James Clear

James Clear quotes on strategy

Author of the #1 NYT bestseller Atomic Habits. I write about building better habits.

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A strategy for thinking clearly: Rather than trying to be right, assume you are wrong and try to be less wrong. Trying to be right has a tendency to devolve into protecting your beliefs. Trying to be less wrong has a tendency to prompt more questions and intellectual humility.


There are 3 primary drivers of results in life: 1) Your luck (randomness). 2) Your strategy (choices). 3) Your actions (habits). Only 2 of the 3 are under your control. But if you master those 2, you can improve the odds that luck will work for you rather than against you.


A simple strategy that will save you so many headaches: don't care about winning trivial arguments. Someone says something you don't agree with? Smile, nod, and move on to more important things. Life is short. Not caring about having the last word will save you so much time.


Without hard work, a great strategy remains a dream. Without a great strategy, hard work becomes a nightmare.


Before you begin, think as if you are a lazy person. Assume the competition will work harder. Your only chance is a better strategy. After you begin, work as if you are a dumb person. Assume the competition is smarter and more talented. Your only chance is to outwork them.


Focus on your daily results and you’ll often make poor long-term choices. Focus on your daily choices and you’ll almost certainly enjoy good long-term results.


Vision is the bottleneck of talent. Most talent is wasted because people do not clearly know what they want. It’s not a lack of effort, but a lack of direction. There are many capable people in the world, but relatively few that focus on what matters.


The most overlooked and underappreciated growth strategy is patience. (More specifically, consistently producing great work over a long time horizon.)


A goal is a desired outcome. A strategy is a desired outcome combined with a plan for achieving it. Create strategies, not goals.


Success is never due to one thing, but failure can be. Sleeping well won’t make you successful, but not sleeping enough will hold you back. Hard work is rarely enough without good strategy, but even the best strategy is useless without hard work. Necessary, but not sufficient.


If you haven’t started, then taking action is more important than finding the best strategy. If you’re already taking action, then ensuring you’re working on the right thing is more important than working harder. Your effort sets your floor. Your strategy sets your ceiling.


Books for mindset. Quiet time to think for strategy. Conversations with successful peers for tactics.


Hard work is not always something you can see. It is not always physical effort. In fact, the most powerful form of hard work is thinking clearly. Designing a winning strategy may not look very active, but make no mistake: it is very hard work. Strategy often beats sweat.


Problem solving strategy: If you’re stuck, shift up a level or two (think bigger picture) or down a level or two (think finer details). Many problems are solvable at a different level. Note: Works for strategy too. You’ll often find a better opportunity at a different level.


Results = (Hard Work*Time)^Strategy Working hard is important, but working on the right thing is more important. A great strategy can deliver exponential results. Of course, the best strategy is worth nothing if you never get to work. Zero to the millionth power is still zero.


Hard work is the engine. Strategy is the GPS. It’s difficult to get anywhere without hard work. If the engine stops running, progress stalls. But you’ll waste a lot of gas without a good strategy. It’s easier to make progress when you’re following the optimal path.


Intellectuals are more likely to fail because they deliberate too much. Good judgment is wasted when it never turns into action. Trailblazers are more likely to fail because they deliberate too little. Effort is wasted by rushing into work before identifying what matters most.


Something undesirable happened? Make the best move under the current circumstances rather than wishing to return to the previous circumstances. “Next Play” mentality.


Innovators are T-shaped. They are experts in a narrow field. But they also have a big intellectual toolbox, which offers new entry points and lines of attack for solving problems. Read widely. As the saying goes, "Know something about everything and everything about something."


Effort is bounded. You are limited by internal resources like time, energy, and attention. Strategy is unbounded. There is essentially no limit on how far an exceptional strategy can scale. Invest your bounded effort into unbounded strategies.


Success is often a matter of luck and randomness, but it can be encouraged by effort and strategy.


The optimal strategy might be executing a suboptimal plan at a fast pace. Strategy evolves as lessons are learned—and the person who moves faster, learns faster. Learning is a marathon and perfection is a weighted vest.


Giving your best effort does not mean simply working harder at what you were already doing. It can mean that, but it often means searching harder for a better way to do things. Giving your best effort involves execution and strategy.


Showing up and working hard will always be the cost of entry. But when everyone else also works hard, your strategy is what makes the difference.


A thought on strategy for work and life: Look for opportunities where you don’t have to be an outlier to succeed. (Then work as hard as you can to be the outlier.)


The odds of success increase if: -you get more shots on goal -there is more than one way success can occur -there is a long time frame in which things can go right -you pursue a subset of strategies where the typical performance is better than the overall average.


Be thankful for your failures. They reveal the winning strategies.


As a general rule, the optimal strategy is to treat people as friends and attempt to win together rather than to treat people as enemies and attempt to win on your own.


Where you apply your effort matters more than how much effort you apply. You might be able to work 10% harder, but working on the right thing can deliver 100x results. Unfortunately, most days we are too busy working on the next thing to ask if we are working on the best thing.


Move toward the next thing, not away from the last thing. Same direction. Completely different energy.


In the short-run, great managers, coaches, and leaders adjust their strategy to fit their players. In the long-run, great managers, coaches, and leaders recruit players to fit their strategy.


Start now. Optimize later. Imperfect starts can always be improved. Obsessing over a perfect plan will never take you anywhere on its own.


1. Every marketing strategy is easier with a great product. 2. Without a great product, no marketing strategy will sustain you.


Good decision making determines the amount of leverage in your life. Good habits determine how well you capitalize on that leverage. Said another way, your decisions determine your trajectory. Your habits determine how far you travel along that path.


Life has tradeoffs. Success in one area is often tied to failure in another. The more extreme the greatness, the longer the shadow it casts.


One of the most underappreciated ways to increase your intelligence and avoid mental mistakes is to use a strategy known as inversion.


The strategies that successful people are using today are probably not the same ones they were using when they began their journey.

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