3 July 2014

Have you ever found yourself, part way through a particularly difficult challenge, momentarily wondering, “Why didn’t I just do something easy?”

roadsignIt’s at this junction that I’d bring in the words of the English writer and programmer Paul Graham, who wrote about start-ups and the ways they can use difficulty to help them make decisions. He asked his readers: “Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs, his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you, but even harder for him.”

Whilst I don’t like the idea of running away from a bully, the metaphor still makes sense, reminding us that it’s wise to look at what the competition lacks and utilise your strengths to maximise on that, even if it’s going to take some effort. Respecting your opponents is important, but so is not allowing yourself to see them as stronger than you. Identify what they are best at; then beat them at it.

Ultimately, if you’re willing to take a harder road than they are – one that takes you up a steep track rather than a flat path – you will often find yourself at a better destination. This isn’t to suggest you should overcomplicate things, far from it. It is simply a reminder that when you make it to the top of a mountain, the view is, more often than not, totally worth the effort it took to get you there. Enjoy the challenge!

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