It’s not a battle, it’s an adventure

September 3, 2012 | 3 comments

Fist Vector ImageOne of my least favorite tropes is “victory”. I think it’s asinine.

You’ve seen it around, I’m sure. Victory as in:

Your daily dose of victory!


Have a victorious day!

And even:

Lead a victorious life!

A victorious life. Wow, that sounds majestic – until you think about what it really means. The definition of victory is “the act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle, game, or other competition”. So on the other side of the coin to victory is defeat – something, or someone, is being vanquished. A victorious life, then, is one where you’re constantly engaging in battle, like some kind of violence-prone modern day knight. Your inbox? Slaughtered! That dodgy bit of office politics you’ve been trying to sidestep at work? Eviscerated! The last few tasks you had to finish before your project release date? Disemboweled! Your competition? Exterminated in the face!

Sounds exhausting to me.

Thinking about doing battle with actual people crosses a line into the kind of negativity that will harm your business, harm your personal life and potentially ruin your reputation. Nobody wants to deal with the schmuck that acts like he’s always trying to beat everyone else, and I don’t think these kinds of interpersonal chess games ever lead to strong relationships, in business or life.

But even when you’re trying to deal with figurative things, doing battle with everything that crosses your path means that you’ve got a defined, specific goal in mind that you’re going to fight hard to reach. And although goals are fundamentally important, you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches.

In startup-land, you’re often going to wind up doing something different to what you set out to do. Elgg was a learning platform. The founders of Flickr wanted to make a game. YouTube was a dating site. Each of these changed because they saw an opportunity and shifted to meet it. You can’t do that if you’re doggedly trying to defeat an unchanging original goal.

Worse, this kind of negativity can spread like ragweed – meaning that it won’t just be you who’s paralyzed by this way of thinking, but many of your colleagues will be, too. And beyond the productivity hit you’ll all take, it’s bad for your brain and may also lower your life expectancy. Bad deal.

“War is like fire; people who do not lay down their arms will die by their arms.” – Sun Tzu

“Be excellent to each other.” – Bill and Ted

Better, I think, to have an adventure: “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” In an adventure, nobody loses and nothing is defeated, but you retain the excitement, the progression, the productivity. Most importantly, you gain the ability to deal with whatever’s around the next corner, react to it quickly, and proactively create positive relationships.

Startups are clearly an adventure – they’re very rarely, if ever, zero sum games, and the path is unclear, even though the prize is usually in sight. Life is too: a rollercoaster of an adventure, where the goals are all fleeting and the only thing that really matters is the journey. Might as well enjoy it.

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