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Six weeks and five years

Yesterday, one of my colleagues gave an interesting talk about the philosophy of 'Explore and Exploit'. The best example for this is oil companies. They exploit the resources they have found while at the same time they explore and try to find new sites to drill.

In Internet products, we know that there are areas of experimentation that work well and we spend our efforts in exploiting those areas. At the same time, we know that these areas don't continue to yield results forever and so we explore possible new areas that we can exploit.

This is the perfect philosophy to apply to the things we do in our lives.

Whenever I'm interested in something new, I sign up for a trial or an introductory set of sessions. This is the explore phase that usually lasts about six weeks. And if I end up enjoying it, I'll commit myself to doing it for much longer - at least five years. This is the exploit phase.

Why six weeks and five years? Six weeks is a reasonable amount of time to evaluate if I can include this into my lifestyle and dedicate time and effort to it on a continuous basis. And five years is generally how long it takes to get really good at something.

If I'm looking at a shorter timeframe than that, it means I'm looking for a quick payoff. If you're starting up or writing or creating art of any kind, be willing to give at least five years of dedicated effort before you think of getting recognised for it (be it in terms of money or fame or whatever else).

A short timeframe for the explore phase is essential. Because, you want to know as quickly as possible if it is something that you can commit to doing for the long term.

At any given time, have at least a couple of things that you are committed to for the five year time period and may be three to five other things that you are evaluating for a six week period.

And don't commit to doing something for the long term unless you have explored it for at least six weeks.

When you hear people tell you to not quit, they are talking only about the things you are committed to doing for at least five years. For everything else, by all means quit. And quit as early as possible.

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