Another Way of Winning

By James Ahola


“Hurriedly, I ventured out onto the frozen lake trying to calm my fears, listening to my skiis swoosh through the glistening white snow. I was half way across the lake when my greatest fear became a reality. In the distance I heard a warplane clearing the trees.  Hopefully they wouldn’t see me, but not taking any chances, I sprinted for the shoreline to seek cover under the trees. I could hear the engine roar as the plane changed course and started pursuit. I’d been spotted. Sprinting hard, I could see the shoreline approaching, but not fast enough. The machine gun opened fire, and the noise ricocheted off the distant hill as bullets began to track closer to me. The bullets sprayed past me as I fell violently to the ground gasping for breath. I lay still and motionless, as my heart slowed and breaths quickly became untraceable. The plane circled, inspecting for movement, but found none. Conserving bullets, the plane silenced its machine gun and roared away over the tree line in search of my comrades. With the plane gone I quickly rose to my feet, fixed my skis, and sprinted for the trees. The bullets, which were too close for comfort, had in fact whizzed past me, allowing me to effectively play possum. Through cunning and luck, I got to live another day.”  

This story, recounted to me as a child, is one of my grandfather’s wartime experiences.  He lived well into his eighties, when a different, insurmountable battle took him away. This was one of many stories where difficult odds seemed to be miraculously overcome, however each encounter did leave scars. Cancer had taken one of his lungs, and fighting in two wars left inoperable shrapnel in his legs and demons in his mind that he would battle for years to come. But he lived on, becoming a loving family man, an example of healthy living to his peers, and a very good artist. My grandfather created many landscape paintings that gave joy to others. Where odds would have favored a life destroyed, he changed step, and thrived instead. 

In life, we will come across battles that are not fair, with the odds stacked against us. Though some situations can and will be bleak, I firmly believe they can be overcome.

While I wish the story of my grandfather on the ice had him turning around, firing one shot that kills the pilot and sends the plane crashing onto the frozen lake in a ball of flames, I know that this scenario is unrealistic. In reality, fighting unevenly matched battles head to head is foolish. Rather, to survive we must fight using cunning, resilience, and all our resources, capitalizing on our strengths and our opponent’s weaknesses to foil plans and overturn an expected outcome. 

Powerful opponents can overshadow us, rain on us, and deliver unrelenting blows, but they are not omnipotent. They would have us believe they will totally consume and dominate us, but the truth is, they cannot. Instead we can fight, side step, and thrive where they have limited or no power. If anything, this is what heroes show us, be they public ones like Terri Fox and Stevie Wonder, or private like my grandfather. They demonstrate for us what another form of winning looks like. The point is to fight, and never give up. Play up your strengths, attack your opponent’s weaknesses and fight on ground where they have no footing. When facing powerful unrelenting enemies, be they in health, business, or war, never give up, never give in, then thrive and dance wherever you can. 

Be Yourself… With One Condition

By James Ahola, B.A.Sc.

I enjoy watching American Chopper, a TV show about people who build custom motorcycles. It’s packed with drama as tempers flare and egos clash every week. The drama, though, provides background entertainment – the real stars of the show are the masterpieces created by the artisans in mechanics’ clothing.

Each week, a new machine is crafted to embody the personality, style and legacy of the owner. Like a sculpture or fine painting, these pieces are beautiful to look at and generate awe and amazement. And this is art you can ride down the road.

These finely crafted machines are not twice the speed of others, they don’t corner better, or get better mileage. In many ways, they are on a par with other bikes. Yet, as fully functioning pieces of art, these bikes command prices that are five to 10 times those of a stock motorcycle. Their individuality makes them very valuable.

In the service world, we see many people who can perform a job as required. We see it with professional speakers, actors, mechanics and salespeople. Each job has its rules and proven standards of success. Added to the mix are universal standards such as honesty, respect and hard work. Like the brakes, oil filter, and other parts of a motorcycle which help it to perform well, adherence to standards ensures safety, performance and quality. A missing brake can be as dangerous as a doctor who forgets to check your blood pressure. Arguably, both render the whole useless.

