The Enemy of Progress: Instant Gratification

There are a million enemies of progress. Winston Churchill called Perfection the enemy of progress, and Edmond Mbiaka called fear the enemy of progress.

I was thinking to myself last night, what could prevent or delay someone’s progress. Instant gratification instantly came to mind.

One reason for the increase or need for instant gratification is because of social media. This, however, is more of a psychological problem than a social one. As humans, we naturally want to be gratified for everything we do, as soon as we do it.

What’s paradoxical about instant gratification, is that it can actually delay your progress and fulfillment. If you’re constantly waiting for approval, you will never move on or progress in that journey. Even if you do, it will slow you down. Delayed gratification, is still gratifying, but without that distraction of celebrating false progress. Let me give you an example.

My high school football coach freshman year was called Ron North. He instilled a philosophy of delayed gratification. Every time we’d win a game he’d ask us, “Are you satisfied?” and we’d yell back, “No!”.

We won game after game, finishing the season with 8 wins and only 1 loss. At the very end of the season, we were Conference Champions and he asked us, “Are you satisfied?” and we all screamed, “Yes!”. The feeling of celebrating at the end was 10x better than celebrating at the beginning. It also kept our focus on the real prize at hand.

In many psychological models, humans will always choose to gratify their needs, wants, and urges. We are weak to our desires, and slaves to our ego. We want everything to happen now, for the simple fact that now is when we want it.

We can even see it in many marketing tactics and in the UI/UX of the products and services we use. “Download App Now” buttons. Amazon’s same-day delivery. Chatbots on every site. “It’s my money and I need it now!” commercials.

In this world of instant gratification, I want to challenge you all to delay your gratification. Instead of spending money as soon as you get it, choose to invest it. You might not see the returns immediately, but when they come, you’ll be extremely gratified.

Instead of posting on Twitter about that good news you just got, share it with your close friends and family first. Getting those “likes” in real life will be rewarding when you’re sharing those memories with your family later in life. Those are your real followers.

It’s hard work, and it’s a habit that you must form, but it’s extremely rewarding. It increases your focus, your self-control, and your sense of self. It’s extremely powerful knowing that your happiness is linear, and not non-linear. Your happiness isn’t based on that promotion, that check, the “like” on Instagram or anything. Your happiness IS the journey, and instant gratification can delay you from progressing in it.

Here are 5 Strategies from The Start of Happiness for Delayed Gratification.

  1. Know Your Values
  2. Know What You Want to Achieve
  3. Create a Plan
  4. Prioritize
  5. Reward Yourself

 

The Dark Side of the Moon

My last blog was titled, The Journey To The Moon. Now, I want to shed some light on the dark sides of it. The dark side of the moon is the side we never see.

Entrepreneurship is extremely liberating, but it can also be extremely limiting. This blog is going to talk about some of the challenges that I have faced venturing into entrepreneurship, how I overcame (some of) them, and the unsolved mysteries.

The Decision

Going to the moon was a decision. It wasn’t an accident. Consider this when thinking about starting your own business. Granted, a lot of successful businesses started as a side project or were spun off from another company, but a decision was still made to pursue it full-time.

It’s a hard decision to make. You’re literally entering into something that is almost 100% likely to fail. You might be leaving behind a stable income, your current role, and emptying your savings. Why should one make this decision?

A famous quote from John F. Kennedy is where this whole concept of “To The Moon!” came from. It was September 12, 1962, when President Kennedy delivered his speech in the Rice University football stadium, to 40,000 people. Here is the very end of the quote:

We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

Jofhn F. Kennedy

What helped me was having an extremely supportive family that would never let me starve out, and great mentor network. I reached out to one of my mentors and now business partner after spending my last dime to try to close a deal in D.C. and he ended up wiring me some funds to get some food. Right before this, I took change from my brother’s coin jar to buy a burger from Wendy’s. It gets real.

The Cost

Entrepreneurs are the only group of people crazy enough to work 80 hours a week so that they won’t have to work 40 hours a week. The first myth I want to bust about entrepreneurship (for me at least) is that I spent way more than 40 hours a week, which had me making less than minimum wage in total.

Let’s say you start a company and decide to pay yourself a modest salary of $20/hr. With a 2,080hr work year, that comes out to a yearly salary of $41,600. In reality, you’ll be working close to 80/hrs a week, with no time and a half added for overtime. There’s no overtime period.

