A young man contemplates decision growth—the subject of this email
October 17, 2023

Are You Going Long (Get Yourself Free of Distractions)?

Read time —
4 Minutes

The greatest threat to the life you want comes from distractions.

Nothing will stop you from playing the long game more than stuff that has nothing to do with what really matters.

And today, I want to show you why you need to rid yourself of the unimportant — and concentrate on the important.

Distractions interrupt us from playing long-term games. The upsides of a fulfilled life, enjoying compounding and goal achievement are worth the fight.

Let’s first look at these two areas in more detail.

Regrets of the Dying

Ask the dying what they regret the most, and it was that they didn’t pursue their dreams. ​Bonnie Ware​, a palliative care nurse made a list of the top five.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Simplifying the list shows distractions got in the way of what was truly important.

In their lives, the people Bonnie spoke to lost sight of what mattered until it was too late. They let distractions get in the way.

Compounding Comes With Time

​Morgan Housel​ starts his book with a story from Ronald Read.

Read was a retired janitor in Vermont when he passed away in 2015. There was nothing extraordinary about him, except when he died his estate was worth $8 million.

No one knew he was a multi-millionaire.

How did Read achieve this?

He invested early and with regularity. He lived a frugal life, but amassed savings from investments over time.

Ronald Read played the long game.

The story is remarkable because it shows us what happens if you’re prepared to play the long game.

Read didn’t suffer from distractions.

Are You Going Long?

So, to the title of this newsletter — are you going long?

Going long is about playing the long game. It means defining a goal in the future. It means having a direction to go in.

The chance to escape regret and do what Ronald Read did.

Of course, it is simple to say it… “I’m playing the long game.”

But are you?

What are your long-term goals and are your decisions focused on you achieving them?

Maybe you haven’t set any long-term goals yet. You could be living for today — without thinking too much about the future.

That’s fine. After all, the regrets of the dying aren’t specific. They are a summary of missed opportunities.

I like what ​Paul Graham did​.

He noted them, and then cleverly inverted them — turning them into commands at the top of his to-do list.

“Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.”

I would argue there aren’t many commands you can give yourself better than these. So, when you think about ‘going long’ and you’re not sure where to begin, start with Paul’s to-do list.

At least then, you will have a sense of direction.

Decisions need direction.

If you are to compound knowledge or money, you need a North Star. You need to be able to ​look ahead and know where you’re going​ and why.

Without that focus, you'll settle for the here and now, and that only leads to regret.

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