You've heard the analogy: Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
But I believe life is more about consistent, long-term focus. It is about making the decision to run a marathon and then preparing, running, recovering and repeating the process several times over.
With this in mind, consider the main achievements you really want to accomplish during your career. Then use these guidelines to stay focused on the big picture while you tackle the many marathons that constitute life:
1. Become a professional student.
I don't necessarily mean return to school for an MBA or doctorate. What I urge you to do is to consistently engage in the process of learning new things, both within and outside your chosen field.
Today's entrepreneurs live in an era when free and readily accessible information is at their fingertips -- more so than ever before. If knowledge is power, then it's what businesspeople need to achieve the professional goals found at the finish line.
2. Remember that mistakes are simply expensive tuition.
I have learned that wisdom comes from taking more from mistakes than what they take out of you. Replay mistakes? Yes. Obsess over them? No.
Look at mistakes as a very necessary part of your education -- another way to test your resolve and prepare you to succeed. In the book Great by Choice, author Jim Collins put it brilliantly: “Treat mistakes as expensive tuition; better get something out of it, learn everything you can, apply the learning, and then don’t repeat.”
3. Rely on the old-fashioned work ethic.
Every week headlines announce yet another tech company that sold for millions, leaving the former owners instantly rich. One could infer from news like this that luck or a single stroke of genius is the impetus for success.
But if you question these entrepreneurs about the real reasons, the phrase “hard work" will pop up in every answer, I'm willing to bet.
A strong work ethic has a way of leveling the playing field. Put in the hours and you’ll be in the right place and luckier more often than those who don’t. Remember that time doesn’t discriminate. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day to work hard and move forward.
4. Work with a purpose.
There's work and then there's working with focus -- and the latter is always preferable. While you’re involved in a project, the intent should be mastery of the task at hand.
Do I believe hundreds or thousands of hours of deliberate practice will always accomplish the impossible? No. But if you're in a field or business that you're passionate about and work with unbreakable focus, then more times than not you’ll remain a step above the competition.
5. Weigh decisions with the long view in mind.
The battle between short-term versus long-term gratification has been waged for eons by the best and brightest.
It's captured in this everyday question: Should I eat this piece of cake or hit the gym? Devouring the sweet treat will undoubtedly make you feel better in the moment, but you know the gym is the better long-term decision.
When you confront these types of decisions (and you will, every day), always rely on long-range thinking to guide you.