Yet, in the process of conforming to standards, something precious may be lost – the individual flair and style of the service provider. A true professional can meet standards at a high level and mix things up in their own unique way, without missing a beat. These professionals stand out from the crowd. They are unique, perform amazingly, and we love them.

These people are not just the speakers and performers we pay big money to watch. They are also the wait staff we love having serve us, those who we ask for and tip generously. They are the dental hygienists and accountants whom we actually enjoy seeing. They are the professionals everywhere who draw us back, not just because they did a good job, but because they infused it with their character and personality. Like a custom motorcycle, they wow us with their flair and style while providing performance that, pound for pound, meets or exceeds the rest.

Whatever you do, you are free to be yourself. If you provide a product or service that meets or exceeds standards, you can embellish it with your unique personality and style. Some may not like it but you can’t please everyone. Most, however, will appreciate the experience and eagerly return for more.

Be professional. Be unique. Be yourself.

Your Future is in the Cards

By James Ahola

Some years ago I worked at a car wash in Toronto. It was located in the parking garage of a downtown skyscraper and our client list included many of Canada’s elite – sports stars, powerful lawyers, famous architects and big business owners. They weren’t all stars but I quickly learned that every customer was to be treated like royalty. 

One faithful client came in at least twice a week with his late-model Buick Riviera. It had beautiful long lines, was in mint condition and obviously was a personal treasure to the owner.  One rainy day the client came in with his vehicle – one I had washed just two days before. I thought to myself, “Who gets their car cleaned on a rainy day?” Something in my demeanour betrayed me because he said, “What’s the matter? I just like to have a clean car.”

I smiled and washed the car. Then he left and that was the last time I ever saw him. His reason for not returning had nothing to do with product, price or service; it was because I made him feel disrespected.

Conversely, my friend Josée had a powerfully positive experience. She found herself with a small problem while attending an important business meeting outside the country. Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, she didn’t have a good pair of dress shoes to wear. It was a small matter in the big scheme of things but if you’ve ever had a wardrobe problem, you know how big small things can seem – and Josée needed to be at the top of her game. She mentioned her problem to a workmate and was overheard by Marco, an employee of the company that was helping to put on the meeting. Marco politely interrupted Josée and said he knew of a place nearby where his wife loved to shop for shoes. He offered to take Josée there since the owners didn’t speak her language. My friend agreed. During a break in her schedule Marco took Josée to the shop where she found a perfect pair of shoes for the occasion and returned to the meeting without missing a thing. Marco came to Josée’s assistance several more times in the following days, finding a lost purse, repairing broken jewelry, and assisting with other small but important details. He went out of his way to personally see to her needs, none of which were his official responsibility. In a foreign country where Josée was at a disadvantage, Marco was her knight in shining armor. 

One thing is certain: if Josée ever returns to that area and needs the services of Marco’s company, competitors would have a very hard time winning her business. Others might be able to compete on product, price and services. But no one can compete with the fact that Marco made Josée feel like a queen.

Gaining new business is a combination of price, product and services, and, like in a game of cards, these kings, queens and aces are needed to survive. But to gain repeat business, all the power lies in the trump cards: in other words, how you make your customer feel. Once in play, trump cards change the game dramatically. With bad experiences and negative feelings, the trump cards are against you and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. With good experiences and positive customer feelings, the cards are in your favour, and you become an unstoppable force.

Windows of Opportunity

By James Ahola

sparkA few years ago I had the pleasure of visiting Mexico on a business trip. Off the shore of our resort, on a little island, stood a small stone structure reminiscent of an ancient Mayan building. I asked a staff member about the building and was told that it was indeed a Mayan building and marks an important date in the earth’s revolution around the sun.

