Saturday, February 14, 2015

Seduced by Success

Errol Stewart was a legend old boy from the school I went to. He played rugby for our provincial rugby side, and represented South Africa in cricket at well. In 1995 he won the Currie cup with the Natal Sharks rugby side and the Currie cup with the Natal Dolphins cricket side. At school, he also made the provincial teams for hockey and athletics. As sport has become more professional it is unlikely that these sorts of feats will be repeated. David Epstein takes a look at some of the reasons that we have 'gotten better, faster and stronger'. While specialisation does improve our focus, and arguably makes sports more entertaining, I quite like the idea of a goal independent of competition. A goal which doesn't require complete specialisation.



I spoke of yesterday of the communication challenges that come from filtering. The more we specialise, the more difficult it is to talk to each other. We share less context. We do need some brave souls to venture out to that lonely edge to find truths to bring back. For most people though, the ideal should not be to be unique. Unique for unique's sake is overrated. The focus then becomes on what others are doing in and semi-paranoid search for words to describe what your competitive advantage is. I believe in a search for competitive advantage. In its place. I love finding companies that I think do something great and have some sort of barrier to entry to protect their ability to carry on doing well. They make great investments. I don't think that is where happiness lies. What you are good at should be an engine for you to explore the things that are worth doing, not because you are the best, but because they are worth doing. Make your excellence your muse, not your prison. Sometimes the most efficient use of your time isn't the best use of your time.

I think we need to be careful of being seduced by the comfort of things we do well. We need to be careful of being seduced by things that can easily be measured. It makes life more comfortable once we get onto a path that we get a sense we are good at. We get on a roll and get better and better. We start to hum like a well oiled machine. We are not machines. Time can pass and you can realise you have been doing something really well but a whole bunch of other things that were important to you have been missed. They never screamed loud enough to get attention. They just waited for you.

 

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