In praise of long-term overnight success

Sometimes making a wiser decision faster requires slowing down. Good ideas or big transitions often take time to germinate or incubate, and we are wise to let them.

My husband and I are navigating this territory right now — getting used to empty nest life by giving ourselves time to experiment without the pressure of making high stakes decisions right away about what this next season will hold. We knew it was coming, but couldn’t walk through this season in advance. My friend Kate Billing echoed this approach recently, noting that she’s been using LinkedIn as an experimental space, to see which of her emerging ideas gain the most traction. I’m seeing it with some of my strategy clients too, who are building into their plans explicit time to learn their way into new ways of operating rather than setting KPIs right away that imply they already know what they’re doing in a new area.

In Loonshots, Safi Bachall offers numerous examples of high-impact innovations that were missed or dismissed at first, then re-emerged much later (sometimes decades). Sometimes it happened because their champion was written off as crazy, and amazing opportunities were sadly overlooked. But in other cases, the timing just wasn’t yet right.

Liminal spaces feel uncomfortable. As a result, we often want to get out of them too quickly, treating them as a problem to be solved, rather than greeting them with patience and curiosity. There’s no reason to assume that we’ll learn our way into new ways of being instantaneously. Allowing for the time learning takes will ultimately lead to a faster wiser decision.

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