I forget whether it marked the summer or winter solstice or the equinoxes – what is important is how the structure did this. The building has two small windows on opposite walls and as the sun rises on a specific day each year, sunlight passes through them, briefly lighting the second window and the ground behind the structure. This occurs only on the day of the special event.

Intrigued, I visited the island and explored the building, where I found the windows on opposite walls. Looking through one window I saw the sun and ocean as daylight entered the little room. When I went outside and looked through the back window I saw only the inside of the room and if I positioned myself properly I could see the other window facing the ocean. I found it amazing that throughout the year, as the sun rose its rays shone through the first window and caressed the back wall of the hut. But for one designated moment in the cosmic cycle the second window was set aglow by the sun’s rays.

A spectacular display marks that important moment in the calendar year, which passes silently as the window goes dark for another year.

Opportunities in life are like the second window. There are opportunities in business, sports, relationships, in every other aspect of our lives, and each exists for a time before passing. When windows of opportunity present themselves, they may be dazzling and capture the attention of viewers. When we notice them, we have the chance to respond. Unfortunately, the duration of the opportunity is beyond our control.

When I sold cars, I was told to do everything possible to sell the client who walked through the door. It is statistically proven that when someone is interested in buying a car to the point of visiting a dealership, they will do so within a few days. This statistic turned out to be true. When I sold a car I did so within a few days of the first meeting. When I didn’t, I discovered that they had bought elsewhere, sometimes just hours after I met them. For a brief moment the opportunity for a car sale with that individual existed. And when it passed, it would not re-appear for another four to six years.

The same is true for all opportunities. If we wait too long, the window of opportunity goes dark and our ability to take advantage of it is lost. Some windows of opportunity, the most precious ones, happen only once in a lifetime. So one of the most important traits we can posses is diligence. The diligent seize opportunities as they present themselves, thus amassing wonderful experiences and precious possessions. Some onlookers may call them lucky but luck has little to do with it. Opportunities favour no one. Some are visible to all who are looking, while others are presented to us exclusively. Regardless, it is always the diligent who seize them.

Never pine or cry over a lost opportunity, for nothing can turn back the clock or recreate it. Rather, turn your efforts to recognizing opportunities and preparing yourself to embrace them. For as one window of opportunity closes, another will soon appear. When your window of opportunity is set aglow, be quick to recognize it and swift and effective in seizing it.

Falling – and Succeeding

By James Ahola

sparkMy son came home from a school ski-trip the other day. Never having skied before, this was a new experience for him. Over dinner, he recounted stories of some great falls he had during the day along with the cheers and laughter of his friends. But each time he wiped out, he got back up, dusted himself off, adjusted his skis and tried again. You could tell by the smile on his face and the happiness in his voice that the joy of swooshing down the slope and the thrill of learning something new was well worth the bumps, cold snow on his neck and moments of embarrassment.

We have all been through failures like this – skiing, riding a bike, golfing, swimming, and, if we go back far enough, even walking. We took them in stride. Other failures, however, can be harder to handle. Not being accepted into the school of your choice, not getting your dream job, or even more painfully, not getting a date with that special person. These failures hurt in a different way; the bruises are deeper and the cuts are much colder, but the route we should follow is the same. We need to assess where we went wrong, dust ourselves off and try again, this time a little wiser. And if we fall again, we simply repeat the process.

Failure is an important part of life because it teaches us much more than success ever will. Success is a fantastic reward that we all cherish, but it is a very poor teacher. Success only tells us that the combination we tried was right. Unlike failure, it doesn’t show us our limitations or where adjustments should be made. Failure helps us to build things stronger, faster, bigger and better. It explicitly shows us what not to do and what else is required. Most importantly, failure teaches us to try again and explore other options. If we want to succeed and experience more than we ever have before, we must be willing to fail more than ever before.

All we have learned and everything written in the books that fill our libraries are recipes for success that have been gleaned from innumerable failures. Whether they be military strategies, cooking recipes, engineering or architectural designs, the road of knowledge is paved with trial and error. We can quickly find, and in minutes grasp, Thomas Edison’s successful recipe for the light bulb. But that one recipe was arrived at after many hours of work and literally thousands of failures.

