Playing the Game at Level 10!
Last year I recorded an episode called Becoming a Market Revolutionary, where I gave you 6 mindsets of what the great Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan, calls Game Changers. I went deep on all of them and, as is typical for me, I changed some of them a bit. I’ve linked to that episode in the blog and the show notes if you want to go back and listen to that episode again. While I am a firm believer in all 6 of those game-changer, or market revolutionary mindsets, and have used every one of them in my businesses, there are 3 that I find myself focusing on almost daily so I thought I’d restate those three in this episode, along with some updated thoughts on each one a year after recording that episode.
The first mindset of market revolutionaries, and really anybody with a prosperity mindset instead of a lack mindset, is that there is no competition for whatever it is you do. Whatever business you’re in, whether you’re an appraiser, an agent, a lender, an accountant, or an Uber driver, as soon as you think in terms of competition you’ve shifted into lack thinking and you’ve focused on them instead of you and your value proposition. Not that it’s a bad thing to study what potential competitors are doing and then reverse engineering it to make it ever better, but an obsession with competing and beating ultimately drives creativity and profitability out of the game. When you focus on competition you are essentially saying that the total market of possibilities is a pie with only so many pieces. If we all want a piece, then the pieces have to get smaller and smaller the more participants and pie eaters there are. What Market Revolutionaries do is simply make a completely new pie, or they make the existing pie bigger. A focus on scarcity eventually turns everything into a war on price driving the profitability into the floor.
I see appraisers, agents, and lenders doing this on a daily basis where their message is essentially, ‘pick me! pick me!, I’m better than that one, I have the lowest fees, the best rates’, etcetera. Innovation is always about pushing for faster, easier, more convenient, cheaper, and better results…always! Innovation doesn’t push for more expensive, slower, and worse experience. Sometimes things end up that way, but that’s because the people playing that game don’t understand what the market of clients and customers is looking for. We see this in the appraisal business in spades. No innovation whatsoever from the appraiser side of the fence, and all of the innovation coming from the client side of the fence. What do the appraisers do? Complain! How dare you change the game on us? What?! You want better, faster, cheaper, and a better experience? How dare you have expectations that align with standard market desires and follow all evolutionary laws of adapt or die! The game is being played with a competition mindset, except that most are playing against the wrong competitors. Most people are looking outward and trying to decide who to shoot at when they should be looking inward and competing against themselves daily to deliver the best ideas and creativity to the people who are paying them.
When you make your business about ideas, creativity, possibility, and competing against your last best time, or your last best product you turn everything into a new game that, most likely, very few others are playing. There is absolutely no scarcity of possibilities and ideas out there, only a scarcity of creativity with a massive side order of complacency. What happens when a market screams for innovation and gets nothing but their own voice echoing back to them? You get commoditization. The market says, ‘fine! You’re not going to innovate and work on how to deliver a better, faster, cheaper, and more creative solution to our problem? Then we’ll commoditize it for you!’
For some reason, every time I talk about commoditization I automatically think of and use the example of shoelaces. They seem like the perfect example of a commodity to me. They’re more or less indistinguishable from a brand standpoint, they’re almost purely utilitarian, they’re relatively inexpensive, you only need them once in a blue moon, and you’re not going to pay $1 more for the exact same thing right next to that you perceive to be the same in every way for $1 less. So, going deeper on shoelaces as a commodity, I am a hater of shoelaces. I hate the idea of, and the act of, bending over to tie shoes. If you ever meet me in person, take a look at my shoes and you will see some form of slip-on shoe. If it’s wintertime and I’m outside I have on a pair of Doc Marten slip on boots or a pair of Cabelas winter boots with a BOA snowboard boot lace system where you just turn a dial and the boots tighten. I loathe the idea that I would do something like tie up my shoes once, and then have to bend down in a parking lot somewhere and tie them again because they’ve come untied. “Well, just double knot them, Blaine!” NO! I don’t want to have to overcompensate for an inferior system and somebody else’s lack of creativity and innovation in shoelace technology! We’ve had 200 years to figure this shit out and only a few innovators have addressed this issue.
