The long & short of it

We don’t watch soccer because not enough goals are scored. We check Facebook and email constantly, hoping for a new message or wall post. We eat junk food because it’s quick and easy. North American society is obsessed with instant gratification, even though true satisfaction should come from long-term dedication.

Short-sightedness pervades many aspects of our world. One of the reasons that Canada’s aging population is such a large strain to the Canada Pension Plan is that the policy was created at a time when the baby boom was in the labour force. In the short term it was a sound policy, but now that the baby boom is reaching retirement it is simply not feasible without a substantial financial burden on younger people.

We judge our leaders by the stability of the present, which is completely rational. But we need to acknowledge that what goes on in the present is often influenced by what happened in previous terms. Moreover, politicians’ incentives revolve around public appeal and maximizing the number of votes they will get. The welfare of a country’s economy takes a backseat to chasing votes.

The business world may be one of the worst culprits in the chase for a short-term gain. Various companies pay very little attention to the long term. Consider the crash of American car companies in the States. Foreign competition was creating vastly more efficient products, but US producers chose not to innovate or look to the future, instead asking the government to save them. GM specifically lobbied against the innovations of the electric car, ultimately hampering a project that could be hugely productive in the long run.

While some people claim to be making or following long-term plans, I feel that many of us are just going through the motions. As students, we spend years educating ourselves in pursuit of a brighter future. We respect those that go onto graduate school or professional education because we understand the benefits of the commitment.

In personal financing the importance of the long-run is just as vital. Most wealthy people haven’t suddenly struck oil in a field, but have saved gradually over 10s of years, perhaps making sound investments along the way.

Any serious athlete will attest to the immense time commitment necessary to improve skills or shave insignificant amounts of time from a personal record. Those who pursue excellence relentlessly visualize succeeding, and while many don’t make it all the way, for those that do that moment is the greatest of all.

I cannot hope to provide a full argument on this subject with so few words, but I want to emphasize the importance of looking off into the horizon every once in a while and chasing something far away. Perseverance can be exceptionally gratifying—just ask a Leafs fan. If they ever win anything, you can bet it will be rewarding.

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