The Surprising Power of The Long Game - Farnam Street

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Aug 21, 2023

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The Surprising Power of The Long Game - Farnam Street

In a world where most people play the short game, playing the long game offers a huge advantage. The most successful people in any field all play the long game. The long game isn’t particularly notable. It doesn’t attract a lot of attention. In fact, from the outside, the long game looks boring. The tiny advantages that accrue aren’t noticed until success becomes too obvious to ignore. The long game allows you to compound results. The longer you play the better the rewards.

But what exactly is the long game? The short game is putting off anything that seems hard. The short game is taking advantage of your counterparties. The short game is spending more than you earn. Just as the accumulation of tiny advantages makes the future easier, the accumulation of tiny disadvantages makes the future harder. The long game is the opposite of the short game. Playing the long game means paying a small price today to make tomorrow easier.

So why do so few people play the long game? The first step is the hardest. You have to be willing to suffer today in order to not suffer tomorrow. This is why so few people play the long game. It requires discipline, patience, and sacrifice. You can’t opt-out and you can’t play a long-term game in everything; you need to pick what matters to you. The question you need to think about is when and where to play a long-term game.

A good place to start is with things that compound: knowledge, relationships, and finances. By investing time and effort into these areas, you can reap the rewards in the long run. For example, continuously learning and acquiring knowledge allows you to stay ahead of the curve. Building strong relationships with others can open doors and provide support when needed. And managing your finances wisely ensures a secure future.

Now, let's shift our focus to another topic - asking the right questions during user research, interviews, and testing. Formulating the right questions is crucial to gather valuable insights. Start by defining broader themes to guide your questioning. This helps to maintain a clear focus and ensures you cover all the necessary aspects. Break down your questions to make them answerable and avoid overwhelming the participant.

It's important not to ask leading questions that will influence the answer. Instead, ask about specific moments in the past to gather genuine responses. Prioritize open-ended questions that encourage participants to share their thoughts and experiences in their own words. This allows for a deeper exploration of their perspectives and insights.

When starting the interview, it's essential to create a comfortable and engaging environment. Get into character and adopt a friendly and approachable demeanor. Keep the right posture to convey attentiveness and professionalism. Explain to the participants that there are no right or wrong answers, and their honest opinions are valuable.

To ease into the conversation, start with warm-up questions that are easy to answer. This helps participants feel more at ease and sets a positive tone for the rest of the interview. Avoid trying to sell your product or influence the participant's responses. The focus should be on gathering unbiased feedback.

During the interview, it's important to control your reactions. Stay neutral and avoid showing surprise or judgment. Give yourself time to listen carefully to the participant's answers and avoid interrupting. Paraphrase what you heard to ensure understanding and to show that you are actively engaged in the conversation.

Answer questions with questions to dig deeper into a specific topic. This encourages participants to elaborate and provides more detailed insights. Additionally, pay attention to non-verbal clues such as body language and facial expressions. These can often reveal underlying emotions or thoughts that participants may not express explicitly.

Incorporating the principles of playing the long game and asking the right questions, we can extract actionable advice that can be applied in various areas of life:

  • 1. Prioritize the long game: Identify what truly matters to you and invest time and effort into those areas. Whether it's knowledge, relationships, or finances, playing the long game allows you to reap the rewards in the future.
  • 2. Formulate thoughtful questions: When conducting research, interviews, or testing, ensure you ask the right questions to gather valuable insights. Focus on open-ended questions, avoid leading questions, and create a comfortable environment for participants to share their thoughts.
  • 3. Practice active listening: Give yourself time to listen carefully to others. Control your reactions, paraphrase what you heard, and ask follow-up questions to delve deeper into the topic. Pay attention to non-verbal clues to gain a deeper understanding of the participant's emotions and thoughts.

In conclusion, playing the long game and asking the right questions are two powerful strategies that can lead to success in different aspects of life. By embracing the long game mentality and honing your questioning skills, you can set yourself up for long-term growth and meaningful insights. So, start thinking strategically, invest in what matters, and ask the right questions to unlock your full potential.

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