Usually, there’s not as much competition in business as people think.
But when the time comes that two companies do directly compete, it takes on the characteristics of a poker game. Does the company that makes the better product or service always win out? Not necessarily. In a complex world, that’s just one of many factors. Sometimes people will fold a winning hand.
The key to winning a direct, head-to-head competition in business, like in poker, is to consistently present your opponent with difficult decisions. Give him the opportunity to make mistakes, and in the long run, he will.
You have to be aware of what you are representing, i.e. what inferences your opponent draws from your actions. In poker theory, we call this 3rd level thinking.
Thinking on the first level means only thinking about your cards. You play the hand you are dealt in a straightforward manner. This is akin to that clean, theoretical view of business in which the company that builds a better mousetrap always wins.
Thinking on the second level means thinking about the cards your opponent has. This is the first strategic level.
Thinking on the third level means that now you consider what cards your opponent thinks you have. The question to consider on this level of thinking is “what do my actions tell my opponent?” By understanding this, you can present him with difficult decisions.
On those rare occasions when businesses compete head-to-head, where differentiation is not the deciding factor, the more capable strategist will win. By consistently presenting your competitor with difficult decisions, giving him the opportunity to make mistakes, you give yourself the best chance to win.
DollarShaveClub.com is just really cool. These guys took a really simple concept, filled a need, and created an eminently well-done viral marketing campaign to promote it. I signed up, for what it’s worth. I hope these guys make a mint off this!
If you sign up, use this link and I’ll get a couple of free razor blades!
Like most people, I struggle with procrastination. My personal battle toward the shimmering ideal of perfect productivity has been raging for several years. As the old saying goes: I’m not where I want to be, but I’m sure as hell not where I used to be.
I’m a big fan of Getting Things Done, the comprehensive workflow management system invented by David Allen. It’s pure genius. For those of you not familiar with it, the basic premise is to capture all of your open loops into a single list. An open loop is any obligation you have: getting your oil changed, booking a hotel for your upcoming vacation, drafting a business proposal, or building a multi-billion dollar corporate empire–anything you have decided to do and haven’t yet done. The big ones get broken down until you are left with a list of physical actions you can accomplish right now: go to JiffyLube for oil change, research vacation rentals in Aspen, draft outline of proposal, etc.
Most people end up with fifty to a couple hundred “next actions” on their list. There’s more to it than that, and I highly recommend you read the book to get the full system. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really it’s the easiest and most functional system of organizing obligations I’ve come across. Read the book and try the capturing process just once. You’ll be hooked.
The biggest benefit I have derived thus far is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that nothing slips through the cracks. As soon as I mentally note that I have some kind of obligation, I capture it in my inbox and put it on my list (which I maintain on my iPhone). It takes only seconds, and ensures that I’m not constantly wasting mental energy worrying whether or not there’s something I’ve forgotten to do. It frees me to fully focus on the task in front of me.
So I have my list of next actions perfectly captured and organization. But the one thing GTD can’t help you do is to actually do your next actions. I’ve found that on this massive list of actions I could do right now, I tend to either do the ones that are easiest/most enjoyable, or to default to the ones toward the top of the list. Soon, there accumulates within my list a “dead zone” of actions that have been sitting there for weeks (or sometimes months) un-done for no good reason. Eventually, it’s as if my eye stops seeing them as I’m scrolling through my list looking for things to do. And the system loses a little bit of its integrity.
So here’s the solution I found. I got an accountability partner. Each night, we send each other an email with a handful of things we commit to do the next day. I choose things that have been on my list for too long, or things that because of their nature I would be likely to put off. I don’t send him things like appointments, which I’m already committed to do and have accountability for. Or things that I really enjoy; there’s already incentive there. I’m looking to nip procrastination in the bud by “calling my shot” and declaring that I will do something difficult that I would not otherwise be inclined to do. It’s a difficult discipline, but immensely worthwhile.
The next evening, we either talk on the phone or text to let the other person know how we did that day. If one of us didn’t get an item done, we explain why. That’s it.
It seems simple, but it has worked wonders for both of us. We’ve been doing this for almost two months now, and they have been two of the most productive months of my life. I know have a functional way to be proactive about avoiding procrastination. I can’t say enough about the positive effects this has had for me and my accountability partner.
If you struggle with procrastination, why not try something bold and new to overcome that? Find someone to hold you accountable. And apart from the caveat that in this case, it does help to be working on similar goals, follow the guidelines in my earlier post on accountability partners. Good luck to you!
There are two types of people in the world: beach people, and mountain people. I am a beach person.
Growing up, I got to spend a week or two every summer with my family in Perdido Key, Florida. With crystal-clear water and pure, sugar-white sand as far as the eye can see, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
For my family, going to the beach was the highlight of our year. We looked forward to it for months in advance. Around February, we’d book our reservation and start a countdown. And as soon as we got home, we’d start planning our trip for next year. After my older sisters went to college and moved away, our yearly trip turned into an opportunity for the whole family to reunite and relive some of the memories we had created in summers past.
And to create new ones, too. Many of the memories I will treasure as long as I live took place on those beaches. My sister Laura screaming at the top of her lungs when she rode the Sky Coaster in Gulf Shores, as the rest of us laughed uncontrollably on the ground below. The Fourth of July fireworks on Pensacola Beach. The go-cart mishap with my brother-in-law. My niece Ellie taking her first steps. My mom breaking her leg and having to be carted around on the sand in a gigantic wheelchair that looked like a Dr. Seuss creation. Watching the news in our condo as OJ Simpson fled the police in his white Bronco. My sister flying in from Chicago to surprise us one year when we thought she wouldn’t be able to make it. My best friend Peter getting sunburned so bad he couldn’t even take a shower, after stubbornly insisting he didn’t need sunscreen the first day of the vacation. My whole family coming to visit me after I moved to Pensacola. And something that I will merely refer to as the chicken-friend salmon incident…
Memories aside, that vacation was an invaluable time to step back from the world and get perspective. It was a time to reflect on the previous year and create a vision for the coming year–a time to ask the big questions in life: How am I different than the last time I was here? What do I want out of life? Where do I want to be this time next year? Will this rash go away on its own, or should I see a doctor?
Every year after my time at the beach, I’d come away refreshed and ready to attack the coming year with renewed enthusiasm and clarity of purpose.
As you can see, these vacations were precious to me and my family. The driving force behind this business is my passion for sharing that vacation experience with others. Everyone should have a time like that, where they can get away from the routine of their world and relax, reset, and reconnect with their loved ones.
This vision excites me as an entrepreneur because I see a need in the market that hasn’t been met. And it excites me as a man because I know I’m serving others and meeting needs in their lives. Vacations are anything but trivial; they have been transformative in my life, and I hope that they will be transformative for my customers as well.