Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Articles → Switch strategies

The directions to get you anywhere include a few turns.

The same is true in life, whether for business success or personal happiness. You need to switch strategies a few times to get where you want to go.

“Stay the course” is bad advice because if you don’t turn at one of those intersections, you’ll carry on forever in the wrong direction. And it takes a long time to turn around.

Early in your career, when you are searching for success, the best strategy is to say yes to everything. Reach way outside your current circles. Do it all, and give it your all, no matter how small. The more things you try, and the more people you meet, the better. (They’re a little like lottery tickets.) You never know what random tiny connection could become your big break.

Then when you notice that one thing is extra-rewarding, it’s time to switch strategies. Double-down and focus all of your considerable capacity on this one thing. Be a freak, and go above and beyond all expectations, to master this niche with everything you’ve got. Timing is crucial. Don’t be leisurely. Strike while it’s hot. You don’t get extreme results without extreme actions.

If by chance it was a dead-end road, then switch strategies back to the broad, with equal enthusiasm as before. How you do anything is how you do everything. You’re being tested.

Suddenly your focus on one thing will pay off. Because you’re successful, you’ll be overwhelmed with opportunities and offers in your field. Because they’re all so rewarding, you’ll want to do them all. But this is where you need to switch strategies again. This is where you learn to say “hell yeah or no, to prevent drowning.

Now you admit you’ve arrived at your first destination. This is where you stop driving the same direction, and decide where you’re going next. Whether somewhere completely different, or just deeper down that path, the way to get there is to switch strategies again.

“Sharp Turns” photo by David Hepburn

P.S. When you’ve arrived at your first destination, I highly recommend the great book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”.