COMPETE EVERY DAY
One of the biggest “misses” that companies make in trying to build a winning culture is forgetting vulnerability.
Vulnerability is crucial to a strong company culture & a leader’s ability to influence because it’s that one thing that allows true connection between you and the people you’re trying to influence.
Here are three ways to inject a level of vulnerability into your team to foster a championship culture.
What matters most to you – winning or getting all of the credit?
Michael Jordan was quickly emerging as one of the top players in the NBA as he started his second season in the league. He came out on fire during the first few games of the 1985 season before fracturing a bone in his foot during an October game against the Golden State Warriors.
The Chicago Bulls began to crater without their star second-year guard, going a disastrous 17-33 in the first half of the season. But, as we saw in ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary, hope wasn’t completely lost. #23 was coming back.
Jordan rehabbed relentlessly and returned in mid-March to the court. Worried about the long-term health of their franchise star, Bulls’ ownership imposed a “7-minutes-per-half” restriction on him. It didn’t matter how great he was playing, or how close the game was, once he hit his minute limit, he was benched for the remainder of the half/game.
The boiling point came on April 9, 1985, when battling for the final playoff spot, Jordan hit his (then) minutes restriction – with 30 seconds left in a one-point game. He fought his coach, who was being told he’d be fired if Jordan played one more second.
It had to be one of the most frustrating moments in Jordan’s life after he’d scored 15 fourth-quarter points to bring his team back. The opportunity to compete was being taken out of his hands. He was angry and helpless to aid his teammates in that moment. He was seething at the Bulls front office as he took a seat on the bench that night.
Almost every one of us can relate to the feeling of having the power to influence a result taken out of our hands.
In many situations, we sulk, whine, or complain about the situation. “It isn’t fair” that they get the chance and I don’t. Our focus has gone from winning and team success, to “what about me?” We focus on our feelings, suddenly apathetic to how the team does because it’s no longer about us.
This isn’t about sports either.
Watch the last 30 seconds of the Bulls-Pacers game in The Last Dance. You’ll see Bulls guard John Paxton hitting a game-winner and the first person off the bench to celebrate the win is Michael Jordan.
The same All-Star player who was just benched by management is on the court hugging and celebrating the win with his teammates when so many others would stay on that bench or go to the locker room because they didn’t get take the winning shot.
That moment right there showed Jordan’s uncanny leadership and focus on simply winning.
It’s also a clear reminder that as leaders, greatness requires us to focus on winning results, not getting all of the attention. Is it any surprise that the winningest team captains in sports history are about the team and not just their own awards?
- Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
- Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
- Anyone on the New Zealand All-Blacks
Leaders – winners in sports and life – care about winning. Period.
It’s not about the individual attention or praise, it’s about making sure no matter what, we as a team win.
When a friend hits a big goal, we should celebrate with them – and be motivated to raise our own game.
When someone on our team gets to make the presentation for a successful client project, we should celebrate with the team that the client is happy – not complain and add negativity to our culture that we weren’t chosen to present.
If you crave the attention, you’ll rarely get the wins. If you crave the wins, you’ll easily get the attention.
Leaders on winning teams care about winning – not the attention.
Compete to do the same this week.
I originally sat down and wrote this to you about two hours before I took the stage for 350 insurance industry leaders at a conference in Nebraska. Odd time to write an article, right?
Then Covid-19 hit the nation and changed everything, so I decided to shelf this post. I had planned to keep it in the drafts until I received a few messages from some of you about not feeling qualified enough to start *that* project. It was the perfect reminder of the one thing high-achievers all face:
Feeling like you’re about to be “found out” and kicked out.
Here’s a moment of transparency for me that I wanted you to know what I mentally deal with prior to a keynote presentation.
I had given that specific keynote presentation at least thirty times in the last two years. I actually got this specific gig because someone saw me give this talk in October and referred me to the client. It’s my second most popular talk, which means I should be 100% confident in it, right?
You see, every time I’m preparing to speak I face imposter syndrome. Yes, even a few years into this business I hear the whispers that say “you don’t belong.” I spent this morning rehearsing my gig for the 20th time in the past few weeks. I know my content. I know I’ve practiced. I know I’m ready – but that still doesn’t stop the voices.
