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Best-selling author tells Culver Academies students long-term thinking is key to success

Prajna Tammana, The Vedette staff writer

Photo by Mark Thompson 


Dorie Clark says small adjustments lead to big changes


Dec. 9, 2022

A renowned business coach told Culver Academies students they could set themselves up for success by learning to be long-term thinkers.

“You are going to be seeing dramatically different results in your life,” said Dorie Clark, wh0 teaches executive education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and is the author of the book, “The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World.” “Small adjustments that you make now, which are not hard to implement because they are small – you might not even notice them – but they will lead to radically different trajectories in your life in terms of outcomes.”

She compared it to a 1-degree difference in the direction of a plane taking off from Europe and flying to the United States. She said the small change is the difference between landing in New York City or Miami.

Clark gave the virtual keynote attended by 115 students from The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur, Humanities Department, Leadership Department, and other students. The event was held in the Legion Memorial Building on Dec. 1.

She talked about how the pandemic had radically interrupted our lives and it was almost impossible to do any long-term planning because no one knew what was coming. She said short-term thinking can work for a while, but eventually a long-term plan is needed for success.

“Thankfully, we’re beginning to get past that chapter of our lives and we’re actually able to make choices again about what we want to do and what we want our lives to look like,” she said.

Clark compared short-term thinking to being a jellyfish in the ocean.

“You are just responding to external stimuli. It’s fine if you are a jellyfish and you don’t have a plan of where you want to go. But most of you have goals and aspirations or things you would like to happen,” she said.

She said by making long-term plans, you can begin to take steps to accomplish those goals.

Clark told the students the Management Research Group once asked 10,000 senior executives: What is the most important thing you could be doing for the strength of your business. More than 97 percent of the respondents answered strategic, long-term planning. But a separate study done around the same time found that 96 percent of senior executives said they didn’t have time for strategic, long-term planning.

“It’s one of those things everybody thinks is great, but very few people are actually doing,” she said.

She told the students a frequent problem people in the business world have is they are succeeding at the wrong thing.

“There is almost nothing sadder than people who have been spending a huge amount of energy, time and effort only to discover in the end, it was not toward the right goal,” she said. “I don’t want that for you, obviously. What I would like for you is to be really clear about what your goals and aspirations are so you can work toward them systematically.”

 Students learned a lot about strategic thinking, organizing, and career planning through what she called “the eight strategies to improve long-term thinking.” 

Her strategies include:

  • Finding the white space in your calendar: You need to have some free time in your day to think.
  • Knowing when to say yes and no: What is the actual time cost of the task? What is the physical or emotional cost? What else could I be doing with this time? How will you feel a year from now if you don’t do it?
  • How other perceive you: Don’t be overly concerned, but be aware of what others think you are good at. Know your strengths.
  • Supporting your friends: By being a supportive friend, your friends will likely be supportive of you. Having a third-party talk you up helps build your brand.
  • Understanding your goals: Don’t have unrealistic expectations for overnight success. You might quit too soon because you don’t understand the scope of what it takes to be successful.
  • Strategic Patience: Building a business takes time. Understand you can’t rush success. Learn along the way.
  • Rethink failure: Failure is nothing to be ashamed of. Plenty of successful people have encountered failure.
  • Go outside your comfort zone: Be willing to try things you aren’t good at.

Not only did students learn how to use these strategies in their daily life at Culver but also how to develop their business minds. Students also received a complimentary copy of her book.

Students appreciated Clark’s point of view and had the chance to attend a discussion session to reflect on the event.

“I think she had a very different viewpoint compared to other people, because rather than filling up your schedule she encourages making more time instead and using that time to be more creative and innovative,” said Isa Bernhard’23.

Teachers were intrigued by her words as well. J.D. Uebler, director of The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur, said he was pleased students were able to receive advice from the three-time Wall Street Journal best-selling author.

“Dorie Clark is a powerhouse in thinking and writing about how to get the best ideas out of companies.  I believe students were put in a position to consider how being a wing person for others, scoping goals for long-term planning, and utilizing white space can lead to strong creative and productive habits in a noisy, short-term world,” he said.  “I also think students had the opportunity to reflect on the dangers of short-term thinking that lead to competent people winning at the wrong projects.”

Some finishing remarks by Clark stuck out to the students, when she was asked: What is the best way for someone to start a business career in high school? She recommended reading interesting business books.

“If you just make a habit of reading them for fun. And by reading, it can be an audio book when you are exercising, or whatever, you are going to be learning things that are going to be shaping you for the rest of your life,” she said. “It will help put you ahead of other people who will take years, literally years, more than you to learn that stuff.”

Clark was the second speaker in The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur’s annual speaker series.  The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur is endowed by Ron Rubin ’68 since 2009.

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