If you can’t win, change the game

Jack Reacher: 6 foot 6. Strong. Expert marksman. Formidable in unarmed combat.

Navy Seal: 5 foot 8. Inexhaustible. Expert marksman. Formidable in unarmed combat.

All else being equal, Jack Reacher wins in a one-on-one fight with the Navy Seal. Both are highly trained and ruthless. But Reacher is bigger and stronger. He knows this. And so does the Navy Seal. That’s why, when Jack Reacher points out this fact, the Seal responds: “I wouldn’t fight you. I’d put a bullet in you from thirty feet away.” The Seal wouldn’t win in the situation Reacher proposes. So he changes the terms of engagement.

So you don’t have a PhD? Stop trying to tout your education as an advantage. You don’t have access to a network of influential people? Don’t do things that require such an asset. You’re not a high net worth individual? That’s fine. Just stop pursuing strategies that require a lot of capital. Don’t have a strong community or following who are loyal to you. No problem. Don’t try to implement ideas that require such a crowd.

Think like the Navy Seal. If you know you can’t win, change the game. Stop wishing and hoping for better this, or more of that. Instead, execute strategies that leverage the assets and advantages you do have.

Compete where you’re strong, not where they are.


This post originally appeared on Phronetic, Matthew Sweet’s daily blog about mastery, strategy and practical philosophy. If you liked it, check out Disconnected: Ideas and Provocations, Matt’s first book.