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Every Friday is Wisdom Friday.  It’s just a way for me to share with my readers the little gems of life that I’ve learned either during the week or living life in general.

As much as we like to think that success is a zero-sum game, it isn’t.  Let me explain:

Imagine individual success story in this world is represented by a grain of sand in the Mojave desert.  Each of us have a container to collect our success by filling the container with all the grains of sand it can hold.  Now ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does it matter how big your container is when defining your success?  The answer is, of course, yes!
  2. Does it matter how big your neighbor’s container is when defining your own success?  The answer is NO!

In fact, there’s really no point worrying if your neighbor has a bigger container than you since his container has no impact in your own ability to measure your success.  Besides, there are more than enough sand to go around.  If you want more, then focus on what you can do instead, i.e. get a bigger container.

Remember, success will come from building your own container and filling it, not from shattering what your neighbor has.

No, no, not the practice of eating human flesh — yuck!  I am talking about the term in the business context.  But first, let’s explore the definition of Cannibalism.  According to everything2.com, corporate cannibalism refers to, “a new section of a company ‘eating into’ the revenues of an older section of the same company.”  The site actually goes on to say, ” Competing with yourself is a bad idea.”  Or is it?

But before I go on, I just want to say that I’ve never been trained as a business person, as in I have never taken a business course or gotten an MBA.  But if you think that disqualifies me to make sense of running a business, then I invite you to talk to Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, and my dad.  Anyway, my point is, you don’t necessarily need a business education to run a business.  As a friend of mine who received his MBA from Harvard Business School likes to say, “Education is for the average people.”  But I digress….

I am actually a big fan of corporate cannibalism, and if for no other reason than this: Why give your competitors the benefit of eating your lunch when you can eat your own lunch?  Seriously — think about that for a moment.  Let’s imagine we are back in the 50s, and your company dominates the market in two-way radio transmitters.  That’s the cash cow and the bread and butter of your company; in other words, that’s your lunch.  Now if you don’t have the audacity to eat your own lunch by inventing something that works better than two-way radio transmitters such as cell phones, guess who will?  Your competitors!  And if their products actually work better than yours, guess who is going to suffer?  You!

I know that’s a very simplistic way of looking at a very complex picture, but I like simplicity because it gets the point across.  More importantly, I simplified it because I think the concept equally applies to the individual.  A lot of people fear losing their job, so they actively try to crowd out their competitors within the same company.  Their thinking usually goes something like this: If I am the only one who can do this job, then they can’t fire me.  But they fail to think of it this way: If I am the only one who can do this job, then I will never be promoted because I will be stuck doing this job forever.  A better approach in my opinion is to cannibalize your own job by learning new skill sets while at the same time training somebody to take over your old job.

OK, now it’s your turn to share your thoughts….

Sarah Palin puzzles me.  I had previously written about her and why she scares me as the potential VP of the United States, but today I want to tell you a bit more of what I learned from her behavior that would hopefully teach us all a lesson about life.

Sarah Palin came from a humble enough background — no super rich family to help her out at the beginning of her life, no special connections to get her to where she is today.  She was just an average citizen like many of us.  She got to where she is today by her will to succeed, for the most part.  That accomplishment is in and of itself very commendable. In many ways, she is one of the success stories of the American life — if you believe in yourself and work hard at your goals, you will get to here you want to go.

In fact, Sarah Palin is one of the most confident women I’ve seen.  She doesn’t let obstacles bring her down, and she always has the self-confidence that she will succeed.  The problem lies in her self-awareness.  More specifically, her self-confidence is in no way balance by her self-awareness (or lack thereof).

In my opinion, self-confidence and self-awareness are two sides of the same coin — both sides are needed in order to move forward in life.  Self-confidence gives you the belief that life challenges are conquerable, without which every task in life would seem like climbing Mount Everest.  Self-awareness, on the other hand, is the feedback loop to let you know not only what it takes to get to where you want to go, but also how you are doing along the way.

