
#2 – This book is a networking tutorial.  Knowing how to meet people, and how to build long-term (long-game) relationships, can really make a difference.
#3 – This book tells you that you may have more to discover – about yourself; about what you can do, what you can accomplish.  So, get to it.

I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are the best of the best from this book:

• We’re stuck in permanent “execution mode,” without a moment to take stock or ask questions about what we really want from life.   
• The secret, I knew, was to find a way to earn money that didn’t depend on my physical presence—to stop  
• “Through my career, I’ve come to know hundreds of CEOs, and not one of them—I mean, zero—has ever disagreed with the concept of equality.” pg. 14
• When all the incentives point toward short-term revenue goals, that’s what executives optimize for. “The result of that,” Jonathan says, “is that you can lose by winning.” 
• There’s a great quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that goes something like: we measure ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others measure us based on what we’ve done. This makes sense, of course. But it’s awfully frustrating when there’s a gap between what we know we can accomplish and what we’ve done up to that point.   
• Everything takes longer than we want it to. Everything. … I’ve made my peace with patience, because everything meaningful I’ve done has required far more time than I wanted or anticipated.  
• Trying to do it all means nothing of substance will ever get done. 
• The first step is understanding that the key to a meaningful life is to set our own terms for it.  The other step is understanding that we can attain almost anything we want—but not instantly. If we’re methodical, if we’re persistent, and if we take small, deliberate steps, we can arrive there. The going may be slow at first, but the advantages of those actions, compounded over time, can lead to stunning results.
• You can’t pour more liquid into a glass that’s already full. …Without time to reflect, an ominous possibility looms: What if we’re optimizing for the wrong things?
• 96%—claimed they don’t have enough time to do long-term strategic thinking. Really? 
• A McKinsey study shows knowledge workers spend a full 28% of their time processing email.  …an average of sixty-two meetings per month. …it breaks down to about two or three meetings per workday.
• …Meanwhile, our real work—the work we get evaluated on, and that actually accomplishes something—is what gets sandwiched in between. 
• So why can’t we stop? …being busy, at least in the United States, signals high social status.   
• “The average person has mountains of inefficiency in their day, things that they put up with and they don’t even realize it, because they’ve given themselves permission to work as long as it takes.” 
• “You don’t need time to have a good idea,” he told me. “You need space. And you can’t think appropriately if you don’t have space in your head. It takes zero time to have an innovative idea or to make a decision, but if you don’t have psychic space, those things are not necessarily impossible, but they’re suboptimal.”   
• Saying no is the ultimate weapon in the battle to become a long-term thinker—and it is a battle. 
• If you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’—then say ‘no.’” 
• If you’re going to be great at anything, it comes at a price. The trade-off that most companies refused to make was accepting that in order to be great at something, you had to be willing to be bad at something else. 
• Saying yes to everything means being average at everything. 
 • The problem isn’t saying no to terrible, boring opportunities: those are easy to dismiss. The problem—for me, and most professionals—is knowing how to balance competing priorities when the offer is quite tempting.   
• When you’re unsure of where your interests lie—or you feel like you used to know and have lost touch—go back to first principles and think about what inspired you at the beginning of your journey. Sometimes we just need to remember what got us started in the first place.   
• Too often, we tend to look at where we are right now, and say, “Where can I go from here?” But that’s asking the wrong question. If you start with your present situation, you’re limiting yourself out of the gate to what seems attainable. 
• But if you push when you’re able and you do the hard work of carving out 20% time, you’re often in rare company—and your experience has the potential to be transformative. 
• Some people suddenly become willing to experiment when things have gone badly. That’s the wrong time.  
• There’s a well-known saying: we overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. …it’s even more true that we radically underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.
• Sometimes, if the opportunity in front of you lines up perfectly with your goals, you might want to strategically overinvest.
• “It’s really hard to identify what the number one thing you should be working on is, because you can only really figure that out in hindsight.” 
• You’re more effective when you work in cycles than if you slog forward, repeating the same tasks every day.  
• You can write one hundred articles a month, but if they’re all on your own blog and no one knows who you are, it still won’t land you a book deal or a consulting contract.
• And it’s true that turning someone into a genuine friend takes a serious investment of time. …it takes about fifty hours of exposure to move someone from acquaintance to casual friend, another ninety hours to move them up to actual friend status, and more than two hundred hours to turn someone into a close friend.  
• What if someone attacks you, or doesn’t like your ideas? That’s not impossible, but the far more common problem in your first couple of years is actually the opposite: complete and total silence.
• I tell participants in my Recognized Expert course that they have to be willing to do the work of sharing their ideas publicly for at least two or three years before they start to see any results.
• If one hundred people reject your work, that’s a pretty clear message. But one or two or ten? You haven’t even gotten started.

