“They’re off. Netscape is off to a quick start riding Navigator. Microsoft is trailing by two lengths riding Internet Explorer who had a little trouble getting out of the gate. Around the first turn Netscape has a huge lead, but wait a minute… Bill Gates is in the grandstand giving out his browser for FREE with Windows. Internet Explorer seems to be feeling the momentum and around turn two passes Navigator handily. Microsoft is widening it’s lead. What’s this?…Netscape is dismounting Navigator and gives up it’s saddle, bridle and stirrups to a new team of riders from Firefox, Google and Apple. Each of them gaining on Microsoft on different platforms. Through the third turn it’s Microsoft in the lead with Firefox close behind and Google and Apple trailing by more than two lengths…
OK…so overlaying the Browser Wars on top of a horse race may be a stretch. But I think it points out the interesting parallels between horse racing and business. This analogy was first brought to my attention many years ago by Paul Levine, a partner at Morganthaler Ventures and former CEO of Atria Software. In this analogy, the jockey is “you”. It doesn’t matter whether you are a manager or an individual contributor. You have control over where your company, department or career is headed. Like the jockey, you can slow down around the turns or dig in during the stretch.
The horse is the product or service that you market. The other horses and their jockey’s are the products, services and people that you compete with at various levels. The race is your chosen market. Are you running the Preakness or the Kentucky Derby, where the stakes are high and so is the competition? You can have the fastest horse in the field and the other horses may be weak, but if the race is a back woods venue with limited stakes is it really worth the effort?
At the end of the day it’s all about “the race”. The key thing to remember is that you choose the race you run. As you think about the New Year and begin to finalize your 2011 goals, ask yourself – “are you running the right race?” When the race is over was the experience worthwhile? When selecting your race, you need to look at the end game as well as the competition. Is the race you’ve selected something you can wholeheartedly bring energy, joy and excitement too?
Business is hard. No matter how great the odds of your success, you must have enough passion about what you are doing, day in and day out, that the race is worth it to you. Every successful person I’ve come in contact with will tell you it was not about reaching the goal so much as it was the experience of the race itself. If you can’t enjoy the journey, there is no reason to make the trip because the end result is often times anti-climactic.