- What if my content isn’t actually that good and I’m a fraud?
- What if this is the audience that doesn’t laugh at any of your jokes?
- What if…what if…what if…
That (evil little) voice will try to convince you that you don’t belong. Here’s the thing – every single high achiever hears that voice.
They just refuse to let that voice stop them.
Imposter syndrome isn’t common among people who settle. The ones who are content to keep things “as is” don’t hear it, nor do those who give a crap effort.
It’s only people who are stepping outside of their comfort zone to try and do something bigger or new that hear it. Which means that every time you hear the voice of Imposter Syndrome it should signal to you that YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT PATH.
That voice’s appearance means you’re growing.
Right now, many of you have more time on your hands than you’re used to. You keep toying with that idea of starting a blog, building a side hustle, or even just using this time to step up and encourage others with videos or short posts. But then you stop.
You hear the whispers that “other people are more qualified to do it, so why would anyone want to hear from you” and you listen to them. So you do nothing.
You let the voices win when you do nothing, but in reality, they’re wrong.
The sound of that voice should remind you that you’re preparing to step outside of your comfort zone – and to embrace this moment as the chance to get better.
Average people would hear that voice and let it talk them out of doing anything of value. Competitors hear that voice, acknowledge they’re on the right path, and then get to work.
When I hear that voice, I immediately:
- Start my positive self-talk (audibly).
- Remind myself of the intentional rehearsal work I’ve put in for hours for this. I know I’m ready.
- Control my breathing.
- Talk back to that voice. I remind it that I’ve done this talk before and when I step on the stage, it’s my opportunity to help others and improve my work.
If I can remind myself that I’m prepared for the moment and that the talk isn’t actually about how good I look (but how much can I help the audience), that voice tends to shut itself up.
It’ll work the same for you, too.
More than anything, right now this world needs people to step up and use their voice. We need more encouragement, more helping hands, and more art/business/music/things created. We need imposter syndromes silenced so leaders – leaders just like you – can step up and lead.
Don’t let the voice of Imposter Syndrome stop you. Let it signal that you’re on the right path and then put your head down and get to work.
I’m cheering for you.
Is that someone using your favorite coffee mug again?
Is that someone in a sour mood, all of the time, and seems to just drain the life out of the office?
Is that someone sitting right next to you every single day?
I’ve been there with a coworker too. You get an almost knot in the pit-in-your-stomach, please God don’t interact with me today, feeling every morning as they walk in. You dread having to deal with *that* coworker because no matter how excited you are going into a day, they seem to drain the ever-living-soul from you.
How is an aspiring leader supposed to deal with *that* negative coworker?
Most of us can relate to being forced to deal with a less-than-stellar teammate. From little league sports to our first corporate job, the chances are high that we’ve had to work closely with someone we don’t necessarily like. Anytime you take a group of people with diverse personalities, agendas, and backgrounds, throw them together on one unit, and you’ll have an adjustment period.
Did anyone else get stuck doing all of the work for your class project like I did?
School projects. Youth/High School sports. Corporate teams. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team where everyone loved being around everyone else.
And guess what? That’s ok. You don’t have to like everyone – but it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them.
It’s never ideal to have friction with a coworker, yet it happens every day in offices and locker rooms. People are thrown into a situation and despite needing to work together, will still butt heads. And we both know this one fact: some people simply love being negative.
All of the time.
It’s as if they embrace being miserable. I don’t understand it, and I’m sure if you’re reading this, you don’t either. However, it’s on us to still work with them – even if they’re a pain in the butt.
Leaders are the ones who can successfully navigate these tricky people and still excel beyond the immediate situation because they know how to do this:
We 100% control…
- Our attitude
- Our effort
- Our actions
- Our focus
…every day. We each face situations and individuals outside of our control, but only we dictate these four things in our lives. Unfortunately, most people seem to forget that they 100% control these things.
- Bad attitude? Blame it on your negative coworker.
- Poor effort? Blame it on the fact you wish you had a different job.
- Complacent? Blame it on the idea that you “just don’t have the same motivation” as so-in-so
It’s easy to blame others for our bad attitude, effort, or lack of action. It’s easy to show up with anything less than our best when we don’t love our job or the people we work with. That’s easy.
