This morning on the way to drop my son off at school – we were talking about only worrying about ourselves and doing our best. I think all adults would agree this is a good thing to practice as a kid. He’s in 2nd grade and like many kids his age – he’s noticing that some kids are faster and some get better grades. We talk often about taking our time – forgetting about the other kids – and just doing the best we can do. It takes a long time to learn and I think it’s because not worrying about others requires focus and confidence. Two things that a typical 2nd grader doesn’t yet have. But anyway – he’ll get there.
So let’s fast forward 10 years and pretend he has done well and has been accepted by a university and will attend business school – like I did. In business school and in business – he will slowly be taught to forget what he has learned as a kid – and to worry about what other people are doing and to over analyze the competition. Literally – projects will require in depth analysis of what other companies are doing.
Business school tried to teach me to think a lot about competition and how what I was going to offer stacked up against other people and other companies. And maybe because I was still a kid at heart – I had a really hard time thinking that was important. It’s almost as if fear was the reason I was supposed to do this. It didn’t make sense to waste any time thinking about what other people are doing. And maybe that’s why my grades mostly sucked.
So at the very end – my entire business school experience culminated with a group project in a business management class where we created a business plan for a make believe business. We were required to do the proven (yet very tired) SWOT analysis and utlimately give a stressful presentation to our class at the end of the semester – detailing who was out there that might threaten us and how we would compete in that market. Our grade in the class was determined by how well we did on that final project. All that hard work in trying to identify threats to what we were going to do and weaknesses in our approach and comparing ourselves to other people who had their own reason for being in business was just so lame. I really can’t believe I went through with it. Thank goodness I did not carry this strategy with me after I graduated.
Looking back I find it ironic that when I was a kid, like my son, I was taught to only worry about myself – and that was a really tough thing to do. Then as an adult in college (and beyond) I was taught to worry about others and over analyze the competition – which was very easy for me NOT to do. Weird. Maybe I just don’t like to be told what to do and how to do it? Could be.
Moral of that story? I am not sure – but I think it’s that you really don’t have to care about what other people are doing in order to be successful.