We all have plans for what we want to happen, and when those get foiled it can be hard to feel grateful. Twenty years ago—on Monday, September 10, 2001—my good friend Dorie Clark was laid off from her first job as a reporter. “I was stunned and saddened. Back then, reporters getting laid off wasn’t a thing. But I was resolute. The next day, I’d start pounding the pavement and looking for a new job.”
Of course, we know what happened the next day—the first day of Dorie’s job search. Exactly no one was looking to hire on THAT day—or for some time to come. It took her six months to find steady work.
Dorie had built a career as a reporter, and she didn’t feel grateful at all for getting laid off, much less the day before a national tragedy. But in the intervening two decades, she says she learned a lot about the value of waiting to see how things play out, and not judging whether something is good or bad too quickly. From the lessons learned, she has just released a wonderful new book, The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World.
Since the day of her setback, Dorie has reinvented herself as a consultant, speaker, and professor at Duke University – and in some ways, found a new path to being a journalist by writing books and sharing ideas, which is what she wanted to do all along.
“I’ve never been great with patience, and to be honest, I still wish it weren’t necessary. It would be so much nicer if things would just come fast!” she told me. “But of course, in the vast majority of cases, things take longer than we want, and there are usually detours or setbacks we have to overcome. That’s especially true if we’re pursuing a long-term goal that’s meaningful.”
Supplementary Reading: How Leaders Can Cultivate Patience In An Impatient World
If we want a big result, there’s no choice but to persist. That’s not easy in the moment, when you’re in the thick of a struggle. It can be incredibly hard to tell the difference between something not working, and something not working yet. In The Long Game, Dorie writes about a concept she calls ‘strategic patience.’
“All my life, I’ve been frustrated with the advice that I should just sit back and be patient and wait for things to happen. I’m not the type to create a vision board and just hope that things turn out. I want to do something! The truth is, our actions can’t always make things move faster. But that doesn’t mean we have to be passive, either. With strategic patience, you’re not just waiting for things to happen. You’re formulating a hypothesis, taking small actions, evaluating them to see if they’re working, and either persevering or pivoting as necessary.”
For Dorie, this is about recognizing that while we don’t control everything, we can always take small, consistent actions to move our dreams forward. For anyone who has felt frustrated or stymied in getting to where you want to go, it’s an empowering realization: when we shift our perspective and play the long game, we can often accomplish far more than we might have imagined.
Dorie says gratitude is a key piece of playing the Long Game. “It’s not always easy to feel grateful in the moment, especially when things aren’t moving as fast as we want, in the way that we want. But if we expand our time horizon, we can see things that we might miss up close: sometimes what seems like a bitter disappointment is actually a critical step on the path to our eventual success.”
You can download Dorie’s free Long Game strategic thinking self-assessment here.
I love what Dorie has to say and it got me thinking: What are you grateful for that took longer than you expected? What did you learn along the way?
Listen to Scott Friedman speak here of the secret to happiness.