But easy isn’t what makes us proud – or a great leader stand out. Blaming others for our controllables is simply creating an excuse to shift the responsibility off of us and onto others. But it’s not their fault, it’s ours.
That coworker may be toxic to work with, but they don’t control how hard you work. You do. It’s still 100% up to you if you:
- Choose to adopt their negative behavior or learn to ignore it.
- Engage in their game of misery, or encourage them (relentlessly some days) to change their perspective.
What your coworker chooses to do shouldn’t impact how you show up and what you do. However, if it continues to escalate, here are four things you can do to (directly) address the situation:
- Control your controllables. Despite their negativity, remove yourself from situations involving them (happy hours, water cooler talk, etc) and commit to yourself that you’ll maintain a positive attitude with your teammates. Focus on what you control.
- Have a direct conversation with the employee. You shouldn’t be rude or aggressive, but there are healthy reasons for having a candid conversation with your coworker about how their negative or toxic behavior is impacting you, your work, and the environment that you both share. Ask them if something is going in their personal life or why they might feel negative. In some instances, the individual is acting out because they don’t know how to process a situation outside of work.
- Discuss the situation with HR or your direct boss. If direct conversations fail, schedule a meeting with human resources or your manager to discuss your coworker’s behavior and how it’s negatively influencing the culture. Share steps you’ve taken to remedy the situation and some potential solutions you believe could help everyone involved. Make sure you’ve taken personal steps to talk with the coworker before immediately meeting with your superiors or HR so it’s apparent you’re interested in helping your team.
- (If all else fails) Look for a new opportunity elsewhere. There are some instances that a compromise or positive solution can’t be found due to the employee’s position, overarching situation, etc. In these cases, your best option may be to look for employment in a new organization. One thing to keep in mind when interviewing – make sure you interview your interviewer heavily about their culture and addressing toxic employees so you have a strong grasp of how they operate and what they do/don’t tolerate.
It doesn’t matter if we’re a high school athlete or a VP of sales for a nationwide organization, we will work with people who we don’t always “click” with. Most people use it as an excuse to shirk responsibility off of themselves.
Leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard. They control their controllables – their focus, effort, attitude, & actions – and don’t give that control to a toxic coworker.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is already a household name, regardless if he wins Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV. The East Texas native made waves in football during his first year as a starter in 2018, earning league MVP honors. Mahomes is a special athletic talent, but one thing that sets him apart from others playing his same position is his leadership style.
See what I mean in this clip below:
Down 24 points to the Houston Texans in his team’s first playoff game this season, Patrick can be seen on the sidelines encouraging his teammates and pumping them. He was facing overwhelming odds – losing 24-0 – but remained at least on the outside, positive and focused on helping his teammates stay locked in. He’s shouting positive words to “do something special” and simply focus on the next play.
“One play at a time. Do something special.”
You didn’t catch him whining. You didn’t hear him cursing out defensive players for giving up 24 points. You only saw him trying to keep everyone focused and believing they could get back in this game.
And get back in this game they did, outscoring the Houston Texans 51-7 in the time remaining.
It’s common to see athletes put their heads down on the bench, see the frustration on their faces, or hear the expletives shouted at a couch or teammate when their team is losing by multiple scores. That’s common in sports.
It’s also common in life. We pout, sulk, or whine when things don’t go our way. We don’t get the promotion we believe we deserved. We get injured and miss a physical goal we’ve set. Life deals us a bad break that’s completely outside of our control but derails what we expected to do. It’s common in those frustrating moments to be negative and blame the situation or others for our predicament. That’s common.
That’s also why great leadership is not common.
A leader’s ability shines brightest when the situation seems darkest. A great leader stays positive despite a turbulent storm and does their best to keep their teams in positive spirits too. What Patrick Mahomes did on that Sunday – and seemingly every Sunday you seem him on an NFL sideline – is special. It has nothing to do with his talent level (which is astronomical) but everything to do with his choices.
He intentionally chooses to take a positive attitude and look for the opportunities instead of whine and stare at the obstacles. The mark of a positive leader is unquestionably visible when things aren’t going as planned. They stay positive. They encourage their team. And they focus on the most important thing – what they can do next.