Here are a number of the key points I made from this book:

  • About Dorie Clark
  • especially known for and respected for her “Respected Expert” course
  • published in many top business publications
  • Prelude: Long-term, in a pandemic-survival era?
  • The real issue, he said, was “what’s likely to change unexpectedly and bite any long-term thinking in the ass.” Was long-term thinking even relevant anymore?
  • Randy’s Observation:
  • This is a book about making money while keeping your sanity and your health.
  • This book is part inspiration and motivation, and part tutorial…
  • Grasp this difference:
  • The secret is understanding the crucial difference between failure and experimentation—because if you’re learning, you’re not actually failing. 
  • Where is your focus?
  • In other words, we have to get smart about what we focus on.
  • To become a better, sharper, and more strategic thinker, the first step is clearing away the nonessentials.
  • Say no to terrible offers; say no to middling offers/opportunities; say yes only to the great, very best offers… (Anything less than a nine out of ten on your excitement scale, or even a ten out of ten, becomes a “no”).
  • But the question remains: in a world of choices, what should we focus on?
  • Who do you admire?
  • But I’ve met a few super-successful people that are calm, collected, unbothered, and give you their full attention. …Changing our perspective on whom we admire is a powerful first step.
  • But, of course, even if we respect people who have total discretion over their schedule and plenty of time for what’s most important, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to become them. 
  • Tips
  • Just work from your calendar; don’t develop and use a to-do list that will overwhelm you…
  • Whatever is not important at all, you don’t schedule it at all.
  • Decide where you will spend your time; and with whom…
  • Give yourself a deadline – set a firm date!
  • “Whatever it is,” says Sam, “whether someone wants to write a book, launch their own business, travel on their own, or whatever, I’ll just say almost unequivocally: if you do not have a date on the calendar, it is not getting done.” — “A precommitment needs to have metrics if it’s going to succeed.”
  • Think in Decades
  • Think in Waves…
  • Experiment when you are strong; not when you are desperate
  • Keep learning — Remember: don’t stop learning. Soon, it’ll be time to start the cycle over again so you don’t stagnate.
  • You need (lots of) at bats!
  • Just begin!
  • For any activity where you feel nervous or averse, find one small way to begin.
  • A big step to take
  • Decide what to be bad at – in other words, decide to be good at only what you want to be really good at.
  • the most successful companies were the ones who were unafraid to choose what to be bad at. — “Choosing to be bad is your only shot at achieving greatness. And resisting it is a recipe for mediocrity.” 
  • So, how to decide (what to do with your time)? — Four questions can help you determine whether something is worth doing:
  • 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 didn’t do this?
  • Optimize for meaning (not for money)
  • One possible alternative—a great one, if you feel clear about pursuing it—is to optimize for meaning.
  • Then…if you don’t (yet) know – optimize for interesting
  • “Whenever you have a choice of what to do, choose the more interesting path.”
  • When it comes to optimizing for interesting, what’s really interesting isn’t a goal that feels manageable. It’s working toward a goal that’s remarkable.
  • “optimize for interesting” and follow your curiosity.
  • Maybe optimize for extreme goals
  • we need to choose extreme goals—
  • So…
  • Embrace 20% time – personally. – (Google News and Gmail were products of 20% time experimentation).
  • The truth is, it’s challenging to carve out 20% time. — You have to make the extra effort, fight against other pressures on your schedule, and create your own openings. 
  • Four key Career Waves in becoming a recognized expert in your field:
  • Learning
  • Creating — The key is to make yourself “findable” by the people you’d most like to do business with.
  • Connecting
  • Reaping.
  • Three types of networking:
  • short term, long term, and infinite horizon.
  • It’s short-term, transactional networking that gives the whole enterprise a bad name, and I’m going to suggest we avoid it whenever humanly possible.
  • When we network for the long term or with an infinite horizon—that is, when we set out to make friends and build relationships, rather than simply get something—it feels entirely different.
  • The strategy I follow personally, and recommend to others, is no asks for a year.
  • Networking done right isn’t about what it can get you today or tomorrow. It’s about what kind of life you want to live and surrounding yourself with the kind of people you want coming along on that journey.

Dorie Clark’s top five ideas from this book (chosen by Dorie Clark herself):

  • Decide what to be bad at.
  • Adopt 20% time.
  • Embrace “Heads Up” and “Heads Down” modes.
  • No asks for a year.
  • Understand the deception phase. (no progress; no progress; no progress; then, boom progress! – Doubling; exponential growth. Thanks to Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler)

And here are my Five Lessons and Takeaways

#1 – We all need to spend time just thinking about the long haul.
#2 – Do get very good at something.
#3 – We will need to develop deep expertise, but then experiment again – think in waves.
#4 – Do not take advantage of others; you will feel dirty; they will feel resentful. (No asks for a year).
#5 – Be patient; keep at it; be patient.

I read this book, presented my synopsis, and realized, I’ve got some work to do.  I need to adjust my thinking.  And, I need to get more serious about working on and in my “plan.”

Not only do I have to take the long view; I have to work the long view.

This is quite a helpful, useful book.  I highly recommend it.


  • a footnote – Google Derek Thompson’s article (in The Atlantic) on “Hot Streaks in Your Career Don’t Happen by Accident: First Explore, then Exploit.” And, revisit Range: How Generalist Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein.


My synopsis, with the audio recording of my presentation, and my comprehensive, multi-page handout, will be available soon on this web site.  Click here for our newest additions.

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