Every day, we fight.
We fight to live, we fight to get our way, we fight for our relationships and we fight at work. Every day, we fight.
The issue is not so much that we fight a lot, it’s that most of us don’t realize we’re fighting and don’t know which hills we have climbed are important enough to die on.
In battle, hills are typically important pieces of ground that provide strategic advantages if won. It’s important to know which hills are worth climbing and fighting for and which are not. Once you have won a specific hill, are you willing to die to retain it? By choosing this particular hill, could you win the war?
These are all decisions that must be made before you wage a battle for ownership of a hill.
Hence the phrase; “the hill you want to die on.”
I have adopted this idiom in my life and apply it to the battles that I enter into every day.
When my partner and I are arguing over something, inevitably one of us will ask: “Is this the hill you want to die on?” and if one of us answers yes and the other doesn’t, then we give in because it’s more important to the other. If we both answer yes, then we argue and see where it ends up. I mean this literally, we actually ask the question out loud.
In a professional setting, battles are being waged constantly. Whether you are aware of them or not, there are power struggles, internal maneuvers, strategic decisions, and wins and losses all over the place. The important question you have to constantly ask yourself should be: “Is this the hill I want to die on?” and if the answer is no, have the sense to walk away. Ego plays a very large part of being able to walk away. It’s of no use if your ego is so big that you can’t walk away from any battles. You become tired and the people around you become tired of fighting with you.
Ego is the biggest contributor to most of my losses.
To effectively assess whether this is, in fact, the hill you want to die on, you will need to understand yourself and those around you.
It’s always important to know at least some basic negotiation techniques and one of my favorites is BATNA: The best alternative to a negotiation agreement. In short, who is worse off if they lose the negotiation (battle)? Is it you? If it is you, then ask yourself how you can overcome the odds or if perhaps this is a hill you should be walking away from.
For BATNA to be effective you need to be able to put yourself in your opponent’s shoes and figure out what their advantage is and if they want the win more than you do. Is the hill strategically more valuable to them or to you? Do you think that they know what your strategy is? Do you think you can move faster than they can to change your position?
If your BATNA is stronger than your opponents then double down and take the hill. You will gain a strategic advantage and can then plot your next move accordingly.
Most people don’t understand that every day is a battle. Some people have given it thought but don’t agree that every day we’re in a battle. I understand that every engagement is a kind of battle whether big or small, important or irrelevant and I have learned to quickly assess if the hill I am approaching is one that I’d be happy to die on.
This skill is one that is honed over time and with practice. You have to be aware that you are in a war to understand that the hills we approach are worth something strategically. Often the hill you approaching is not worth dying on and it becomes more valuable to offer up the win to your opponent and walk away.
In a professional setting, do you want to stick your hand up in that all-hands meeting and challenge your boss publicly? Is that a hill you’d be happy to die on? Or do you want to wait and approach them privately to debate your point?
With your partner, friends, and family do you have a good grip on what is important to you? Do you know which hills you would be willing to die on? I do.
It’s important to define what your victory condition is and then figure out which hills are the most important for you to achieve this victory condition. Once you have those things figured out it becomes much simpler to decide which hills you are willing to die on.
Take some time to think about the last year and even the last decade and consider the hills that you fought for. Were they worth it? Did the hills you won improve your position or over time diminish your position? Did you choose the right hills and fight alongside the right people?
Plan out the next year and the next decade and think about how you can improve your decision-making skills. Every battle becomes more important when you choose to fight it if you know what you are fighting for.