Eric Button

Ditch Your 3-Year Plan

f I could go back and spend an hour with my 16 year-old self there's only one thing I'd really try to impress on myself: the nerds win in the end. They always start out looking stupid but then one day talent and results start to snowball, and shit starts to fall into place.

Why do the nerds win, though? Talent would be the obvious answer, but it's more nuanced. I believe that a lot of it comes down to delaying gratification, which is something much easier when you're obsessed, as nerds are.

Many nerds have given up on the "status" game, which frees up huge financial and mental resources which can then be devoted to a business or project.

Jeff Bezos is the poster child for nerds. He was driving a Honda while Amazon was valued at over $100B. It's a nerd strategy, but it's also a core Amazon strategy: delayed gratification.

“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people,” Jeff says. "If you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue. At Amazon we like things to work in five to seven years. We’re willing to plant seeds, let them grow—and we’re very stubborn.”

That's the beauty of shifting to a long-term mindset: competition falls off, sharply.

Long-term decisions are painful, because in an Instagram world you'll feel left out of parties and vacations in pursuit of a difficult goal. You'll have a hard time convincing investors to ignore quarterly earnings and instead focus on the innovation that's happening.

But the flip side is that you're one hour into a 12-hour road trip, and there's almost no one else on the road.

Long-term plays only.