Treat all failures like you would an experiment. If it didn’t work, why not? What would happen if we tried it another way? Failure isn’t a comment on you, your ability, your talent, or even the possibilities that exist. It is simply a failed experiment that tells you that the combination of activities in that particular order will produce undesirable results.

It is failure that teaches an artist how to capture beauty on a blank canvas and a metallurgist how to extract gold from a stone. It is failure that has taught us how to build longer bridges and taller skyscrapers. And it is failure that will teach you how to build a successful business, develop stronger relationships, and eventually help you get what you want from life.

We had another small failure in our household when my eldest son, who loves everything sweet, tried to make a new drink by mixing fruit juice with chocolate syrup. He figured that since fruit juice and chocolate syrup both taste good, the combination must be awesome. Wrong: it was awful! However, in keeping with our theme, after a few alterations he had sliced fruit dipped in melted chocolate – a much more appetizing result. If you don’t shy away from failure but take it in stride, are a good student and let it teach you, failure will show you the path to sweet success.

I Can Sing

By James W. Ahola, B.A.Sc.

As a young child I was invited to attend a summer music camp. Because I didn’t know anything about music, I was placed in the junior choir. I thought, “Great, everyone can sing.” Then the instructor blew a note on his pitch pipe and asked each of us to repeat it. For some kids, including me, he needed to do it several times. He then arranged us as a choir with specific seating assignments and gave us the words and music to learn for homework.

The next day I returned eager to sing. As the music started I belted out the notes. The instructor stopped us and asked certain choir members to echo the pitch pipe. In my case, he repeated it several times. I thought I sounded fine.

We began again and I opened my mouth, singing with my whole heart. “This is fun,” I thought to myself. It felt liberating to sing – as though my heart was soaring like a bird. But the experience was short-lived because he stopped us again and started singling out certain choir members. When he reached me he leaned in and whispered in my ear: “You can’t sing, you’re throwing other people off. Just mouth the words.” Then the piano started again and the choir chimed in.

Fighting back tears, his words echoed in my head: “You can’t sing”…you throw other people off”. I was crushed. I didn’t sing again all week. At the concert, I tried to mouth the words in unison with the others so I wouldn’t embarrass my parents but I dared not make a sound. I didn’t sing in the months and years to come, either – not the national anthem at school or Christmas carols with my family.

I continued with music, though, and learned to play brass instruments, including the cornet, flugelhorn and trumpet, ending up as the first chair trumpet in the high school jazz band.

After that I attended another music camp, which included a choir. Our instructor was renowned for having the province’s best school choir and claimed that everyone in his community could sing. My buddy and I, however, were convinced we were the exceptions.

On our first try the sound of the group was poor. While everyone could play the notes beautifully on their instruments many stumbled as choir members. The instructor stopped and gave us about 15 minutes of instruction, talking about resonance, its importance to all instruments, and its application to voice. He then showed us how to create resonance so we could feel and experience it for ourselves.

When, after a few minutes, he asked us to repeat the note, I couldn’t believe my ears. I could sing!  My friend and I looked at each other in disbelief. During the rest of that week, I never stopped singing. The part of me that had felt caged was free. Never again would I be silent.

Since then I have been asked to sing before various groups but for the most part I sing for myself, relishing the freedom and joy I find in this means of expression.

Perhaps you long for freedom in a chosen field but keep falling when you should be flying. It doesn’t mean that you were never meant to fly. All it means is you don’t yet know how. To everything – whether it’s sales, relationships, engineering or business – there is a structure. To discover that structure, learn the nuances and details and before you know it your heart will begin to take flight.

Creating Momentum

Creating Momentum
By James W. Ahola, B.A.Sc

We hear in sports how important it is for a team entering a break in the action to have a lead; that’s especially true if they previously trailed. It is called momentum, and we hear sportscasters say, “They’ve got the momentum,” as if it were a tangible possession.