To continue with the analogy of climbing Mount Everest, it is not enough to simply believe you can do it; you need to also know (and be honest about) your state of health to correctly assess whether climbing to the highest peak in the world is the right thing for you at this very moment.  If it’s not, there is one of two things you can do:

  1. You can ascend anyway but your chance of failure and death is astronomically large.
  2. You can train yourself to be in a better climbing shape and attempt the task once you have build up your muscles, expanded your lung capacity and increased your physical and mental endurance.

Sarah Palin, although full of self-confidence that she can be the VP of the United States, lacks the self-awareness to know that she is, at this very moment, NOT qualified to be one.  That is not to say she will not be qualified to be one in the future as long as she prepares herself between now and then.  But to prepare herself means to face the brutal fact of her current reality, and that is to be self-aware that she currently lacks the VP qualification.  Unfortunately, she does not appear to have that self-awareness that will propel her forward in her political aspiration.

So the lesson is:  ALWAYS balance your self-confidence with your self-awareness.  Too much of one without equal amount of the other can prove disastrous in accomplishing your goals in life.

I’ve always been a go-getter most of my life, now more so than ever.  I have my parents to thank for instilling in me the self confidence to know that if I work hard at something, I can achieve just about anything I want to be and do.  Consequently, I’ve achieved a lot.  But the one thing I want most (since my vacation this past Summer) has eluded me — and that is to have somebody with whom I can share my life.

Love is a finicky subject, to say the least; to say it takes more than hard work to find true love is an understatement.  Whereas most things in my life can be had with compromises if I really wanted them, compromising on who to spend the rest of my life with is not quite acceptable to me.  In short, my quest for true love is a good test of applying the Stockdale Paradox.

The Stockdale Paradox states that one should retain faith that he/she will prevail, regardless of difficulties, while at the same time confront the most brutal facts of his/her reality, whatever they might be.  So let me share with you how I’ve applied it to my life in the dating department.

To retain faith that I will prevail, I placed my current self in the spectrum of my entire life and took an inventory of my qualities, abilities, accomplishments and all that I have to offer to my partner.  When viewed in that light, it’s not hard to keep faith that I will prevail in the end.  The trick is to write them down and review the list often, especially during the time I feel less confident about my success.  I also write letters to myself when I feel good and read those letters when I feel less good.  The trick for me is to use the ebb and flow and ups and downs of life to my advantage and keep me and my faith buoyant.

To confront the most brutal fact of my reality (being single), I do something about it everyday.  I force myself to be more social by going out and meeting people.  I don’t do the bar and club scenes anymore, but I attend street fairs, house parties, and other social gatherings.  And for days I don’t have anything in my calendar, I go to the bookstore/cafe to read.  The most important part is I set absolutely no expectation of my activities other than to meet people I don’t already know.  By doing something everyday, I was able to break down the daunting task of “meeting that special somebody” to just “meeting somebody”.  Meeting people is the easy part, and that makes the reality that much more digest-able.

Notice in both instances, I proactively do something about my situation and at the same time place absolutely no deadline on my activities.  The first part puts me in complete control of my situation, and the second part puts a distance between me and the things I cannot control.  The combined effort gives me a renewed sense everyday that I will succeed in the end.

How about you?  Have you applied the Stockdale Paradox in your life?  If so, I would love to hear about it!

Every Friday is Wisdom Friday.  It’s just a way for me to share with my readers the little gems of life that I’ve learned either during the week or living life in general.

One of my mentors once told me, “Think big, but start small.”  His advice at the time was to encourage me to take the first step because I had a tendency to just dream, but the value of the advice goes beyond just nudging me to get started.

Over the years, I’ve learned that by always starting small, you take the most important step to accomplishing anything in life — you started!  The second virtue of starting small is it keeps you from being frozen by the magnitude of your vision.  The third is small steps are easier to conquer, and by accomplishing a small step, you gain confidence in your ability to accomplish the next (small) step.

Next time you feel overwhelmed by your dreams or just the large task at hand, remember to start small.  The most important thing is to start!

October 2008
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