Looking for the Edge

Michael Shukis

Looking for the Edge


A good way to feel like you're missing out is to constantly look for new things to do. There is information everywhere waiting for you to come looking. You can't escape all the new and exciting things. There are rabbit holes everywhere waiting for you to fall in. Not that going down all rabbit holes is bad, but too many is trouble. More information is not always better. More can be bad. In the wrong hands, more information is a distraction. And you don't even know it. At least not yet.

New things have never been easier to find. Think about it. Phones shove information in your face at frightening speeds. Social media provides second-by-second updates of stuff you didn't know you needed. Your friends tell you what they're doing, making you feel like you need to do it too. More information means more confusion, leaving you less confident and more confused. Simple decisions are harder to make. And you are less effective.

Looking for more information or an "edge" over the competition is a bad place to start. It's a heavy burden to carry–a constant pressure you apply to yourself. New information makes you feel like things should be better. For no reason other than you see different things. It makes you feel like what you're doing isn't good enough. Like things need to change. But you don't know why. You see things done differently so you feel like you're wrong. The more you look for new things, the more you feel the need to change. This is a dangerous cycle. Constant change never leads to consistent results.

I'm not saying that new information is bad or that you shouldn't look for ways to learn. Lifelong learning is important. You should look for ways to be better. Good leaders learn something new every day. But be careful of the reason you're looking for new information. Understand that new doesn't mean better. What you're doing now might be exactly right. And just because someone else is doing something doesn't mean you should too. Or that it's right. You learned that lesson in grade school. Follow it.

Look for ways to be better, but do it with caution. New information should be compared to what you already know. Before you change, think. Think about what you do well. Consider the new information. Does it improve what you do? Can you see a reason to change? If you do, change. If not, don't. Never change to change. Change can be good. But change can be bad.

Copying others is a mistake. This happens all the time in sports. Coaches see successful teams so they want to do what they do. The practice plans. The drills they do. The plays they run. The words they say. Coaches do this so they can copy "successful" teams. They let results distract them. If a team wins, they are assumed to be successful. When winning teams do something, others try to copy. Or they are pressured to copy. Leaders ask, "This (winning) team does this, Why don't you?" That question leads to disaster.

But copying someone never helps. If you copy, you don't know one critical piece of information: the reason why. Someone who copies is imitating, not thinking. Anyone can copy. Few can think. Few can create. And even fewer understand what is happening. When things go wrong, you don't want to be the coach or leader that copies. Copiers are caught flat-footed. Their teams are in big trouble because they don't have a copied plan for their specific situation. It's better to be the person creating plans and thinking things through. You'll know the reason why. And you'll be able to adjust if needed. As a result, your team will be better.

New information is good if it doesn't distract you. Comparing yourself to others is the way to fall behind. When you focus on beating the competition, they will beat you. Competitors want you to focus on them. It's the best distraction. Instead of focusing on what you need to do each day–like your competition does–you try to beat others. The better team focuses on what they control–their actions and attitudes. Winners focus on the process of getting better. Losers focus on what others are doing. Focusing on the process leads to victory over those distracted by the prize.

tags: choices,leadership,coaching

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