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Why you long-term thinking always beats short-term gains

By Mark Carter
16 March 2020 | 1 minute read
Mark Carter

We can see signs everywhere of people’s patience waning.

Yet, simultaneously, expectations are increasing at the same time.

That’s why we’re seeing the rise of short-term “successes” being masqueraded as experience and knowledge. 


As skilled people in the real estate industry already know, you can accelerate acumen, skills and growth through a consistent focus and dedicated effort.  

Like real estate market trends, true success has a tendency to mature, compound and happen over time – not overnight.

The idea of achieving expertise through short cuts is a fallacy that history has shown us to be false many times. 

Even behind the illusion of every “overnight success”, some of whom may be perceived as current influencers and players within real estate, lies a well-trodden path.

The eagle vs. the crow 

The short-game and short-term thinking, which is today’s impatience, shows itself in a plethora of cloaks and attributes. 

Many are underpinned through a mindset of “I want it”!

What’s more, they want it now, they want it their way and they’ll want more of the same but bigger, better and immediately tomorrow!

We don’t see the same artifice of business success played out in the wild. 

For example, you won’t find a crow, pretending its claws to be superior developed talons, tackling the skills of a sophisticated hunter, such as an eagle, head on in a competitive fight in order to take home the immediate prize, would you?

Yet, often in real estate, we frequently see agents and businesses fall to this same temptation. 

Reacting to trends – including superficial fear-mongering or unsubstantiated insights – is a disorganized, desperate or even delusional, short-term game oversight.

If someone does jump prematurely onto bandwagons in order to be seen and heard (rather than enabling well thought-out strategies) there’s only one way that competitive stance will play out.

We’ll revert to the wild again. 

Who would you back to win that “quick” fight between the eagle and the crow?

What can history teach us about short-term thinking?

If you read many of my other pieces, you’ll know that I like drawing creative lessons from our past.

Yes, it’s important to live in the present, yet, history, rich in wisdom, is one of our greatest teachers to pre-empt or prevent repeating classic mistakes.

In this instance there are obvious examples we can draw upon to emphasise the benefits of the long game. 

Perhaps the best relates to Rome. 

Legend has it the city was founded in 753BC and kings ruled it for its first 240 years.

Later on, it would become a republic and then ultimately the classification of a bona fide empire – one of only a handful considered amongst the greatest of significant influence.

An empire so sizeable, in fact, it split in two in 395AD into eastern and western cohorts.

Of course, we also now know nothing is permanent and so the “eternal city”, Rome itself, fell to invaders in 410AD. 

However, it had lasted an extraordinary 1000 years by that stage and had incorporated a landmass, including the majority of Europe, the skirting territory around North Africa and significant chunks of the Middle East and Arabia.

Curiously enough, an early example of commercial real estate was the lower floors co-existing with apartment living above, which were the “insula” apartments of the urban congestion amidst the empires thriving capital of Rome.

Back then, though, it was the upper apartments, as high as the sixth or seventh floor, that were the cheapest to rent – given safety issues or the extra challenge of stairs! 

Not even the Roman engineering feats extended to the innovation of elevator systems for high-rises it seems.

Compare all this to the accomplishments of the Macedon and Alexander the Great. 

In a period lasting no more than 12 years he established an empire equal in achievement the Romans with a reach that stretched from Greece, right throughout Persia, into North Western Africa, Asia Minor and as far as parts of India. 

Alexander, however, had no heir apparent and his disgruntled soldiers, seeing no end or long-term strategy in sight, were ready to revolt. 

At the time of his death in 323BC, the tremendous military achievement through his own campaigns of subjugation were doomed to crumble to dust just as fast as they’d been created.

Conversely, the Romans were masters at consolidation and after winning new territories, at times with a struggle, they would deliver value and, to some degree, improvements to quality of life through process, systems and even sociological advancements. 

Their long-term strategy meant defeated tribes were motivated to become a part of the overall Roman Empire and machine. 

In fact, had corruption or other short term questionably ethical practices not become quite so blatant, perhaps it may have endured a little longer still.

There have been numerous studies that show that delaying immediate gratification or short-term victories are a precursor to future success. 

Today, the demand for bite-sized pieces of knowledge seems to be replacing the hard graft of generations before. 

A of a quarter century ago, everyone earned their credentials.

Nowadays professed “experts” can often be fresh faces in an industry.

They may well have some credible qualifications, innovative thinking and an abundance of hubris under their belt, yet their real schooling – winning the long game – has barely begun. 

If they’re not careful, their short-term thinking, played out as a lack of focus, will further inhibit their ability to succeed.

Why long-term thinking always wins

Humans are already hardwired with selective focus, so why cut it even shorter by being distracted or tempted to play a short-term game?

There are benefits to short-term goals and quick wins, sure, but just not as a default strategy or approach.

I already find myself coaching people on exactly this pain-point when focusing too much on short-term popularity over long-term results – especially via social media. 

Short-term sugar rushes in popularity don’t deliver the nourishment or sustenance for the resilience required in challenging markets – either through personal skills or business strategies –that deliver sustainable growth.

Let’s take a look at how you may be tempted into short-term thinking: 

  • Reacting to trends rather than innovating for future
  • Packaging or replicating habitual or trending messages rather than adopting a bespoke approach
  • Endeavouring to short cut your learning rather than remaining humble to learn
  • Racing to be seen in volumes rather than curating quality messages
  • Not spending enough time observing details of fine print or compliance
  • Not checking the diligence or track record of collaborators
  • Chasing short-term popularity and burning potential long-term relationships along the way
  • Like Alexander, racing to win but with a lack of succession planning
  • Like the Romans, allowing culture, values and ethos to corrupt

As an author myself I’ll leave you with a simple concept from a respected, classic writer, Mark Twain, who famously wrote: “If I had more time, I’d write you a shorter letter.”

The short-term view to writing is that anyone can download a plethora of ideas but often these emerge as an amateur effort, babbling, waffling or incongruent ideas. 

It takes long-term thinking, more time and effort, to know how to curate, edit and say more with less.

In the same vein, long-term thinking may feel at times counterintuitive.

But as studies have shown, it’s better in the long run to not succumb to the rush of short-term popularity that is simply masquerading as success.

By Mark Carter, author and real estate trainer

Why you long-term thinking always beats short-term gains
Mark Carter reb
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