This past week we picked up a new family game called Fluxx Marvel edition. Super fun and highly recommended. It’s a fast paced game with constantly changing goals keeping everyone on their toes while teaching mental agility and focus. Add Marvel super heroes and it can’t miss.
Playing the game with 3 of my kids offered a teaching moment. The Two younger kids focused on each other, stealing each other’s cards, trying to make sure the other doesn’t win. The oldest focused on the game’s objective and won consistently.
After a few turns of this I showed the kids the picture above. It’s from the 2016 olympics where Michael Phelps edged rival Chad Le Clos to win the gold in the 200m butterfly.
I was sent this picture by Jean Bays after an interview in which she asked me how I feel about everything I built at Nevro. I told her I haven’t looked around, I was too focused on winning and that there would be a day for looking around. That reminded her of this picture and she sent it to me as a follow up to the interview.
Back to the kids. I showed them this picture and asked them what they saw. They needed a little help to recognize that one swimmer, Phelps, was looking forward while the other, Le Clos, was looking at this competitor. One was focused on winning, the other on the competition. The very dynamic that was happening in our game of Fluxx. The kids took the lesson on board and gameplay improved dramatically.
Personally, this is the keeping up with the joneses lesson. Focusing on others instead of our own success and happiness detracts from happiness. Practicing gratitude, helping others, and focusing on our own goals will produce personal meaning and happiness.
Professionally it’s of course critical to be aware of and adjust for competition. But no one is winning by co-opting another firm’s strategy. Focusing on differentiation that’s value adding to your customers as supported by your unique resources and activities is key to strategy. Further it’s been my experience that too many firms focus on short term drivers rather than long term value. Peeking too much in your competitor’s direction is a sure fire way to lose sight of the long term vision for your product and company and drive you to short term reactionary activities. There’s a vast difference between the necessary awareness of the competitive landscape and focus that diverts away from your own strategy and long term success.
So focus on the goal. Don’t get caught looking around. As for me, I finally got a chance to take Ferris Bueller’s advice. Life does move pretty fast and if you don’t look around once in a while, you could miss it. I finally got my chance to look around and I couldn’t be more proud of what I built and more importantly the lives I’ve touched.