It doesn’t matter if your arena is a football sideline, a business office, or your own home. Your ability to be a positive leader doesn’t have to do with your title or talent, but your choice to intentionally want to be one.
And if you need a good example, look at the Kansas City sidelines this weekend for #15.
The world lost a legend today when Kobe Bryant and four passengers were tragically killed in a helicopter crash. It’s the first time a famous person’s death has actually shaken me. I hugged my wife. I text my best friend. It was a sobering reminder of how fragile life is and that despite our best precautions, we never know when today will be our final one.
I always process emotions best through writing. Putting my thoughts down helps me process my feelings inside and try to find peace when my insides feel like they’re in the midst of the storm. Kobe and I never met but, like many sports fans outside of Los Angeles, would classify our relationship as a “rollercoaster.” As a Dallas Mavericks fan, he tormented us in the regular season, going 42-22 against us, including one game where he dominated us by outscoring the entire Mavs team 62-61 through three quarters in 2005.
He was the type of player you loved to sports-hate (as Shea Serrano would say). He was incredible to watch, playing with everything he had every night. He had ice in his veins and a fire in his heart that you love when it’s in your team’s best player – and hated when he’s playing your team. No matter how you felt about playing him, Kobe was one of those special players who always had your respect.
Kobe made himself into one of the top 5 best ever to pick up a basketball. He retired from the game in 2016 but remained a fixture in basketball, attending WNBA games, Lakers games, and investing his time into building & creating the second phase of his life post-playing career.
The one thing Kobe Bryant did well? Compete. Love or hate him, you cannot deny that he was one of sports’ fiercest competitors. Reflecting back on his career after today’s devastating news, I can clearly see the five lessons I learned watching Kobe grow up in front of my eyes on the Staples Center court and social media after retirement.
1. Everyone messes up. How will you respond and choose to be better?
Kobe made mistakes on and off the court throughout his NBA career. No one is perfect, and Kobe was intentional in rebuilding his image and character reputation after those early shortcomings. He invested heavily in launching new brands, supporting the WNBA, and making loads of time for his growing family.
It’s likely we will fail at one point in our professional career or personal life. Mistakes happen, but what matters is how you learn from it and grow. Our response is the most important.
2. Success requires that you be relentlessly driven for your most important goal.
Watch this short clip:
Kobe is so focused on his goal & objective that the fake pass doesn’t even cause him to flinch. He’s unphased at the distraction, committed to guarding his opponent. Kobe was a relentless competitor who remained fixated on winning championships and being one of the best ever. Just the same, our biggest achievements will require a relentless commitment to reaching it.
3. Never let the same obstacle/opponent stop you twice.
What separates greats from all-time greats is their ability to self-assess, diagnose weaknesses, and turn those flaws into strengths.Kobe Bryant, The Mamba Mentality
After reading The Mamba Mentality, it’s apparent Kobe’s off-court work ethic was unmatched. He constantly worked to improve his skills and studied his opponents so that he could understand his own weaknesses, where they attacked him, and how he could turn those weaknesses into strengths. Successful leaders build their self-awareness and study their competition. If they fail once, they learn how and why so they don’t fail the same way twice.
4. Treat every day as if it’s your last. End on empty.
Fast forward to the 28-minute mark for why Kobe chose “24”
Kobe practiced & played with a “today’s the day” mindset. He knew that this day was the only one he controlled and made sure to put his heart, soul, & every ounce of effort into it. His style of play – never taking a night off – is one reason he was one of the best players. He was never going to just “give” you an easy night. Every game you had to earn it if you wanted to beat him because he wasn’t going to willingly give up any ground.
One phrase I’ve used for years is “End on Empty.” It’s the idea of leaving behind the question of “what if” and emptying everything you have into every day for the goals you’ve set and people you love. We should aspire to finish each day and be done with it, knowing that we gave everything within us for the things and people that are most important to us.
5. Your pursuit of greatness will create your power of impact.
Know that if you strive for greatness, your influence & impact will stretch farther than you ever know. You will impact people you’ll never meet. Your legacy will be remembered by the positive mark you left on others’ lives. Pursue greatness so you can make a great impact.
Millions are mourning Kobe’s passing today. Most had never met the iconic Laker, but you can’t deny his game, mindset, & life greatly impacted them.
