Thursday, April 30, 2015

At what costs?

I've been doing a lot of reading, research for the proto-business idea. One of the books I read was The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated. I feel obligated to add that I did NOT stop at that book. I'm reading others that are more realistic about what a small business entails.

I thought that 4-Hour Workweek had some interesting ideas about work, wealth, and life, but it also comes with a number of cautions.

One of the first things Ferriss discusses in The 4-Hour Workweek, is how he won the gold medal at the Chinese Kickboxing National Championship, by "reading the rules and looking for unexploited opportunities." [1] At the end of the competition, the kickboxers all hated him. He had no form, no real technique... but he won. And winning was all that mattered to Ferriss.

If there's anything I can give him credit for, it's that as far as the book indicates, he only tried that particular achievement once. He won, uses it in his brags, and seems to have walked away from the event. According to the book, his techniques have become common features in the competition.

I write about it because this "exploit the rules to win" philosophy appears to be what has happened in Puppygate. As George R.R. Martin writes:
Call it block voting. Call it ballot stuffing. Call it gaming the system. There's truth to all of those characterizations. 
You can't call it cheating, though. It was all within the rules. 
If it were just one book, that would be one thing. But I'm currently reading Eric Haseltine's Long Fuse, Big Bang: Achieving Long-Term Success Through Daily Victories. His recap, "Playing to Win," says:
"The Tony-Award-winning producer David Merrick observed, 'It's not enough that I should succeed--others should fail.' If we're brutally honest with ourselves, we'll admit that our achievements are more satisfying when they stand out against a lack of accomplishment by our colleagues. But sometimes our accomplishments aren't just heightened by others' failures, they depend on those failures. This is the case in all competitive situations, such as football games, that pit one party against another." [2]

I was reminded of all of this by a Forbes article recommended in SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs yesterday. SmartBrief titles it "Why you should ditch the win-at-all costs attitude," but the Forbes headline is "Why I'm Not Scared of my Competition -- And You Shouldn't Be Either." It's worth reading.

It reminds me of things my sister has written, about Game Theory. That much traditional politics and theory was based around games that can only have one winner. But despite what Haseltine writes, while business may be a competition, it is also a situation that many can win.

[1] Ferriss, Timothy (2009-11-18). The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content. (Kindle Location 551). Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. Kindle Edition.

[2] Haseltine, Eric. Long Fuse, Big Bang: Achieveing Long-Term Success Through Daily Victories. Hyperion books. New York. p. 83.