Now, you might be tempted to think that, since I only wear slip on shoes, that I go everywhere looking like an outdated and out of touch dad. However, you’d be wrong! I love nice shoes and I like to have some kind of style. So, when I see a nice pair of Ecco sneakers, OnCloud’s, some Johnston and Murphys, or some other really well-built shoe, but it has laces, I still buy them but I replace all of the laces with what I can only imagine was the brainchild of somebody like you or me sitting around railing against the asininity of traditional shoelaces before suddenly having a creative moment. Somebody got innovative at some point and developed shoe laces that are stretchy, they look exactly like traditional shoelaces, except that they stretch. You replace those outdated and ridiculous cloth shoelaces with these little 9th wonders of the world and, voila!, your shoes are now slip-ons, but they retain the look and feel they were originally designed for. Somebody decided they didn’t want to play in the commoditized market of shoestring technology and changed the game with their creativity. Are these laces $3, like traditional shoelaces? Nope! They’re $10 to $15 and I gladly pay it because it solves the problem I have. This particular example is one I’ll talk more about in a bit where the drive for faster, easier, more convenient, and cheaper leads to new opportunities for market revolutionaries to create something that is more expensive that the market gobbles up.
The market for ideas is unlimited, friends! The only limits are the ones you place on your own creativity and innovation mindset. Make your business about ideas and creativity rather than about delivering a commodity. Appraisers are being fooled into believing they, and they’re product, aren’t a commodity because it’s in high demand at the moment, which is true. However, something can be scarce and in high demand and still be a commodity. It’s a commodity if the product and service is indistinguishable between one and another. When one appraisal looks and tastes like another appraisal, and the one creating and delivering that product is a nameless, faceless entity, then it’s starting to look and smell like a commodity where the market will start to only distinguish based on price, speed, and convenience. To take yourself out of that category, you’ve got to become a game changer that thinks from the position of the biggest and worst problems of your clients and your competitors, and then solve them. Make your business about ideas and innovation and there is no competition.
The second thing I think Market Revolutionaries focus on is what I referred to as being a freedom fighter. Freedom fighters are always fighting for 5 areas of freedom. Time freedom, financial freedom, relationship freedom, health freedom, and freedom of purpose. Entrepreneurs venture off on their own to control their own destiny. We might say we went into business to do it better or some other high-minded exclamation, but the innate drive is to have more freedom. As an entrepreneur you should be able to spend your time the way you choose, when you choose to do it, doing things you choose to do, and only with people you choose to do it with. That’s called time freedom and you should be fighting for it with everything you’ve got because time is one of our most precious commodities. If you look at your life and you have no time as a business owner, you may have been better off working for somebody else where you’d get some paid time off, some paid vacation, no weekends, and no hassle. If you’re going to take on the hassles of running a business, time should be one of your greatest rewards.
Financial freedom is something you should be striving for and fighting for because nobody else cares at all about it for you. Without going too deep on the different levels of financial freedom, what I’ll say about this one is that there should be a sense that the money you receive is modest relative to the amount of value you deliver to your clients and customers. Are you helping your clients and customers lead better lives as a result of doing business with you? Are they better with you than without you? When you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to this one, you’re likely on your way to being a financial freedom fighter.
Relationship freedom means spending time only with people you enjoy spending time with and bring value to your life. I get it, sometimes we have to deal with people in business that we wouldn’t choose to spend time with otherwise. What I’m referring to, however, is in the grand sense, not necessarily the occasional rude client or customer. That’s just part of doing business. A market revolutionary fights for the freedom to fire the assholes they no longer want to deal with. A freedom fighter recognizes that clients who cause us stress and anxiety will ultimately lead to an early grave so whatever money they pay isn’t worth the hassle. They get fired and we instantly begin to attract better and more appreciative clients.
Health freedom is exactly as it sounds. You take control of your health and wellness instead of letting the world dictate it for you. There is no such thing as the excuse of, ‘I’m too busy to eat good, workout, and take care of myself’. It’s up to each of us to focus some portion of every day and beating the decline and chasing excellence. The alternative is to continually decline, even if it’s relatively slowly, over time to the point where your life and activities are defined by your inabilities and limitations instead of your abilities, creativity, inspiration, and possibility thinking. I was in a conversation with some friends over dinner last year and the wife of my friend was telling us how her parents, who are in their mid 80’s, just came back from a trip around the world where they went skydiving, mountain biking, and a whole host of other adventures like that…in their 80s! You may not want to do that stuff in your 80’s and that’s just fine, but you don’t want to be limited by your inabilities and lack of mobility. You should want to have the choice to do those things if desired and the best way to guarantee that is by fighting daily for your health.