How they shot fadeaways in that empty basketball gym.
How they attacked their workouts.
How they relentlessly attacked their life.
Whenever we choose to pursue greatness, we will positively impact people we’ll never meet. You don’t do that by playing it small, accepting limits, or trying to blend it. You only do that when you pursue greatness as he did on and off the court.
How do we honor Kobe?
We honor Kobe Bryant’s legacy by how we live. We embrace his Black Mamba tenacity for the goals & people we believe are most important.
And we make sure that no opponent will ever contain us. R.I.P. Black Mamba.
It doesn’t matter how exhausted or hurt you are, we never ring the bell.
One of the most well-known parts to BUDS initiation is the infamous Hell Week. It’s a five-day training period designed to push potential Navy SEAL candidates beyond the point of exhaustion. Candidates will sleep four hours or less over the five-day period as instructors push them past their perceived limits. The completion rate varies between 20-30% per graduating class.
Any aspiring SEAL can quit Hell Week at any moment. The only way out is to walk over and ring the bell three times, signaling you’ve given up. The bell is a sign of defeat – that you weren’t mentally strong enough to endure. The few newly graduated SEALS who survived Hell Week had to commit to themselves that they would never ring the bell. In other words, they would never give up and be gritty enough to endure anything their instructors sent at them.
Among other characteristics, the Navy SEALS demand grit from their members and the ability to persevere through expected (and unexpected) tribulations in the pursuit of a future goal. It’s no wonder they’re one of the most successful organizations in our country. SEALS are put into the most dangerous of situations and expected to perform flawlessly under pressure, remain optimistic about their success, and work together as one unit for a common goal.
How could your company benefit from that same level of team performance?
While they may not perform to the level of our US Navy Seals, they can begin to build the necessary grit & mentality that would elevate their performance in relation to your organizational goals. Here are four ways you can encourage grit within your organization.
1. Clearly Communicate Your Main Goals
Does everyone in the organization know your company’s main goal & their individual role’s goal? Knowing where you’re going, and in many cases, how long it will take you to get there helps someone maintain their grit to continue pursuing the goal. If your end goal is far off, how clearly are key checkpoints along the way communicated so team members know what they’re aiming for in the short term and will be able to realize it when they’ve arrived.
It’s nearly impossible to maintain your forward progress and positive attitude when you’re pursuing something that you have no idea how long it will take. Consider why marathons show mile markers throughout the race. Each point helps boost the confidence of runners while also keeping them focused on their pace/progress during the course. Establishing short-term checkpoints help reinforce motivation for the longer, big picture pursuits.
2. Use Language Optimistic About Future Growth
It’s imperative that we use language that is positive and encourages a growth mindset in order to build grit within our employees. According to Angela Duckworth, gritty people are hopeful and use matching language. They don’t just wait and wish for good things to happen to them, but instead are active in creating the results they want for their career/health/life.
Leaders within an organization can encourage grit within their team by using empowering language to support the development of future skills & goal achievement. Replace phrases “I can’t,” “I have to,” & “I don’t know” with positive phrases “I won’t,” “I’m going to,” and “I’ll discover how.” Reinforcing language that supports an employee’s effort, positive attitude, and ability to grow in their skillset and role gives them focal areas to develop, helping to reinforce their grit.
3. Identify Places Team Members Have Already Displayed Grit
One way to help your team identify grit as a skill they can continue to hone is to identify past examples where individually and collectively they’ve shown grit. For those who don’t believe themselves to be gritty, directly identifying how they positive responded to a challenge or difficulty can open their eyes to how they have some grit – and where they can develop more. Another idea would be to host an open discussion over lunch around a challenging situation your team worked through in order to show them collectively the grit of your organization to persevere through (and overcome) challenges
4. Ask Interviewees About Times They Struggled or Failed
It’s easy to look at our current team members and ask how to develop more grit, but one area often overlooked is during our recruiting and interview process of new employees. It’s important that you look for gritty traits as you add new team members to your culture so they help add to the overall atmosphere within your company’s walls.