If we remove all the emotion and hype from the equation, we’re left with two qualified teams of talented athletes competing in a game for points. If a team has a one-point lead or they’re tied, logic would seem to dictate that the game should be a toss-up. But we don’t live on the planet Vulcan where emotion has been banned. If one team has momentum, watch out. A team’s performance is affected by more than numbers on a board; it is greatly impacted by the players’ thoughts and emotions. If they have been winning and gaining points, it creates an emotional high and a winning thought pattern that are hard to beat.

If a team has come from behind to tie the score with seconds to go, that team has a united purpose. Their thoughts are clear and sharp, and with a flurry of focused activity they create and seize opportunities. If you asked them, they would say they can taste victory.

Conversely a team that has been losing or giving up points to its opponent begins to develop a huge emotional handicap that is hard to overcome. Even though the match may be tied, they are more frantic. The threat of defeat rises in their minds and the fear of failure begins to cloud their judgment, as victory seems to slip away.

Momentum in sports is a product of the mind but its presence can be felt and it is as real as the ball or puck that is being fought over.

Momentum is not unique to sports. It affects all aspects of life. And while momentum is real it’s not some mysterious force that shines on you or overlooks you. Momentum is a product of the mind and can be intentionally and willfully generated. It all depends on what you are thinking: where does your mind dwell and on what?

We have all experienced successes in our lives. These successes, small or large, current or past, are the building blocks to generating momentum. Relive and rehearse these successes in your mind. Experience them in your mind as if they had just occurred. Feel the excitement and relive it, then add other successes to this wonderful movie, which you purposefully play in your head.

And don’t keep the game in your head. Get excited, jump up and down, shout or clap your hands. React the way you would if you just achieved the success you’re experiencing in your head. As you experience this emotional high, look ahead to your next challenge. See it with the eyes of a winner, envision the opportunities and challenges it presents and how you could take advantage of them. Armed with this vision and momentum, you are in the right frame of mind to tackle your next challenge.

Some might argue that this is just smoke and mirrors. I disagree. Momentum works two ways. Some people relive their previous failures, along with the feelings of disappointment and sadness that come with defeat. To avoid this feeling they often dump their dreams before the pain of reliving failure becomes too much.

A positive dream sequence is just as real and valid as a negative one. Some sequences are created instantly and involuntarily while others are intentionally fabricated. Positive or negative, fabricated or not, momentum is always part of the equation. It creates the atmosphere in which we approach our challenges. The question is whether we are factoring it into the equation and making it work for rather than against us.

The Art of Transformation

By James W. Ahola, B.A.Sc.

sparkA good friend of mine recently decided to get a tattoo. He had been contemplating it for several years and did extensive research beforehand, not only about what he wanted permanently etched into his skin but also about the artist who would create it.

The Japanese dragon my friend proudly showed me on his right arm was a very impressive sight. It took months to create and involved many long hours of sitting under the needle. This wonderful piece of art, which has great meaning for my friend, is the work of a very talented artist, renowned province-wide, not only for his ability to create great works of art but to also recreate former works of art. People who have botched or fading tattoos or those that have lost their meaning, such as “John and Sally forever” in honour of a long-dead relationship, seek out this man’s unique talent. This gifted artisan can transform these tattoos into something relevant and beautiful. He does not so much overwrite or obliterate the undesirable, as he incorporates it into a new tapestry, transforming the ugly into the beautiful, the meaningless into something meaningful. Seeing his ability to restore pride and meaning to these tattoos, I can understand why he is booked up months in advance.

Just like old or unwanted tattoos, all of us can be afflicted with problems. Some we overcome easily. Others require our full attention as we struggle to resolve them. Then there are challenges that impact our lives unlike any other. They hit us like a freight train, rock our world, and with the permanency of a branding iron they mark us for life. For these problems, there is no quick fix. We are left stunned and marked indelibly. Reeling from pain, shock, and suffering we wonder, “why me?” To which there really is no answer.

