1 / (1 + n)^X : a short essay on The Short-Game vs. The Long-Game

1 / (1 + n)^X : a short essay on The Short-Game vs. The Long-Game

A psychological framework I think about often is time-discounting.

My definition for this is =

Choosing short-term rewards in the now to the detriment of long-term rewards. Humans tend to OVER value the rewards they receive now / closer to now vs. the future.

A simple example is the following:

  • You could get 100 dollars now or 120 dollars in the future (let's say 1 year from now)
  • Most people would choose the 100 dollars now EVEN THOUGH 120 dollars in the future is, from a strictly rational and economic perspective, more money and, thus is, what you "should" choose.

It's amazing how many things can be viewed through this:

  • Eating. Let's go to McDonald's because I'm hungry and it tastes good. Vs. The saturated fats, salt, sugar, etc. in that meal are probably not the best for your health long-term.
  • Sex. I'm horny now so I want sex ASAP ROCKY (or porn) to satisfy my needs. Vs. forming long-term meaningful relationships where you will probably get more sex in the long-run but it (usually) takes more time to get to the initial 👉🏻👌🏻
  • Smoking. Satisfy that craving now. Vs. I have lung cancer and am going to die soon so I won't be able to see my grandkids grow up.
  • Careers. Get a job at a company that is hip, cool now (i.e. Facebook, Google, Shopify, Tesla, P&G, etc.) so people think I'm hip and cool. Also, great salary right now. Vs. grinding at a startup that isn't well known yet and optimizing for learning. Which will enable you to earn even more in the future.
  • Physical activity. I'd rather lay on the couch and watch Netflix because it's been a tough day. Vs. I gotta get off my butt and do some stretches because long-term that will prevent me from getting injured when I'm older.
  • Learning. Spend time on apps like Instagram, Tinder, Facebook, etc. Vs. "Hey, maybe I could use all that time I spend on my phone and reallocate it to reading a few more books a year so I can invest in the most important investment I have — aka my 🧠."
  • Communication. Yelling at someone and making sure that you win the argument and prove them right. Vs. potentially destroying the relationship long-term because you didn't utilize nonviolent communication.
  • Image. Person won't date you now because you're a nerd, have acne and glasses. Vs. the huge upside you have to offer and where you're headed (aka success).

Now, I am making generalizations here and it's probably not ask black or white as I make it. However, I definitely think there's some value in considering in thinking beyond the first order effects of a decision (e.g. I will eat cake now). You need to think about the second and third order effects (e.g. eating this cake is probably not good for my nutrition).

We are constantly making tradeoffs (consciously or unconsciously) between now and the future.

So, I ask you, where do you want to spend your time?

Written: October 22, 2020


  • PS: I definitely think there's a balance here. I know I have gone EXTREME with things here. I think you need to make it enjoyable in the here and now but also think about how your actions may affect you in the future.