Ask candidates about times were they struggled and how they overcame said struggles. Find out what passions they have outside of work and what they did to cultivate their skills in that area. Consider how an accomplished athlete or musician has invested countless into practicing their skills so they can perform on game day. That focus and long-term vision to practice relentlessly display the type of grit that leads to success for an employee in an organization
Grit doesn’t just happen. It’s intentionally built.
Gritty organizations don’t just happen. Cultures don’t just happen to persevere through challenging, stressful seasons. They intentionally survive them because of the work done prior to injecting grit into culture and employees. It’s not an instant change, but it can be done with an intentional focus on these four steps starting this week.
I’ve shared my favorite reads from over the years on my website here, but thought it would be beneficial to you if I shared a monthly recap of what I read during the past 30 days and what value you can expect if you choose to invest time into reading them too.
November ended up being a more hectic month than anticipated with our Compete Every Day releases and last-minute speaking gigs, so I only finished two books (both great ones though!). I’m looking forward to December vacation and travel in order to dive into 3-5 books this month!
Have a recommendation for a good book to read in the future? I’d love for you to email me and let me know!
Clockwork – Mike Michalowicz
If you can’t take a break from your business without it breaking you, you are setting yourself up for failure.
That’s a central theme in Mike’s book Clockwork. I became a huge fan of Mike’s work a few years ago when his book Profit First completely changed my perspective (and approach) to my business’ finances. It wasn’t an easy, overnight change, but it was the book that opened my eyes to what could be and helped me lay the groundwork for implementing a system that helps me thrive – instead of just thrive. Clockwork has had that same effect. In fact, I committed to reading it this second time after my first attempt was with an audiobook and I wasn’t as effective taking notes (or implementing everything) as I wanted to be.
I’ve been intrigued by this book since first learning about Mike’s work on it through a friend who is on his team. She’s a master at efficiency and operational excellence, and I knew this book could be a game-changer for my work. You see, I spent many years as a business owner being the source of our ineffectiveness. I kept too much information in my head and too many activities on my plate instead of helping myself and helping my team by getting them off of my plate so I could focus on what I do best. Clockwork helped me identify our most important priorities – and start setting my team up for success with activities that align with those priorities.
If you’ve ever felt like there’s no time for vacation, no way your business can thrive without you, or the idea of a 30-day vacation from your business sounds LIKE A COMPLETE FAIRYTALE, I want to challenge you to invest time this month to Clockwork. It may just change your business.
And your life.
Grab your copy of Clockwork here.
Build a Better Brain – Peter Hollins
Whenever one of your mentors recommends a book, you read it as quickly as you can.
This was the case with Peter Hollins’ Build a Better Brain: Using Neuroplasticity to Train Your Brain for Motivation, Discipline, Courage, & Mental Sharpness. Hollins takes a deep dive into the study of how our brains work – and more importantly, how we have the ability to rewire them in order to become the type of person with the type of habits we wish to have.
Neuroplasticity can be incredibly dense study, but Hollins does a great job of simplifying his teaching and using easy-to-digest examples for the reader. If you’ve ever wondered how your brain works, or wish you could reprogram aspects of your thoughts & habits in order to achieve success in your life, pick up this book. It will provide you the groundwork for understanding how you can optimize your performance, happiness, and habits.
Grab your copy of Build a Better Brain here.
With the holidays here, I’ll have extra time while traveling to continue my reading to finish this year strong!
Have a question for me about one of the books? Share a comment below!
I passed my neighbor and his son mowing their yard while walking my dogs this morning. I actually did a double take because the dad wasn’t mowing the yard in the most efficient manner. In fact, there was no doubt the way he was mowing would take at least an hour longer than it should have to mow his yard.
You see, he was guiding their push-mower while his young son (most likely 7 or 8 years old) pushed the machine. Slowly, the pair worked up and down that yard, careful to cut every blade of grass together. As someone who hates yard work, my first thought was that there are a million better activities to do for parent/child bonding. But as I watched, I realized he was probably thinking much more long-term than I was.
By investing the extra hour or two to make sure his son could mow the yard correctly, the father was freeing up his time in the future to work on other areas of the yard (or skip yard work altogether). He was training his son to do the job correctly so that he could take over the task going forward. An extra hour or two today would save him countless hours over the next few years.
