Getting things done in the long run: think harder and further ahead

I found Sam Altman’s post How To Be Successful very interesting. Sam is President of Y Combinator, a startup incubator which has funded the likes of Dropbox and Airbnb, and thus spends his time talking to extremely driven – and in some cases – extremely successful people. This gives him a unique situation from which to judge, which is in part where this post comes from: “how to be successful”.

There’s a lot packed into here, and if one wanted to I’m sure it would be possible to pad out each of the sections into a successful business book.

I was struck by how much of this revolves around cultivating long term thinking, and then executing on that. Short term thinking is fun because you get the answer quickly, but we’d probably all do better to look into the future more.

The post breaks out eleven points, a third of which revolve around “think deeply about what you should be doing, look further into the future, and then get on with it”. Another third revolve around believing in what you’re doing, and not caring too much about what people think, and the final third are miscellaneous points.

Here are a couple of points I found especially interesting:

Thinking from first principles and trying to generate new ideas is fun, and finding people to exchange them with is a great way to get better at this. The next step is to find easy, fast ways to test these ideas in the real world.

I like this a lot, and have been trying to do more of it.

The best way to become difficult to compete with is to build up leverage. For example, you can do it with personal relationships, by building a strong personal brand, or by getting good at the intersection of multiple different fields. There are many other strategies, but you have to figure out some way to do it.

I think about this a fair bit, especially with my work and Ellipsis: “getting good at the intersection of multiple different fields” has a lot of value. We’re doing it with WordPress and digital marketing, and I can think of plenty of examples of friends doing the same thing.

You will care a lot—much more than you realize—if other people think you’re doing the right thing.

Yup. This is a major theme in Sam’s post, and he’s probably right.

The most successful people I know are primarily internally driven; they do what they do to impress themselves and because they feel compelled to make something happen… Eventually, you will define your success by performing excellent work in areas that are important to you. The sooner you can start off in that direction, the further you will be able to go.

Which is to say; be sure of what you’re focusing on, what you’re good at, and get on with it. Very interesting post!

This post expands on a story first published in MasterWP, the weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals I co-author.