In Tim Ferriss' interview with Stewart Brand (at 58:00), president of the Long Now Foundation and a ridiculously fresh thinker at age 78, Stewart mentioned different tiers of the world/society that move at different speeds.
There are the fastest moving tiers, like Fashion and Commerce. Slightly slower moving ones are Infrastructure and Governance. Even slower are Culture and Language/Religion. And slowest of all Nature. More on these tiers here.
Now there is a paradox here. It's the fast ones that get all the attention. We're grabbed by the newest fidget spinner, the latest political scam, and the sudden increase or drop in today's hottest stock. But, it's the slow tiers that have all the power.
A few years later, new fashions usually have resulted in absolutely nothing (give or take a few filled boxes on the top shelves of your closet). It's the gradual improvement of technology gives us real new tools and ways of interacting.
We - with our news consumption - focus on political scams and miss the tectonic shifts in culture. That causes us the be taken by surprise by a Brexit or the election of Trump. Companies focus on short-term profit over long-term investment in innovation due to their given profit cycles.
You can make money off the volatility of stocks or cryptocurrencies by buying low and selling high. But Warren Buffet always takes the long position by estimating what the long-term value of a company is. As with Bitcoin, it doesn't matter whether it's now at $15.0000 or $19.000, it matters only whether you believe it will eventually become worth $100.000.
The best metaphor I could come up with is that of a cyclone. We are totally focused on the strong winds blowing around its center. While we miss its trajectory that has it aimed straight at our house.
This is also what Daniel Gilbert discovered. The human brain is not an all-purpose computer that rationally determines our response to threats. We respond to the threats that look like the threats that our ancestors faced 200.000 years ago on the planes in Africa. They have to be Intentional, Immoral, Imminent, Instantaneous to merit a response and get us into action.
Our brain on autopilot will cause us to focus on the short and unimportant things. Luckily, by knowing this, we can make a conscious effort to focus on the big, slow and important things. We can design our lives and our work strategically and improve its quality.
For creative entrepreneurs, this is equally true. If we don't watch out, our work easily gets taken over by the fast-moving but unimportant tiers of entrepreneurship.
Your attention gets taken over by a storm of notifications. You're stressing about likes on your latest post. Running from meeting to meeting. And chasing gig after gig. A rat-race. Busyness instead of a business. While maybe making enough money for a living.
And, is that what you wanted when you made the decision to strike out on your own? And if this wasn't, does doing so at least make it easier/better/more successful in the future?
So, what are your important slow tiers that when given more attention benefit you the most? The things that rise the tide instead of the waves that continue to go up and down. The things that when if you improve them, it sets you up for bigger, better, easier and more fun experiences later.
How? What are these important slow tiers? They are personal growth, habits, skills and relationships. What all of these have in common is that they stack and they are transferable. Which allows you to build upon yesterday.
More growth by focusing less on goals (even though they can be great for creating momentum), and more on who you want to become. Focusing on your personal growth, your physical and mental health, your mindsets. So that you become a better, fitter and more resourceful person.
Less on crossing off the individual todo-item, but more on building the right habits. After forming and solidifying one, building the next one. And another one.
Less on the views/likes/shares of an article, and more on the improvement you've made in your skill as a writer. And thus slowly becoming a masterful writer.
Less on gaining followers, and more on building deeper relationships with the people you work and interact with. And thus building a deep and vast network of people with mutual care.
So, even if the results are not at the levels you'd wish them to be, are you making progress in these areas?
And when you know these. You have to shift your focus and change your behavior.
It might be scary to sit out a rage while everyone seems to be taken up with it or telling you to jump on the wagon.
It might actually require you to say no to safe money because - if you think about it honestly - the gig with that client doesn't quite fit.
It might sometimes feel like you're not doing anything because the indicators you're used to don't light up.
But in the end, they're the only things that really drive change and improvement. They have all the power. From, manically circling around the heart of the cyclone. To, calmly driving it to where you want to go.
PS: This post is a bit one size fits all. Want guidance in how to use this to focus on the right things specifically for your business? For what you try to accomplish and what you value? Join my private (max 6 entrepreneurs) Strategy Sessions in January!