Sunday, July 13, 2008

JWN: Competitive Advantage

Competitive Advantage

By: Joseph W. Norman

With that title you may expect me to start talking about business development or profit models. Some of you may anticipate some Michael Porter quotes or references to his competition theories. But, that’s not what you’re going to get because most people just don’t find that quite exciting. Instead, let’s talk about the competitor inside each of us. There is a little fire inside all of us which just enjoys winning. That is our personal competitive advantage.

This thought came about while I prepared mentally for the Boilermaker 15k which I competed in over the weekend. To be honest, my endurance training wasn’t exactly stellar going into this event. In fact the last time I ran 10 miles straight was probably five or six months ago, so I knew it was going to be challenging. With this in mind, what made me want to wake up far too early on a Sunday and punish myself? It is one of my favorite races with over 11,000 participants, so the competitor inside of me couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by!

Many managers I know, especially sales team leaders, absolutely love to hire athletes in their offices for this reason. They’ve mentally trained that fire inside which loves to win. If you can create a system which helps unleash the competitor inside of your people, then your team is going to knock the numbers out of the park. I guarantee it.

What does this mean for you personally? Get hungry! Remember the times in your life when you were excited about winning. It could be the glory days on the high school football field or the collegiate track meets, the dance competitions or the golf matches. Whatever it was for you, think about the feeling you had when you prepared and competed. Then, focus on that rush of emotion when you achieved the big win you or your team had!

Now, think about how you can apply that winning attitude towards your personal and professional life. I’m not saying to go challenge your eight year old nephew to a WWE style no holds barred cage match, but rather to contemplate how you can win with things like your relationships or finances. This will do wonders for your personal health! Professionally, you can focus on those sales or research goals. Not just the company’s goals for you, but your personal goals which I’m sure are much loftier! Make them your own and think of them each as a little competition with yourself.

I’ve been a competitive athlete for nearly a decade and in that time I’ve learned a few strategies which have helped me perform at my best. These have been the foundation to my personal competitive advantage. Here they are:

Visualization. Know your objective and picture every moment of that experience in your mind long before it actually happens. When the time comes to finally make that presentation, you’ve already rehearsed it for the last three weeks in your mind.

Positive self talk. When you are finally in your race, don’t let negativity creep in and steal your thunder. Keep your mind focused on affirming your desired success.

Sweat equity. You have got to work your tail off to achieve that victory. No ands, ifs, or buts.

Guts. It takes courage to put yourself out there. You have to accept the possibility of failure while also staying convicted on the belief that failure is not an option.

These four key tenants have been the basis of my athletic career and they make up the competitor inside of me. I have since adapted them to my personal and professional life. I challenge you to give them a try in your own life! Hone your personal competitive advantage and go get your victories!

Joseph W. Norman, resides in Macedon, NY, and is Chief Enthusiasm Officer of Notable and Newsworthy and Editor of The VIP Profiles. He offers lectures and keynote talks on leadership, personal, and professional development and is always up for a business lunch.

Joseph can be reached at or 607.743.8569.