The Marshmallow Experiment Predicts How Well Entrepreneurs Succeed
Are you familiar with The Marshmallow Experiment? Maybe you’ve see the video? It’s an important piece of social science and behavioral research where, in the 1960’s, Walter Mischel, a Stanford professor and his team sat children, mostly 4 and 5 years old, in front of a single marshmallow.
Then they made a deal.
They told each kid that they would leave the child and the marshmallow alone in the room for 15 minutes, and if the mallow was still there, they would receive a second marshmallow.
The results are pretty comical, but the long term data is more revealing. In over 40 years of follow-up studies, researchers have learned that kids who waited for the second marshmallow were more successful in almost any endeavor. They had higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, a lower likelihood of obesity, a better responses to stress, and better social skills as reported by their parents.
Delayed gratification, as it turns out, is a real asset—especially if you’re an entrepreneur. So, are you a one marshmallow or two kind of entrepreneur?
Let’s say you just put together a kickin’ plan for how you’re going to improve sales.
You write the copy, send out the notices, put it all together.
Then you have to wait.
You’ve been living the work, anticipating the outcome and it never arrives exactly as you expected or hoped.
Sometimes we hit home runs, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes (most of the time) it just takes a little perseverance.
Just because you’ve done the work to launch a product, boost sales, or send a proposal to new customers doesn’t mean the job is done. There’s always a next step.
However, a one marshmallow entrepreneur won’t continue the slow plod, they’ll already be looking for the next opportunity. But a two marshmallow owner will dig in to maximize the results of the work they’ve just done—they’ll stay the course.
If you’re a one marshmallow kind of entrepreneur, you have a couple options: partner with or hire people to monitor and watch for you—so you don’t wander off before receiving the full benefits of your hard work! Or, work on your wait game, work on developing your skills of focus and perseverance.
While pondering your tolerance for delayed gratification is fascinating, whichever your inclination, it’s important to build a system that keeps the marshmallows coming!
Create a clear plan This plan clearly describes financial goals, strategic objectives and operational requirements. Make sure your team understands both the direction you are headed in and the route you plan to take to get there.
Maintain Focus and disciplineKeep your eyes on the plan and note the benchmarks. Make sure the people on your team (even if it’s only you!!) FOCUS everyday on moving forward step by step towards the goal.
Track progress and monitor resultsThis should be done daily or weekly so you can change your plan if you need to and address issues when they come up, instead of waiting until the end of the month or quarter to find out that something is not right. Tracking results is also important so you get a chance to celebrate achievements (and eat marshmallows) along the way!
Things in business rarely work exactly as we expect them to, but there’s a huge difference between scrapping a whole endeavor and making minor adjustments along the way.
Stay on the path, modifying and adapting, until you reach your goals—it’s the only way I know to consistently accomplish anything, and that is the sweetest reward.