The Long and Short of It

When I was working at Georgetown, I remember having a conversation once with an administrator at another Jesuit university who’d left the business world for academia.

“I was used to thinking in quarters,” she told me, “but these guys think in centuries.”

Both by nature and Georgetown’s nurture, I’m inclined to think on very long timelines. And I believe that’s an essential habit of mind to cultivate in order to consider ideas and actions in their fuller implications. The opportunity of the moment can often cause real harm over the long term.

But this year — quite by accident — I began to think in quarters (and even tighter timelines). And the advantages of this, it seems, are a bias toward action and an ability to adjust relatively quickly so long as I’m diligent about reflecting on my actions.

The long term is what really counts, so we have to keep our eyes fixed on the far horizon.

But, in order to get there, we’ve got to take steps, adjust, and take some more.