It makes complete sense – so why do we forget so often in business?(more…)
This post is the first of many categorized as “Leadership and Popcorn Lessons” that I’ll share business and leadership takeaways from movies. I love going to movies and watching great stories unfold on the big screen, and felt it would help you, my readers, in your career & life if you had additional insights into the film and key lessons to look out for if you were to see the film.
I’ve been excited to see Ford v. Ferrari since I watched its trailer release on YouTube. I’m a fan of both Matt Damon & Christian Bale, and was excited to see how they would bring this story to life. The film highlights the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s “oldest, active sports car endurance race.”
Ford Motor Company’s sales were struggling during the 1960’s. Desperate for a change, Henry Ford II hired a team of engineers, led by automotive legend Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver (Bale) to design a Ford racing car capable of beating Ferrari in the world’ biggest race. It was a move the company was banking on changing their brand image from an “old man’s car” to a new generation’s fast, sexy car.
Ford v. Ferrari is a fast-paced racing movie, full of ego, arrogance, and the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s also filled with key lessons for succeeding in business and life.
1. What’s Worked In the Past Doesn’t Guarantee It Will in the Future
Ford had built a large company on the backs of their early models, but during the 1960s, saw their market share slip due to a younger generation aligning Ford with their parents – and like all teenagers & young adults, they wanted to distance themselves from anything that made them look like their parents. James Bond, the image of sexy & strong, drove an Ashton Martin. Other brands stepped ahead of Ford until they turned to Carroll Shelby and unveiled the Ford Mustang in 1964.
As detailed in the movie, Ford had to change their brand image & product line from what “was” in order to rise back ontop for what it “could be.”
It’s easy for us to rely on the way “things have always been” in business. We grow comfortable and complacent sticking with what’s always worked instead of continually evaluating our systems, products, and customer experience – until one day we look up and realize we’ve lost ground in the market. “What got you here won’t get you there” is a phrase I’ve kept in the forefront of my mind during my own entrepreneurial journey so that I was constantly focusing on how we can innovate and continue growing instead of being caught complacent.
2. Sometimes You Have to Look Outside of Your Industry for Game-Winning Ideas
Ford’s team looked beyond the American consumer market for ideas on how to rebrand themselves and create a new product (insert Ferrari & the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Most companies succeed with innovation with they look outside of their own industry and direct competitors for fresh ideas in other industries altogether.
We get stuck in a habit only reviewing our space when many great ideas can be found by looking at the processes & systems of other industries. Just look at how companies like Uber & AirBnB have changed the transportation & travel industries. If you’re ever feeling stuck, challenge yourself to look at how successful companies in entirely different spaces are working for a fresh perspective.
3. Be Willing to Experiment and Test with the Continuous Focus of “How Can We Get Better Today?”
Shelby’s team was relentless testing Miles’ race cars to create the most efficient & powerful machine so he had the best opportunity to win at Le Mans. Just the same, successful organizations encourage a culture of asking “how can we get better today?” It’s a simple question, that if integrated into all levels of a company, can create powerful results.
This simple question encourages every position within a company to evaluate their own workday, communication lines, customer-engagement, and more for opportunities to streamline and improve the workflow & experience. The tests to improve the workflow only benefit the company’s productivity and – just as important – the customer experience.
Be less concerned about something “not working” and more concerned with testing different ideas for improvement. You won’t bat 1.000% on new ideas – but you will bat 0% if you never attempt to test them.
4. Someone Will Always Criticize You – Even Try to Bring You Down – Ignore Them To Focus on What You Control.
Throughout the entire movie, Damon & Bale’s characters faced challenges – both from external teams & influences as well as internal at Ford. It reminded me of one key truth we forget when pursuing something great – not everyone is going to like it or you. It doesn’t matter if they do, it only matters what you continue to do.
You can’t control how someone else treats you (or tries to sabotage you) but you 100% control how you respond in your attitude, effort, & actions. You can waste precious time worrying about what someone else will say or do – or you can invest that time in getting better with your product and service. Even if you do a flawless job, someone will have something negative to say – so it’s a more effective use of your time to ignore outside critics and instead focus on what you control.
Ford v. Ferrari is a great film on the importance of thinking creatively outside of the box, believing in your ability to win, and hiring people you believe in — and then getting out of their way to let them do their job effectively.