There are two ways to do something.

The first is to do it with intent. This means knowing why you’re doing it, seeing how it aligns with your long-term goals, and thinking about and accepting the trade-offs which result from what you’re doing. When you do something with intent, you take ownership of what you’re doing.

The second is to do something by going through its motions. This often comes about in two ways. You either do something because someone told you to do it or you continue on a journey that you embarked on because of a short-term impulse without evaluating its long-term destination and the resulting consequences. The outcome is the same in both cases. Since someone told you to do it and you either haven’t questioned whether it makes sense to you or you have but have decided that it doesn’t make sense, or since your short-term impulse has gone and you discover that the long-term intent isn’t there, you don’t take ownership of what you’re doing.

And there’s a big difference in the quality of the output produced when something is done with intent rather than by going through the motions.

In the context of the entrepreneur-investor relationship, it comes across in the entrepreneur’s presentation, how they respond to your questions, how they follow-up with you, the experience you have while using their company’s product, and many more interaction points.

And it’s the single most important determinant of whether an entrepreneur succeeds. Addressing big pain points in big markets with smart strategies is table stakes. And on a long enough time horizon luck cancels out. Intent determines the winners.

And doing things with intent takes more time than doing things by going through the motions. Since any one person’s time is fixed, doing things with intent means that you do fewer things than if you were to go through the motions.

So it’s important that you prioritize what you do based on the value at stake and urgency of each action.

And it’s also important that you team up with other people with intent to increase the aggregate time available to your organization.

Finally, intent isn’t an infinite resource. You can’t act with intent all the time. There are times when you act with intent and times when your intent is depleted and you fall back on your habits.

So it’s important to, to the extent possible, take important actions when your intent is intact.

Also published on Medium.