I once read this book which I can’t hugely recommend because it’s a lot of business BS but it contained one insight which has stuck with me ever since: the actual effort required of an individual to do good work doesn’t change that much with scope or scale. That sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it: the day-to-day effort expended by Elon Musk is not an order of magnitude greater than the day-to-day effort expended by someone starting a local pizza shop, even though their economic output is separated by orders of magnitude. (I had a friend once who started a pizza restaurant, and let me tell you that it was not for the faint of heart! They were in that shop 14 hours a day, every day. They would not have been impressed by stories of Mr. Musk bringing a sleeping bag to work every now and then.)
The reason the book is mostly BS, though, is because it conflates this powerful idea with the much more foolish idea that “therefore, everyone should be Elon Musk.” Obviously, we can’t all be Elon Musk for a great number of reasons (less intelligent, less rich, live in Winnipeg ;) ) but we can elevate our own ambitions, and the ambitions of those around us.
It’s difficult to find the right balance here. It is possible to bite off more than you can chew! But there’s more benefit to aiming high than “maybe you’ll land among the stars” as the cheesy saying goes: people around you will be motivated by ambitious goals. At work, I’ve learned that taking on a multi-year project is actually easier in many ways than taking on a single-quarter project: people are excited by the vision and want to collaborate where they can. The single-quarter projects still happen, but they’re milestones along the way to a bigger goal. (Framing them this way is not only more fun, but makes it easier for stakeholders to buy in: you’re selling the big multi-year vision and quibbling less about the interim state.)