“It’s a great opportunity. You’ll be in charge of more magazines, and I really want you to take it,” my manager said.
“Well, I’m not sure,” I said. “I’ve been doing healthcare IT for about five years now, and I really like it.”
“That’s fine,” he said, “but the company needs you to take this position.”
“I’ll have to think about it,” I replied.
And so I did. Now, in previous columns I’ve also referenced this incident, and its “take it or leave us” nature. But it is also very illustrative in other ways — namely, when I got to thinking, I came to realize the decision was between hitching my wagon to one of two stars — healthcare IT or “the company.”
Let’s first take the industry — healthcare IT. I cannot imagine a more exciting, compelling and vibrant industry than healthcare IT is today (or was in late 2009 when the conversation took place). I mean, I fell into the thing by sheer luck in late 2005 (way before the HITECH adrenaline shot of early 2009) and I would have been a pretty serious dullard to walk away. Not to mention, some of the magazines I would have been put in charge of covered, shall we say, less than heart-stopping beats.
On the other side of the scales, we have “the company.” In this case, a small publishing company in New York — nothing wrong with that, but not a multi-national with an internal job-posting board to rival Monster.
So in my case, the decision was clear. I was going to pick the industry and let the chips fall where they may. I was looking very, very long term and making a bet that over the next 30 years, the industry (like the S&P 500) would pay over time. I think I made the right bet.
I’ve been thinking about the importance of having a long-term vision and how that can have a dramatically positive effect on making the right short-term choices. Here are a few historical examples:
Gaius Julius Caesar — After winning a number of battles, Caesar was on his way back to Rome (not the famous “Crossing the Rubicon” return, but an earlier incident). He was eligible to celebrate a “triumph” — a huge parade/procession/celebration marking his victories. This was a highly sought honor by all generals, and so not to be thrown away lightly, but Caesar also wanted to stand for election to the consulship, and could not do both. Caesar knew what he was all about, forwent the triumph, stood for consul and won. This kept him on his desired path.
Lyndon B. Johnson — Johnson grew up dirt poor after his father bet the farm and went belly up. After he had been elected to legislative office, he came to know very wealthy and powerful people. One such individual offered to sell him one of his oil companies on the very cheap. Requiring almost no money down, Johnson would have become a very rich person overnight. But Johnson knew if he took the offer, he’d forever be known as an “oil man” and that would kill him politically. Johnson knew what he was all about, knew where he wanted to go, and turned it down.
Joe Torre — After referencing Torre in a previous column, Kate recommended I read “The Yankee Years,” by Torre and Tom Verducci. I’m only just getting into it, but have already heard something very interesting. At his first meeting with the team after taking over in 1996, Torre said he was not looking to build a one-and-done championship team, but a dynasty that could win multiple times over multiple years. Torre asked his players to understand his coming decisions in that light — that he would be looking to create long-term success rather than only short-term gains. Talk about prophetic — as we all know, he won four championships during his reign.
And I think you’d find this over and over again in example after example. Those who wind up getting where they want to go are the ones who decide upon the destination early in the journey. This only makes sense because, as I said, knowing where you want to get helps you make all the small decisions along the way that keep you from veering off course, from taking detours, from being Pied Pippered into going down the wrong road.
Think long term, have a vision, and stick to it. As you’ve read above, doing so can put you in some pretty remarkable company.
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