Short Game versus Long Game

In more pompous words, this blog post could have been titled: “How To Focus On Long Term Goals, While Still Making Sense Of Your Day To Day Life”. Or, even better: “How To Not Lose Sight Of Your Long Term Goals, While Crushing It Daily”. But, in all honesty, I prefer simpler words, and I especially like the subtle meaning of the word “game” here. It adds a significant dose of playfulness to the whole “goal setting” narrative, and I find that playfulness fundamental for a balanced life.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Short Game

A “short game” focuses on immediate gains, without taking into account the big picture. It enforces an attention-educated mind, and a flawless execution. “Short game” is all about seizing the opportunity, taking advantage of any potential deal and, generally speaking, riding on the wave of “YOLO” (you only live once).

Long Game

A “long game” focuses on medium to long term gains, without taking into account too much the immediate picture. It enforces an investment-educated mind, and a supportive resilience. “Long game” is all about creating predictability, maximizing the long-term profit of any deal and compounding benefits.

Living a good life is at the intersection of these two games. I’m not the adept of only one (I don’t think YOLO is better than delaying gratification, or the other way around), but rather of a well thought combination of both.

Short Game versus Long Game

Short game is about instant survival and crisis management, long game is about patience and building up positions.

Short game may be exhilarating (and somehow addictive), long game is boring (and needs discipline).

Short game is about trying to win the lottery, long game is about compounding small bits into empires.

Short game is high risk, high reward for short term, long game is low risk, high reward for long term.

Now, let’s see how this plays out in the most important topics I’m interested: financial resilience, location independence, and meaningful relationships.

Financial Resilience

If you read my blog constantly, you remember that financial resilience is “the ability to keep a steady income, regardless of the surrounding context”. How is the “short game” versus “long game” dynamic here?

Well, short game is useful in times of crisis. The ability to spot an opportunity is paramount when predictability is scarce. Sometimes it pays off to do reasonably better for the next 2-3 months, until you put up the fires, than to keep trying to build something long term, when you don’t know if you can pay your rent in your current setup. As long as you play the short game only until you put up the fires you should be fine.

Whereas long term game is useful in times of predictability. When you already have some sort of stable income, playing the long game should kick in instantly, turning your focus from gratification (or survival) to investment and accumulation. Every time you have a little bit of extra at the end of the month, the long game strategy should put you to invest that extra, instead of spending it.

The opposite of the short game here is a low risk / low reward game, which usually means a low paid, but predictable job.

The opposite of the long game is compulsive gambling, or compulsive entrepreneurship, in a relentless search of the “big hit” (while not being able to pay rent).

Location Independence

Location independence is not necessarily being a digital nomad, but the ability to quickly move around, should the current context will become toxic (being it for health, social, political or economical reasons).

Short game here is the ability to spot opportunities for changing countries, but for periods lower than 6 months (that’s the standard amount of time you can spend in a country without being considered a tax resident there). As always, this is useful in times of crisis, or when you want to experience the culture and lifestyle of various parts of the world – and you can also afford that, without significant damage to your financial resilience.

Long game here is the ability to move in different locations (and safely remain there) for more than 6 months. That entails a whole lot of extra skills you need to develop, like what kind of residence is more appropriate for your skills, what are the large scale trends in the area, where it’s worth building some bases and so on and so forth.

The opposite of the short game here is staying in the same place, because you bought a house and you now have a mortgage. But you can’t leave the country if the shit hits the fan.

The opposite of the long game here is relentlessly moving from one city to another, in search of the elusive “perfect place”. Compulsive traveling, or trying to fool your daemons with shiny Airbnbs.

Meaningful Relationships

Not to be confused with the search of a “soulmate”, a meaningful relationship is one that can expand the sum of the two persons in the equation beyond the arithmetical value of number 2. A meaningful relationship is usually more about work to do together, than about serendipitous encounters.

Short game here means to remain open to whatever life throws at you, in a non-toxic way. It goes without saying that this openness shouldn’t hurt anyone, so it boils down to how you negotiate and establish your commitments. Every once in a while, a relationship opportunity may appear, the kind that is long-term relevant even if its duration is just a few months.

Long game here means building up a relationship in such a way that it continues consistently for years. Like a fire that burns slowly, but steadily, it may keep you warm for years, even if it doesn’t have the thrills of a firework.

The opposite of a short game here is staying in a toxic relationship, or spitefully single.

The opposite of a long game here is compulsive dating, or jumping from one relationship to the next one, in search of a “perfect partner”.

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