1. Make a big move when you still have the chance
I fancy myself a pretty solid poker player. You can’t control chance, but when it comes to strategy, mind-games, and psychological warfare, I’d put myself up against most of my peers. The stakes are always high - though I haven’t played for money in years, eternal glory is always on the line. I fight hard from the start, honing in on as many chips as I can accumulate early in the game; having an early lead gives you confidence, and he who has the most chips tends to run the table.
A few weeks ago I was playing with six of my buddies. As always, I tried to win my early lead, but found myself floundering: to my right, JC had a much larger stack from the start. Next Jeremy, sitting across the table from JC, won a couple of rounds back to back. Before you knew it the two of them were running the table as the rest of us slowly bled out.
All of a sudden, I found myself in a position that was very uncomfortable for me - I was playing from behind! It was painful watching my already small pile get smaller…and smaller…and smaller. And despite all my know-how, jaw-jacking and poker prowess, my stack totally vanished and I was busted within the first hour of playing. ETERNAL GLORY WAS LOST!
Being a man who likes to learn from my mistakes, I later asked a friend (who's a much better card player than me), "So if you fall behind pretty early in a game of poker, does that basically mean it's over for you?"
He answered, "Mark, you didn't lose because you fell behind early on, you lost because you didn't make a big move when you still had the chance.”
He spoke truth: towards the end of the game when I had very few chips left, I had no problem going all-in; after all, I had little to risk. My "big move” was wildly successful, and managed to double my chip stack...from $5 to $10. But that doesn’t mean much when the chip leaders at the table had close to $80.
What I should have done...
I should have made a big move while I still had enough chips for it to make a difference. Moving from $20 to $40 would have kept me competitive, but I was still playing on the defensive at that point, holding onto what I was afraid to lose.
I thought back to high school football.
My freshman year, my friend John & I were competing to be starting fullback, but due to ankle injuries I didn't get a ton of playing time. He got better and I fell behind.
Sophomore year was decent, and I started about a third of the games. But overall, he got better and I still inched along.
Junior year I played varsity; I was now competing with my class and the seniors. Finally one day I had my ‘big move’: I had a fantastic game and ran for nearly one hundred yards! The game earned me some recognition and praise, but the problem was I had already fallen so far behind, I was never seen as anything past the practice squad. I never got really competitive ever again...always to be remembered as the best 3rd string full back in the western suburbs of Chicago.
2. Stop trying to "keep up"
When I built my direct sales business, there were a few peers I was running with in Chicagoland and the surrounding areas. I was 21 at the time and these people were more established than me in life…they were a few years older, had better jobs, better finances, and better networks. And so they began to pull ahead a little faster initially.
I wanted to keep up, but I knew I never would if all I ever tried to do was ‘keep up’. I wouldn’t repeat high school football this time and wait to make my big move - these running mates were still just inches ahead, but soon they’d be uncatchable. I put my head down, worked hard, and sought out coaching and guidance from the best mentors I had access to.
I didn't end up catching up to my peers...I ended up beating them to our common goal.
Some people have a very competitive spirit while others don't, but I think we all have a desire to not be left behind. We all know the benefits of working with a great team, having people to run with in life, and goals to hit together.
If you're in a situation where you're starting a new endeavor...
say in a team environment (job, business, sport, etc.), be sure to keep an eye on this...
In almost every scenario, there are a handful of people at the same level of talent, skill, experience and productivity...if everyone moved forward together at the same time there would be a lot of shared benefit from group dynamics and success stories.
But inevitably someone will make a move first. Then typically a second person catches up (or comes close). And the rest are left watching. Those handful that were not the first to move aren't out of the game though. If they make a big move NOW they can still catch up and run with the original two that broke out of the pack. But if they wait too long, those first two will separate themselves out so far they’ll start to seem like they are playing in a totally different league. They stop motivating their peers because the growing gap seems just too wide to cross. Which means those left behind miss out on going to the next level with their friends.
Even worse, they stay stuck and never move on.
3. Be one of the front runners
Your success is 100% dependent on you...
but take advantage of great team dynamics if you're fortunate enough to be in a productive and competitive growth environment.
Be one of the front runners, or if someone else has already claimed that spot, make your BIG move the moment you feel like you're falling behind. Don't wait ONE SECOND
You have three options:
1) Create the wave.
2) Catch the wave.
3) Miss the wave.
The decision is yours, and the results are too.