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The Florida Panthers won the Stanley Cup this year. The story of their coach, Paul Maurice, as captured by Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal, is a poignant reminder of the power of patience and perseverance in building a successful career. Maurice’s journey through the ranks of professional hockey, culminating in his ultimate triumph at age 57, serves as an inspiring example of how success is often a long game, requiring years—if not decades—of dedicated effort.

Maurice’s career began with the now-defunct Hartford Whalers and saw him traverse a variety of teams and leagues, including stints with the Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Marlies, Toronto Maple Leafs, and even Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia’s KHL. After nearly three decades and 1,684 games, Maurice finally achieved his dream of winning the Stanley Cup. No victorious coach had ever waited longer.

His story highlights an important truth: significant achievements often come after prolonged periods of struggle and dedication.

This theme of delayed but eventual success is not unique to Maurice. Many highly successful individuals have seen the fruits of their labor ripen only after years of persistent effort. One of the most prominent examples is Warren Buffett, whose story is a testament to the value of the long game in building a successful career.

Known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Buffett has amassed one of the largest fortunes in history. However, what is less known is that the vast majority of his wealth was accumulated after he turned 60. According to a report by Business Insider, Buffett’s net worth was approximately $70 billion as of 2020, and more than $60 billion of that was earned after his 60th birthday. This remarkable statistic underscores the exponential power of compound growth, a concept Buffett has long championed, and the idea that significant financial success often requires decades of strategic investment and patience.

The principle of playing the long game applies across various fields. For instance, many celebrated authors, scientists, and entrepreneurs have spent years honing their craft before achieving widespread recognition. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, faced numerous rejections before finding a publisher. Similarly, Thomas Edison, one of history’s most prolific inventors, is famously known for his countless failed experiments before successfully inventing the electric light bulb.

Today’s society glorifies quick success and instant gratification. These examples serve as important reminders of the value of patience and resilience. The road to significant achievements is frequently long and winding, demanding sustained effort, continuous learning, and the ability to endure setbacks.

Paul Maurice’s journey to finally lifting the Stanley Cup, alongside Warren Buffett’s financial ascent later in life, exemplifies that waiting forever can sometimes be the most rewarding path. Success built slowly over time not only stands the test of time but also carries with it a depth of experience and wisdom that instant success can seldom match. Whether in sports, business, or any other field, the long game remains a powerful strategy for those willing to embrace the journey and persist through the inevitable challenges.

Strategies for Playing the Long Game

In her book The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World, Dorie Clark outlines several strategies that can help individuals build a successful and sustainable career over time. Here are three key strategies:

1. Create White Space: Carving out time for strategic thinking and long-term planning is crucial. This “white space” allows you to step back from daily tasks and consider your broader goals and aspirations. By regularly scheduling time for reflection, you can ensure that your actions align with your long-term objectives. Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach calls these “planning” days and advises entrepreneurs to structure their months into equal thirds of productivity, planning, and personal days.

2. Focus on Strategic Relationships: Be intentional about building and nurturing relationships with mentors, peers, and other influential figures in your field. This will provide you with invaluable support and guidance. I can’t begin to count how many times a relationship has opened a new door for me or offered insight that has helped me navigate a tricky path more effectively. If you had to choose who can help you get something done or what you should be doing on your own to get something big done, choose who, not what.

3. Adopt a Learning Mindset: I’ve enjoyed a long string of great fortune in the residents we teach at UMKC and Children’s Mercy. They’ve been so good for so long, I almost have to pinch myself as a reminder that it’s real. Many moons ago, I had the opportunity to teach a few residents who had decided they were already done learning. I wanted to scream, “But you’re just getting started with all the learning required throughout your career.” I implore you. Forget about being “the best.” Instead, commit to being the best at getting better. Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone smarter, richer, faster, stronger, bigger, and better looking than you. This is no crime. Instead of trying to beat everyone else, try to beat your best. Instead of promising you’ll do more than the competition, promise you’ll always give your very best.

Continuously seek new knowledge and skills. It’s essential for long-term success. Embrace a mindset of lifelong learning and be open to adapting as circumstances change. As Charlie Munger likes to say, “find a few of your best-loved ideas each year and kill them.” This approach not only enhances your expertise but also makes you more resilient in the face of challenges.

To go deeper into these strategies and gain more insights from Dorie Clark, you can listen to my interview with her on The Burleson Box podcast. In our conversation, we explore how to implement these principles in everyday life and achieve lasting success. Would you have the patience, determination, and stamina to wait 1,684 games before winning a Stanley Cup? 

Food for thought!


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