Nir’s Note: Entrepreneur, speaker and consultant, Dorie Clark is a recognized leader in the field of executive education, a topic she teaches at Duke University Fuqua School of Business and Columbia Business School. She has developed over 20 LinkedIn Learning courses on executive education, viewed by hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Dorie is the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out, which was named the top leadership book by Inc. magazine and one of the top 10 business books of the year by Forbes. Her latest book, The Long Game, delves into the challenge of strategizing for the long term in a world that prioritizes short-term gains.

Nir Eyal: Why did you write this book?

Dorie Clark: In my executive coaching work, and for the past five years of running my Recognized Expert online course and community, one of the most common challenges I saw is that my clients wanted to change strategy too frequently. They’d try something and then panic that they weren’t doing enough, or they should be doing something different, or doing what the other guy was doing. Meanwhile, nothing ever had time to take root and bear fruit. I wanted to write The Long Game as an antidote to that frenzy and that comparison and to help people think through when is the right time to give up on something and when–far more often–the right answer is to keep persevering, so you can get to the other side and experience the rewards of your hard work and be able to reach far more people with your message.

NE: You’ve done some fascinating research. From what you’ve learned, what surprised you the most?

DC: Something that really stood out to me in the course of researching The Long Game is that 97% of top leaders believe that strategic thinking is the most important thing they can be doing, and yet almost exactly the same number–96%–say they simply don’t have time to do it. It shows there’s a huge gulf between intention and action, and if we’re able to be the outliers who can bridge that gap, it will make a meaningful difference in our lives and our ability to accomplish what we most want.

NE: What lessons should people take away from your book regarding how they should design their own behavior or the behavior of others?

DC: Through the course of writing The Long Game, I’ve really become attuned to the importance of having a trusted group of advisers around you. They should be people that are supportive and want the best for you and should be knowledgeable about your field or industry, so they can give you helpful and relevant advice when you hit snags and need guidance.

The most important lesson is that in moments of duress, you often really can’t trust yourself. It’s very easy to either stay committed for too long to an idea that isn’t working, or, conversely, to give up too soon on something promising because it isn’t unfolding as fast as you’d like, and you fall into despair. But when you have a knowledgeable group of advisers around you, they can provide a dose of the rationality that you need and help you discern whether it’s time to give up or keep pressing forward.

NE: Writing a book is hard. What do you do when you find yourself distracted or going off track?

DC: I got my start as a journalist, which is great training in the sense that writer’s block is not an option. The cure for writer’s block is literally: if you don’t write, you’ll be fired ☺. So I’ve gotten pretty good at pushing through and not being a perfectionist. There’s always time to revise later on if needed, but the most important first step is getting words on the page so you have something to work with. Another strategy that I used to employ pre-Covid was going to a café and vowing that I simply wouldn’t leave until I had two articles written. So in the interest of not staying locked in a coffee shop for 12 hours, I would eventually bang it out and get it done.

NE: What’s one thing you believe that most people would disagree with?

DC: Most people become parents–in the U.S., it’s 86% of women and 62% of men–and that is way too many. I was lucky enough to have a caring and devoted mom, but anyone can see the frequent pathology around us inflicted by careless and damaged people. The numbers should be reversed, and only the best–and best-adjusted–should qualify. I’d like parenting to go from being the standard of “everyone does it” to an elite qualification that one (morally, if not legally) has to earn the right to do. (I am not a parent, and I have endless respect for the patient people who do it well.)

NE: What’s your most important good habit or routine?

DC: I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 13, and originally that meant only eating spaghetti. Over time, I have evolved and now eat an inordinate amount of kale and avocado every day. At least until science has one of its periodic paradigm shifts, I think (?) that’s healthy!

NE: Are you working to change any bad habits?

DC: I lived in Boston for many years, which is often considered the best spot for ice cream in the United States. (To the amazement of out-of-town friends, it is both possible and common to get ice cream at 11pm on a weeknight in winter.) I think I became a little too fond of it and now have to ration myself.

NE: What one product or service has helped you build a healthy habit?

DC: I use the health insurer Oscar and they have a semi-ridiculous reward system that will pay you $1 per day if you hit your step goal. If you’ve been particularly indolent, you can get it for only, say, 7,000 steps. But if you’ve been healthier, they’ll move the bar, and sometimes it’s 12,000 or even 14,000 steps to get your dollar. You can redeem it for Amazon credit. I kind of love it.

NE: What’s the most important takeaway you want people to remember after reading this book?

DC: The most important takeaway is that the good stuff–the kinds of meaningful, long-term goals that really matter–always take longer than we think they will. There is a huge gulf of uncertainty where you aren’t sure if something isn’t working, or isn’t working yet. It’s in those moments, with strategic patience and discernment, that you can separate yourself out from the competition and create an insurmountable gap. That’s how we succeed in the long term.

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