The 2,080hr work year is now 4,160 hours. Divide that salary of $41,160 / by 4,160 and you get $10/hr. Because it’s a fixed salary, you’re not getting paid for the extra hours you put in. As a founder, you shouldn’t be trying to pay yourself first anyway, but your team.

Expect to be eating lots of ramen your first couple of years, until you start making revenue or raise capital. The positive is this, is that you will learn to live below your means. No matter what amount of money flows into your hand, you’ll learn to live like a college student for the rest of your life, which will help you retain your cash. Remember, it’s not how much you make, but how much you retain that creates your wealth.

The Risk

In my last blog, I talked about opportunity cost. You’ll have constant thoughts about what you could’ve been doing if you weren’t building a company, or worse, who you could’ve been working for. Deciding to work for yourself is a public statement. It’s telling the world that you only trust your future in your own hands.

You’d think this is a good and positive message. That you’re self-sufficient. But we live in a world where others want us to be overly dependent on them. The moment you shut down your venture, it’s acquired or implodes and you look to move on, you’re going to be asked why, or what’s next. The huge risk in this is that you can end up failing, struggling to start another venture or be accepted into an established entity.

On the bright side, failed entrepreneurs are still entrepreneurs. Naval stated in a podcast that the entrepreneurial venture might fail, but the willing entrepreneur never will. Trust that you’ll eventually find a home, and be the exact cog that some venture somewhere needs for the gears to turn. Whether you build it, or it builds you.

Apllo 13: The Failure.

Part II Next Week

The Journey To The Moon

to the moon

It’s a brand new month. We’ve made it to the halfway point of the year 2018. For some reason, I’ve been overly critical of myself this last week. Surely I’ve done a lot, but I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished all that I wanted to. I don’t’ feel like I’m anywhere near where my expectations have projected me. It’s made me feel somewhat like I’ve been falling and failing.

I’ve been planning and strategizing. Using my critical thinking skills to come up with a list of assumptions, and test them over and over again. It has kept my mind extremely busy, and not in a good way. The thing about assumptions is that we are almost always wrong, but we won’t know it until we test them. Even if we are right, you feel wrong to assume. The paradox of this is that if we don’t assume, we’ll never challenge what’s in the know. Or that we will wait too long to have all information we need to decide.

You can call it assumptions, educated guesses or hypothesis’; either way, there’s a high chance that you will be wrong. I love being in this area of thinking but hate being wrong. You see, you’re only able to form an assumption if there are no present facts or an inadequate amount of information. You are taking the risk of diving into unknown territories. If you’re right, you’ll be rewarded greatly. If wrong, you’ll be ridiculed and embarrassed. It’s a zero-sum game.

I took a risk over a year ago on a hunch. An assumption that if I do X, I’ll get Y. All the signs pointed me to go in a different direction, but my innate curiosity and recklessness told me to go down the more destructive path. After testing this assumption, in hindsight, I have no idea if I was right or wrong.

On one hand, testing this assumption taught me a lot about the hypothesis I was forming. On another hand, I’m not sure the tests were adequate enough to draw a definitive conclusion. Which is why this will be thrown into the stockpile of all we know to be “theories”.

What’s this theory you ask? It’s the theory of partnerships and relationships. This can be business partnerships, customer relationships, or even life partnerships. A part of this theory comes from one of my favorite people on Twitter, Naval.

 

He tweeted in a really insightful tweetstorm that you should play “long term games with long term people”. What this means is that whatever direction you decide to go, and whoever you decide to go with, that decision should optimize towards longevity. It will save you a lot of pain, heartache, time, and money.

Imagine going into something knowing that you only intend to do it for a day. Or that you’re putting an artificial barrier or ceiling on your growth or the lifespan of said venture. It’s like going into a job and saying this is only a stepping stool until I get another job. The theory on partnerships will tell you to opt out of that job, and keep searching until you find “the one”.

What this theory is, is an insurance policy against opportunity cost. While you’re still at that job, or with that partner, or in that relationship, you have no idea all of the other opportunities that would’ve been, had you been patient and available.

Starting any relationship, be it personal or professional, for short-term and immediate gain is a recipe for disaster. If you’re not happy in your current situation, my gut wants to tell you to leave. I’m not saying leave unprepared. You should definitely have an exit strategy in place, but don’t delay your blessing by being comfortable where you’re at.

It’s never too late for you to become who you were supposed to be, remember that. So with 6 months left in the year, put yourself on that path that will surround you with peace, love, and happiness by the year ending. Optimize now to set yourself up for a successful 2019. Trust me, you’ll be better for it. Life is too short, to not play the long ball.