Saturday, 24 January 2015

Billy’s Thirty-Ninth Law: Stretching is Important

The biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
·       Mark Zuckerberg
It is important to stretch ourselves both entrepreneurially and personally.   This law actually comes via my High School Wrestling coach, Sam Scorda.  I spent my senior year with a wrestling partner who was not nearly as good as was I.  Coach told me time after time that if I didn’t practice against someone who was better than I was then I would never improve.  It was so much easier wrestling against Collins.  I won every drill in practice, but I didn't win every match in meets.  I learned this lesson after high school.  When I played soccer as an adult…I made it a point to always mark the best player on my team during practice. I got beat often, as some of my team mates were former collegiate soccer players.  However, I improved my game…specifically my defensive skills.  I wasn’t necessarily very good…but I did improve my game.
It is the same in business.  Not only do we have to take business risks to find new opportunities, we have to take ‘skill risks’.  This is where we try to learn something new or try something new.  The reason is that we need to learn how to face disruption. 
Many years ago, I taught a three-hour ‘Time Management’ workshop.  The premise of my program was that poor time management practices came from poor habits in one of eight different areas.  In order to change our time efficacy, we must determine which areas created the problems, and then consciously change our behaviour.  Disrupting our habits was the only way to affect change. 
In times of stress, we revert to habit.  This is true in all aspects of our lives.  Some habits are good…such as getting into the habit of exercising or reading for an hour every day.  Even then, our good habits can become…habitual.  I am very habit oriented when it comes to sports.  When I ski…I usually ski the same runs every outing.  I know the runs, I like the runs, and I know them well.  I know where to hold back and where I can really let those skis run.  The problem is that it is hard to improve when you are doing the same runs.  Different runs, especially those with different terrains stretch our skills and abilities. 
To bring this back to business, to change our business we must begin by changing ourselves.  If we do not, we run the risk of missing potential opportunities.  We also run the risk of becoming obsolete.  (For those of us in our later fifties, this is especially difficult as we know our strengths and weaknesses and we know what we like and dislike.)  To thrive is to change and to change we must grow, improve and disrupt ourselves.
Change is hard.  The older we get, the harder it becomes.  Lee Kun-hee of Samsung once famously said, "Change everything except your wife and kids".  This is the kind of flexibility we need in today’s rapidly changing business world.

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