“the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” – michael porter
for the last year, this has been my mantra. i first heard it from a professor, and it’s application was meant for focusing a communications campaign strategy. however, i have adapted and adopted it for other purposes. having a mantra with the word “no” in it may seem a bit cynical. i am sure it’s recommended that you spring for a much more flowery one, but this one works for me.
when i first graduated high school, i had no idea what i wanted to do [similar to the majority of 18-year-olds]. i loved everything! i was set on calling myself a renaissance woman. i want to sing! and be a doctor. and learn how to code! and be an entrepreneur, but also make pottery! and dance and be famous somehow! though this is on the extreme other side of the focus spectrum, i think this mindset is what made the “no” strategy appeal to me. exhausted from the multitude of options, it feels GREAT to say “no, that is not what i want to do.”
and now, let me insert a pop-culture reference. I LOVE SHARK TANK. probably in my top 5 tv shows. it’s entertaining, and slightly intellectual, so i don’t feel like i’m rotting my brain as much as when i’m watching the real housewives. anyway–i was watching a particularly good episode of shark tank this week, and the ever-wise robert herjavec gave some ambitious entrepreneurs a great analogy:
“look, a guy that used to work for me, he was actually at one point the 11th fastest man in the world. i run five miles a day, so i used to say, ‘hey, let’s go running.’ and he would say to me, ‘i can’t run five miles.’
i said, ‘come on, man. you’re in great shape. you can run five miles.’
and he said, ‘i don’t run five miles! i run 100 meters as fast as I can. That’s my job.’
i’m not sure what your job is. If you want to win, just run the 100 meters. focus.”
living on a college campus, there are nothing but opportunities. i love it! but if i took every single one of them, i wouldn’t get where i want to go. i took advantage of opportunity that came my way when i was searching for what it was i wanted to do. but now that i know, it’s time to be a bit more selective and remind myself–it’s okay to say no sometimes, and focus on running the 100 meters.