There is a story that I tell to all my executive coaching clients. It’s an old story. One you heard as a child. A hare and a tortoise decided to race. The hare had the potential, but the tortoise had the discipline. As the hare stopped for a break, the tortoise went past him and eventually won the race. When I heard this story years ago, it demonstrated the fact that we could work slowly, but if we are disciplined, we will eventually get there. We now know that we need both efficiency and discipline if we expect to make it. But let’s look at that story again. Suppose the real message from that story is “when your competition is taking a break, that’s the time to put in your best effort.”
When I was in college, I had opportunity to fight on the college’s karate team. The trainer we had working with the group indicated that most of the time, fighters come out and try to “feel” the other fighter out before they do anything significant. And yet, years of experience indicate that the first part of the fight is the best time to give it your all, while your competition is still sizing up the situation. It’s a fact that the NFL Super Bowl is most often won by the team that scores first. He who draws first blood… wins.
The beginning, that’s the time to really put in your best effort because you can catch them, sleeping. Now I wasn’t one of the strongest fighter’s on the team and I often made up for that by being incredibly slow. So catching my opponent sleeping sounded like a really good idea to me. Sounds like one of those ‘duh’ statements doesn’t it. The best time to get ahead is when everyone else is taking a break. If the competition has decided to take it easy, why not take advantage of the situation by putting in your best effort?
Now there’s another benefit to working hard when the competition is taking a break. Your greater effort creates an impression in the minds of others. The football great Walter Payton was known for having a personal pre-season conditioning program that was simply grueling. It was a highly publicized effort that capitalized on the saying “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Payton spent hours working hard before everyone else got to camp making sure he was ready for the season. I wonder what affect that had on would-be tacklers during the season? I wonder if they pulled up just a little before the impact with the thought “if he’d do that to himself, what’s he willing to do to me” rolling around in their heads?
Your greater effort, during everyone else’s rest time will put all kinds of impressions in the minds of superiors, clients and most of all your competition. While your competition is throwing in the proverbial towel, you are going to position yourself so that when they wake up, they can’t possibly catch up. Just remember this quote that I saw recently on a T-shirt. “If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” So let’s make a decision to be the lead dog.
About the Author:
Art Jackson is a professional speaker, executive coach and the President of Eagles Nest Performance Management, Inc. He is a recognized expert in the areas of leadership, performance improvement and interpersonal skills. Art is the originator of the Purpose Centered Leadership(TM) system that has been used to improve performance in many facets of public and private life.
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