How often do you lose in the short-run to win in the long-run?

Today is March 28 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you lose in the short-run to win in the long-run?” Some strategies that individuals use to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well require substantially more effort, stress, and work than others. Today’s reflection is one such strategy. Losing in the short-run to win in the long-run is not for the faint of heart. This strategy requires an absolute belief in yourself since it often involves tremendous risk. Part of this risk frequently involves turning away fame, fortune, or a dream in the short-run because the long-run holds infinitely more promise. But do you have the stomach to turn down fame, fortune, or a dream? Much like every other Navigate the Chaos post, today’s reflection involves one of the hundreds of ways people practice the art of living well. It is not for everyone. Losing in the short-run to win in the long-run, however, was exactly the strategy T-Pain used.

Faheem Rasheed Najm better known by his stage name T-Pain, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and streamer. Najm was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. His stage name is short for "Tallahassee Pain" and was chosen because of the hardships he experienced while living there. His debut album, Rappa Ternt Sanga, was released in 2005. In 2007, T-Pain released his second album Epiphany, which reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. His third album, Thr33 Ringz, was released in 2008. The albums included a string of hit singles, including "I'm Sprung", "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)", "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')", "Bartender", "Can't Believe It", and "5 O'Clock". T-Pain has earned two Grammy Awards, alongside artists Kanye West and Jamie Foxx, respectively.

T-Pain joined the rap group Nappy Headz in 2004 and later recorded "I'm Fucked Up", a cover version of Akon's single "Locked Up". Akon eventually came across the song and immediately offered him a deal to his label, Konvict Muzik. While T-Pain was offered other record deals, with the highest bidding being US$900,000, Akon promised the young artist a personal mentorship in the industry. As T-Pain recalled in a 2019 interview, this time in his life was filled with poverty, hardship, and uncertainty. Instead of winning in the short-term, however, he choose to play the long-game and took less money and mentorship by fellow artist Akon over substantially more money and no mentorship. “Everybody was offering all these things and money and Akon said to me ‘I can give you $20,000, and that’s not a lot of money but you are going to have a career, not just a song.’ At that time Akon was the only one talking to me like that. Everyone else wanted my song but he wanted me to have a long career. I was in it for the long-play so I went with him over the money.”

Another way of looking at this strategy T-Pain used of losing in the short-run to win in the long-run is to consider delayed gratification – the ability to wait and obtain a more valuable outcome in the future over a less valuable immediate one. T-Pain turned down substantial money in the short-run in return for a long-term career. What is guaranteed? Of course, not, almost nothing in life is.

An experiment by Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel in 1972 is often cited as a key research project that helps people understand delayed gratification. In his study, a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited while the researcher left the room for about 15 minutes. Upon the researcher’s return the child would receive a reward of either a marshmallow or pretzel stick. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, and other life measures. A replication attempt with a sample from a more diverse population, over 10 times larger than the original study, showed only half the effect of the original study. The replication suggested that economic background, rather than willpower, explained the other half.

Reflecting upon the value of losing in the short-run to win in the long-run, or delayed gratification, Ilene Strauss Cohen, wrote in a December 216, 2017 Psychology Today article "Being able to delay satisfaction isn’t the easiest skill to acquire. It involves feeling dissatisfied, which is why it seems impossible for people who have not learned to control their impulses. Choosing to have something now might feel good but making the effort to have discipline and manage your impulses can result in bigger or better rewards in the future. Over time, delaying gratification will improve your self-control and ultimately help you achieve your long-term goals faster.”