Winning does matter. Our country is built on the idea of individual freedom, personal initiative, competitive markets and free enterprise. In the Unites States we are constantly keeping score and rewarding those that achieve in all walks of life. You can chose to live a reactive and safe life rather than a proactive and riskier existence, but then you are dependent upon others who create the overall conditions of success from which you earn your living. This doesn’t mean that all successful people do it the right way or have admirable values. There will always be individuals who cheat the system or take advantage of the less fortunate. However, I would contend that this number is smaller than everyone thinks and our legal system (contrary to popular opinion) does a good job of ferreting them out. It certainly is not perfect, but our civic system and the “rule of law” does exist and often works. Regardless, we all learn from an early age that life isn’t fair and all we can control is our actions in response to anything that happens. There are very few true victims in life…
It is fascinating to watch the Olympics for many reasons including watching how the different athletes handle pressure. Some people seem to seize the moment with relative ease while others sadly fall apart and make uncharacteristic mistakes. When you get to this level of performance excellence just about every competing athlete has superlative physical gifts and natural ability. What separates the winners from the losers is often their mental toughness and emotional resiliency. They have grace under pressure.
There is a dark side to our competitive nature as individuals that often begrudges the success of others. I’m not sure why this and there are probably many psychological and neurological explanations. What I do know is that individual success is good for a community. In business this means more people get hired, employees have steady and stable incomes, more vendors get paid, tax revenues go up, charitable giving increases,and more discretionary dollars are spent on other things. The good news with entrepreneuers is that most of the fruits of their success stays local. We should root for as many people to be successful as possible.
Most things of importance and value in life require some level of effort. Some people get lucky and have success, happiness and self-fulfillment fall in their lap, but they are few and far between. In life it has always been that little extra effort that makes the difference. We all must accept that there are many people who will be more intelligent, better looking, more talented, have more advantages, and be more capable than us, but only you as an individual decide if they will outwork you. I’ve found that when you are tired and/or feeling lazy and could easily talk yourself out of doing something, but do it anyway, that’s what separates you from the pack. Success in life and business requires consistent, focused, sustained effort.
You need more than talent to succeed as a leader. You will have lead when it’s hard not just when it’s easy. Your mettle will be tested. You will be under a constant spotlight and have no shortage of critics. Sometimes it will feel like the cards are stacked against you and your options are limited. You will get knocked down repeatedly and have to get back up. Others will look to you to solve problems they cannot or will not handle. You will need to be resilient in the face of adversity and give your people direction and hope. You will need to be the calming influence in the midst of a storm. You must learn from your mistakes (there will be many) and use this knowledge to get better. You will be humbled and sometimes lose even when you do your best. You will have to regularly outwork, outthink and outperform your competition.
I wish I could tell my clients and colleagues that the best company always wins but that isn’t the case. Over the years I’ve met quite a few leaders who think that doing a good job should be sufficient for success and that money spent on adverstising and marketing is purely discretionary. However, it’s not enough be good at something. People need to know you exist and have to be reminded why you are the preferable option. Sure, you can try to grow your business through word of mouth referrals but this strategy only has a chance if you have low growth objectives and/or your prospective client base is relatively small and/or there is minimal competitive pressure.
Business is not war. As business leaders we aren’t engaged in a life or death struggle that requires us to win at all costs. We do a disservice to our fellow citizens who are actually engaged in multiple military conflicts to speak or think in this manner. Failure may be painful but it isn’t fatal for us or for our employees. What matters is that we do our best regardless of the circumstances and hold on to our integrity. Our competitors aren’t the enemy, but instead are other companies that exist to keep us honest and force us to keep delivering value to our customers and make wise financial decisions.