The last thing market revolutionaries fight for is freedom of purpose. In essence, your purpose should not be dictated or swayed by anybody else’s opinion, agenda, or outside circumstances. There can be no force outside of you that is controlling your growth and expansion. Your creativity cannot be dependent on anybody else’s approval. Get clear on your purpose and become a role model for these 5 areas of freedom.
This last one is a little bit of a disruptor and might rankle some folks, and I’m ok with that. I mentioned in last week’s episode how, if you play any kind of sport, there are times where you end up playing against people or teams who are, in some way, extremely mismatched with your skill level and you end up getting smoked. You lost horribly at that sport. Afterwards, you have the option to be upset about the inequality you experienced, and maybe complain to the officials about it, or you chalk it up to an awesome opportunity to grow. You got beat bad, but you hopefully learned something. Almost all growth opportunities come out of skill disparity experiences, if you are big enough to allow the growth to occur. You faced somebody that raised the stakes of the game and you were either deflated or inspired.
Market revolutionaries raise the stakes and force others to either come up to their level and play the game better or concede and lose. You might keep playing the game at that lower level, but, in essence, by continuing to play at that lower level, you’re losing, and the commoditization process is in effect. The part that can be tough for people to accept is that to be really good in life and business, you have to create some level of inequality. We can’t all be equal in everything. When you’re doing something big in business you’re simply going to create, and also expose, some disparity in skillsets, in abilities, in service levels, and in understanding of the needs of the customers. Those satisfied with mediocrity will be upset. They want it easy. They don’t want anybody raising the stakes and creating disparity. They’d rather lower the standards so that everyone can play and that ultimately leads to a bunch of very low level players entering the game. When low level players enter the game the overall skill level drops and only the outstanding players standout. The question is two-fold: do you lower the standards so that everyone can play, or do you raise the level of play with the hope that others will be inspired to raise their standards and rise to the new level you’ve set. Market Revolutionaries don’t care about equality when it comes to business. They’re in it to disrupt and create disparity. This sounds horrible because when people hear that they conflate creating market and business disparity with creating disparity and inequality in the world. These are two different ideas. That’s not to say that business innovation and disruption hasn’t caused disparity and inequality in the world, that’s just a whole different podcast. What we’re talking about in this episode is how market revolutionaries, those who change the game in an industry, are seeking to create disparity between the way it’s being done and the way they think it should be done. And, by the way, not everyone benefits from this disparity and inequality. There are many in business and in industries who are playing an old and outdated game that their income, their position, their reputation, their pension, their income, and their power is tied to and they’re going to lose that as the game changes. If you ever want to know where the game is being changed, just look for where a bunch of people are complaining and begging for things to go back to the way they were.
The point of innovation is to highlight and multiply those disparities in favor of the customer. The point of business is to multiply inequalities in the direction of productivity, service, product quality, and profitability. Progress is not made by protecting people in their inefficiencies and comfort zones, never! When you protect people in their comfort zones, their inefficiencies, and their weaknesses you make them even weaker. You give them a false sense of protection and comfort because they believe things will never change so they don’t have to either. Market Revolutionaries force people to step up and use their brains and bodies differently. People are forced to use their talents differently when they’re around game changers and some don’t like being pushed. I learned training in Aikido that when pushed most people will push back. It’s innate to want to give force where force is felt and experienced. The philosophy of Aikido is that when pushed to move with the push. Step back and move with the energy of the push, or step to the side and let the energy pass you by. When pushed, pull, and when pulled, move with it. Game changing businesses constantly push people and competitors to be better. You either rise to the new level that’s been created or you choose to continue playing an old game.
Remember earlier when I said that innovation always moves in the direction of faster, easier, cheaper, and better results for the customer? Well, that hasn’t changed in the 26 minutes it’s taken to get to this point, but what it does is that it also creates an opportunity for new ways of doing business where cheaper is not the solution. In fact, when the game changes, there is always breakthrough opportunities to be the most expensive high-quality provider of products and services. With faster, easier, and cheaper comes more disparity for the market to clearly distinguish the differences between the low-cost, low-quality provider and the high cost, high quality provider. When there is disparity because somebody is changing the game, there is greater opportunity to show the market why the most expensive is the most expensive. If the most expensive ends up being the best choice because it delivers more value than its cost, then you become the premier provider of products and services, if that’s what you choose to do.
Until next week, my friends, I’m out…