The Long Pole of Success
Truth & Consequences.
A few years ago I spent a day finishing my first book, because I wanted to go to New Zealand 21 months later. If I didn’t do it that day, the trip was in jeopardy. Why? Because the Long Pole of Success is very predictable.
Imagine a mile long pole you’re holding against your stomach, and someone else is holding the other end against their stomach, and the goal is to shake hands without them having to move.
What happens if you take one step toward them? If you both keep the pole against your stomachs, a mile away they will have to take a step back. You’ll never shake hands that way. If the game is to keep the pole directly in front of you, the only way to get there is to start cutting off lengths of the pole. Cut off enough and you eventually end up where they are without them having to move.
I’ll just do it tomorrow
The Long Pole of Success illustrates why today is so important to getting to your objective months or years from now. Too often, “the future” looks far enough off that we feel we can ignore it for now and just pay attention to it later.
To finish my book I needed one solid eight hour day. On Tuesday, June 2 a few years ago, I looked at my 2-Page Strategic Plan and saw that I was supposed to be done with the chapter by May 31. The next day, Wednesday, June 3, was supposed to be a gorgeous 80 degree day and I had no appointments. Memorial Day weekend’s weather blew chunks so I was going to make up for it with golf and a bike ride on Wednesday. But now I had a choice to make – finish the book or enjoy the day.
My Business Maturity Date, with a 3 1/2 week celebration trip to New Zealand, was 21 months off. The book was one of a number of strategic things I needed to accomplish to make it to my BMD, which included taking Fridays and the last week of every month off after I hit that date.
I looked at my schedule and realized that it would be at least six weeks before I had another full day to finish the chapter. Doing it in 1-2 hour pieces just didn’t work for me – I needed to be able to focus and get it all knocked out at once or it likely wouldn’t flow well.
Cutting off a chunk of the pole
I had a Long Pole of Success decision to make. Since finishing the book was one of many strategic keys to hitting my BMD, putting off the completion of this chapter for six weeks would push back the publishing date of the book by six weeks, and potentially push back my BMD 21 months later, by that same six weeks.
To keep the BMD from moving, I had to cut off a length of the Long Pole on Wednesday and get the book done. I finished the book and the other strategic things we needed to do in order to build a business that would run while we’re on vacation (hiring people, putting processes in place, etc.). 21 months later we left for New Zealand to celebrate our BMD, on the exact day we hat targeted almost four years earlier.
When things seem a long way off, we don’t see much issue with putting off doing something that might just impact that seemingly far off goal. But the fact is that every time we turn today into tomorrow without completing the strategic things that will build our business, we automatically push back success by one day.
And it’s really hard to make it up later. With the pole tucked into your stomach, you can’t reach 50 yards in front of you and cut off a big chunk all at once a few months from now. The only way to do it without delaying success down the road, is to cut off small pieces regularly every week.
Success is quite predictable
The Long Pole of Success is unforgiving. Either regularly cut it off in small pieces or expect to push off success by each day that you don’t do the small and simple things that will eventually get you there. But success is actually quite predictable, if you’re doing the right thing. Chipping away at the Long Pole will very predictably get you to your goal.
Next year, will you end up where you are?
Are you making decisions based on where you are, or where you want to be? Think about the Long Pole of Success the next time you say, “I’ve got a whole year. I can do that strategic thing tomorrow.”