Do you remember hearing the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare.” If it’s been a long time, I’ll enlighten you: this is the fable where a cocky and arrogant Hare and a shy, yet seemingly always prepared Tortoise, line up to prove who will win in a foot race.
The starter’s pistol fires and the Hare flies out to a quick lead. With what seems like an insurmountable lead, the Hare gets distracted, bored, and for some reason that goes unexplained, sleepy. Knowing he is confidently miles ahead of his combatant, the Hare elects to take a mid-race catnap. Meanwhile, the Tortoise, whose personal mantra from the very beginning has been “slow and steady wins the race,” continues to plug and slug along, step-by-step and move-by-move. As the Hare snoozes away, the Tortoise slowly overtakes him, inch-by-inch and mile-by-mile. Within moments of the Tortoise reaching the finish line, the Hare abruptly awakens in shock! With all of the might, mind, and strength this bunny can summon, he plunges to cross the tape before his rival.
Sadly, it is to no avail; as the saying goes, it was too little too late. The Tortoise steps across just moments before the Hare and stoutheartedly declares “Slow and steady does indeed win the race!”
You might not know it, but the author and entrepreneur Grant Cardone (@GrantCardone) refers to a different version of the famed Tortoise and the Hare narrative. It’s the one where the Hare doesn’t take a nap. He remains disciplined and focused throughout the entire race and smokes the Tortoise every single time. You can see your own adaptation of this in the present day: it’s called Amazon (Hare) vs. Yahoo (Tortoise); or Facebook (Hare) vs. MySpace (Tortoise); or Netflix (Hare) vs. Blockbuster (Tortoise). A Hare wins most often when they can push themselves to a level of discomfort consistency day-after-day for it is through discomfort that we achieve breakthroughs. Those Hares just mentioned pushed themselves harder and faster, especially when others said “you should really slow down,” or “you’re going too fast.” Those Hares proved them all wrong.
This is why entrepreneurship isn’t for you.
Though I understand the value of teaching young children the principle of taking things at pace, sometimes as adults, entrepreneurs, and leaders many people apply the Tortoise principle which causes people to set themselves up for failure.
People spend hours planning and very little time executing. In their definitive book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy, they said:
“When companies fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequent explanation is that the CEO’s strategy was wrong. But the strategy by itself is not often the cause. Strategies most often fail because they aren’t executed well. Things that are supposed to happen don’t happen.”
Hares know how to execute; Hares are willing to obsess over it.
This is why entrepreneurship isn’t for you.
People will often hide in terms of “Thinking Strategically,” “Sustainable Planning,” or
“researching,” when the real problem could really just be fear of failure. They hide in offices rather than “getting out and doing the real work” as Jack Welch always said.
Are we instilling in our children a fear of failure? As Tony Robbins teaches when a toddler is learning to walk, do we tell them to stop trying every time they fall over? Of course not! We tell them to keep trying over and over again until they walk on their own. We refuse to let them give up. We make them act like a Hare. But somewhere between the ages of four and adulthood, we push them, and encourage them, to act like Tortoises.
Are there risks to running too quickly? Of course. Is there pain when pushing yourself to levels of discomfort? Yes. But again, that’s how Hares learn and grow. I’ve quoted him before in other similar posts and it fits again here:
Leadership author, Bill Eckstrom, teaches in his brilliant TEDx talk:
“Comfort will ruin your life.”
(Go watch his TEDx talk it’s amazing)
But again, this is why entrepreneurship isn’t for you.
As I learned from one of my mentors, sales guru and serial entrepreneur Bubba Page (@Bubbapage), when he took his first startup Launch Leads to Utah’s Fastest Growing Companies list and later the Inc. 5000, “Speed matters. Always be the first one. Especially, the first one to make the call. Even if they hang up. Hustle always wins.” Hares aren’t afraid of failure. Hares always hustle.
Some tactical advice from the smartest Hares out there:
Harvey Schachter, contributor to @globeandmail suggests:
List your priorities on one hand: As a leader, or even as a company, we can overload easily. We will have a ton of priorities, all with competing metrics, reports, and data. All of this creates noise. Brandon Webb, entrepreneur, best-selling author of the book Total Focus, and Navy Seal, says to have a healthy obsession with your top priorities. Always help your team keep the most important thing the most important thing
Robin Speculand (@speculand), the best-selling business author of the book Excellence in Execution: How to Implement Your Strategy, said,
Increase visibility when championing change: Really challenge yourself if you need to reporting meeting. Ask yourself if certain reports were not sent out for six months, would anyone really notice? Remind yourself, that during any type of change or implementation, you as the leader need to be the most visible. Everything else can be delegated, only visibility cannot be.
Ivan de Souza, Richard Kauffeld, and David van Oss, leadership Guru’s suggest teams strive to achieve what is called Collective Mastery. This essential piece of execution is where everyone on the execution team has a cultural understanding of not only what must be done, but why it is so important. Researchers Kauufeld, van Oss, and de Souza said they found this only in companies where:
“communication is fluid, open, and constant. [The] strategists understand what will work or not work because they talk easily with functional specialists. Your functional specialists know not only what they’re supposed to do, but why it matters. Everyone moves quickly and decisively because they have the ingrained judgment to know who to consult, and when. People trust one another to make decisions on behalf of the whole.”
Collective Mastery is a cultural phenomenon that is the glue that makes execution happen. It makes super Hares.
I know there are plenty of situations where a well thought out plan and strategy are executed well. I know many times people sprinted too quickly and got burned. But those exceptions don’t alter the main point: Hares win. They win in sports, they win in poker, they win in business, they win in startups, they win in marriages, they win in working out, they win in staying healthy, and they win in life.
Pushing yourself to your level of discomfort, and staying disciplined to stay there consistently, will win the race.
But being a Hare, and an Entrepreneur is hard.
Which is why few people ever choose it or do it right.
So the real question is:
Is Entrepreneurship for you?
Only you and your behavior can answer that.