Race from the Bottom, or Raise to the Top


Not long ago I moved back to the town I grew up in, and the (unfortunately mandatory) issue of home security and burglar alarm had to be solved.

This is one of few cases where the goal is not necessarily to win, but to work yourself up from the bottom.

You may not have to keep up with the very best of the Joneses, but you have to be slightly ahead of the worst. The place you do not want to be is last.

Essentially, if you don’t have a home security system, you are the wounded gazelle, and the first to fall when predators attack. Just like hyenas target the weakest or slowest individual of the herd, burglars target the home with the weakest security. The job of your home security system is to make sure they go for the Joneses home and not yours.

Of course, having the best, most advanced and most expensive system in your neighborhood is not a bad thing, but once you’re no longer dead last you no longer have to race, you’re already safe.

Please forgive me for simplifying the matter so blatantly, we all understand that this is not entirely true, neither for gazelles nor home security systems. Burglars can raid more than one house in a neighborhood, and there may be other factors than just the your security gadgets. But you get the point; once you work your way up the hierarchy just a few steps, you’re much better off than you were before.

Now compare this with raising to the top. You and your company are doing well, and every year you’re climbing the ladder. One by one, you pass your competitors. The wording is beginning to feel appropriate; you’re not racing, you are raising.

So, what does this mean to you then?

Hopefully not much, since I’m confident you’re not dead last in your competitive space. If you are, you should not be reading this, you have work to do. But here’s food for thought; What if, when faced with a decision that will affect the future of your business or your personal career, you ask yourself “Is this a race decision or a raise decision?”

Most of the time you’ll find that the answer is a raise decision, and only a few times will you find yourself in a race situation. But how you act in those situations can be very different, and attacking a race situation like it was a raise situation, or vice versa, may have you end up in trouble.

For instance, if I were to handle my home security system like it was a raise situation would have ended with me getting a (too) simple solution from the start, putting me in a vulnerable position. And then, given I manage to stay in business, I would upgrade my system a little every year, until I eventually find myself with the most advanced system in town. This would come at a greater cost than necessary, as I now surpassed the point where any burglar would even consider raiding my tool shed. Those things are expensive.

Likewise, if a raise situation is handled like a race situation, you may find yourself burned out from exhaustion without having achieved much to show for it. If your business is healthy and growing at a sustainable rate, but you mistake the situation for a race, it may result in irrational decisions that strains your organization.

I’ll leave it to you to come up with a good example, as an exercise. Why not look at your own organization or personal career for inspiration.

And hey, if you come up with a good one, why not shoot me a line and tell me about it?

All the best.

(Feature photo: Kerry O’Connor)

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