Your Most Important Competitive Advantage...
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Everyone is offering to sell you the "secrets" to gaining a competitive advantage...
It might be a book - you can scroll through Amazon's options until your fingers bleed and not come to the end of the books that have "competitive advantage" in their title. It might be a seminar - Google the term "Competitive Advantage Seminar" and there are almost 40 million results. Maybe it's just an idea - broaden your search to simply "Competitive Advantage" and the results jump to more than half a billion. Your could make your eyeballs bleed if you are inclined to chase down that rabbit hole.
We all want to find a way to be a better competitor, because unless you have a monopoly on a product or service, your business is a competition with others and you don't always win. We want to succeed in the competition for more and better customers and enjoy the financial rewards that more and better customers bring. No one launched their business with the idea of just surviving - we want to win and we are looking for the competitive advantages that will make winning possible.
Humans are hard wired to look for competitive advantage but we are often guilty of believing that there is a "secret" or shortcut that will give us that edge. Why go to the gym for hours when 12 - 15 minutes of your favorite "ab stimulator" can give you the same results? Think of how much extra time you would have on your hands while still getting "swole"?
If you have any inclination to believe the claims found on the "Magical Space" website (follow a link at your own peril), you are actually all-too-normal!
Here's the deal; to get what we want is going to take hard work and discipline. Hard work is by definition - hard! And, it's also work! Discipline is doing the hard work properly, at the appropriate time and repeatedly until we get the desired results. We seldom achieve what we desire the first time out... if we do, that is called "luck" and it's seldom repeatable.
Back to our body building example. If you somehow believe that the models in the photos above achieved their results by using the "Abdominal Muscle Stimulator Trainer EMS Abs Fitness Equipment Training Gear Muscles Electrostimulator Toner", they will gladly take your money and (hopefully) ship your product to you (from Changsha, China) and you will then learn a valuable life lesson - there ain't no such thing as a free lunch!. On the other hand, if you can make yourself do the hard work of building up the stamina to do 100 sit-ups, with the proper form, over a number of days, weeks and months - you will slowly begin to see results.
Some readers are aware of my personal goal to run at least 1,000 miles a year. I picked that goal nearly 13 years ago(!) and as of the date of this post, have put in 14,857 miles on the board. According to the Nike Run Club app I use to keep track of this activity, my average run only 3.49 miles in distance. That's not really spectacular compared to many runners I know but while its not a very long distance, my app says I've run 4,252 times during that ~13 years. So, as was noted in Aesop’s fables about 2,500 years ago, "Slow and steady wins the race." Since I prefer to run outside I've had to develop the discipline to "get out there" on good days and bad, and display the proper execution complete the run without injury or inflicting harm upon myself.
Over the ~13 years I have kept track of my mileage goal I have: run in the dark (with a headlight), run in the rain, run in the snow, run in the heat, run on a treadmill, run around an airport (waiting for my flight), run (many times) around the deck of a cruise ship, run before the crack of dawn, run before the stroke of midnight, run on multiple continents, run in many countries, run in many states. I share this because the only competitive advantage I have over is that I have (somehow) developed a discipline and mastered the execution required to rack up what might appear to be an impressive number of miles over time.
For readers who are sports lovers, you might be familiar with Army’s current head football coach, Jeff Monken. When Monken recently commented on his team's winning record, he said this: “We’re never going to be the most talented team on the field...” The reporters responded by asking him, "So how come they’re playing so well?" and Monken's answer was less than spectacular: "Discipline and execution".
If you can’t hire the best talent (and almost nobody can every time), you’re going to have to compete on execution and discipline.
Discipline and execution are the true competitive advantage that is always within your budget and always within your reach. There are no shortcuts to developing these competitive advantages, so what would happen if you decided to stop looking for the next "secret" and focused on your true competitive advantage?
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