Life happens. It can be beautiful, wonderful and joyous, but at times it delivers blows that bring us to our knees. The haunting question, “why?” will never be answered. The more important question is one which silently presents itself to us at such times: “what will you do now?”

When life marks us, we need to accept it and take ownership of it. I agree with the saying, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger,” but becoming stronger requires us to play an active role. We must initiate the healing process because untended wounds can fester and even destroy us. We need to accept our situation, heal, move on and rebuild. Although the final result will be different than it might have been otherwise, it will not be in any way diminished, just different. We are the primary agents in creating a newer, stronger person.

Often we need the assistance of others in our restructuring efforts. Like the tattoo artist my friend sought out, they can help us begin to create a tapestry of sorts, which incorporates the undesirable to produce an ever-more unique and precious outcome.

It is possible to refashion our lives after we have been seared by one of life’s unforgiving branding irons. There are numerous examples of this possibility all around us. That which has lost meaning can become meaningful again and that which was marred can be transformed into a more profound and unique beauty. Not all of life’s problems can be solved but with effort and perseverance anything can be overcome.

The Times They are a Changing

The Times They are a Changing
By James Ahola, B.A.Sc.

I remember being a kid and going on Saturday mornings with my older brother and some friends to watch cartoons at the local movie theatre. The place was packed. I think the whole school and more were there. I saw adults drop kids off but few hung around. We had a great time watching Bugs Bunny and friends getting up to their usual antics. But if you were hoping to catch the deep meaning of Foghorn Leghorn’s monologue, it was futile. While we watched some, we also played and caught up with friends.

The movie theatre in my town doesn’t show kids’ cartoons on Saturday mornings any more. My children have a huge choice of channels that run cartoons and other kids’ shows 24/7. They also play video games, chat with friends, download videos and do much more with their electronic devices. A lot of things have changed but much remains the same: namely, kids need entertainment and parents will gladly pay for it. Products come and go but principles are forever.

Politics change, the environment changes, economies change. What remains the same is people, and human nature doesn’t change a whole lot. Teenagers believe their parents haven’t got a clue but when they read Romeo and Juliet they can relate. Every teenager since Shakespeare can relate to young love and teenage angst because they, like all people, do not change.

Regardless of geography or time, people have consistent predictable needs and desires. Their physical needs include food and shelter. They have emotional needs such as a desire to be heard and loved. They have social needs like communication, acceptance from their peers, and status.

And people also want their kids to be entertained and out of their hair on weekend mornings. No matter where you go on the planet – past, present or future – these needs and desires exist. They form a constant that will not change.

Successful businesses are founded on satisfying people’s needs. As the old saying goes, “No need… no sale.” Great new products and services are being developed that meet the needs of consumers with the best tools and technology possible. Today’s computer tablets and smart phones fill the need for communication, just as Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press once did. The need never changed, just the response.

I remember hearing someone say that people never buy products, or services, they only buy solutions to their needs and desires.

In today’s business world it is easy to feel overwhelmed, uneasy, or left behind as we say goodbye to products and practices that feel very much a part of us. At times, I miss those Saturday morning cartoon fests and wish my kids could experience them as I did. But as I drink my weekend morning coffee and hear my children’s laughter while they watch cartoons, download comedy from YouTube and chat with their friends online, I realize that I’m just like those parents dropping their kids at the movie theatre so many years ago. I want time to myself while my children are entertained.

Yes, the world has dramatically changed… but perhaps not that much. As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Play With All You’ve Been Dealt

By James W. Ahola, B.A.Sc.

I was on holiday a little while ago with extended family. The beach was beautiful, the sun warm and the time with family precious. We did a number of things as a large group but one of the most frequent activities was playing cards. Now when we play cards as a family, we always play for money. It is only quarters, dimes and nickels, but by the end of the night they can add up; my kids know this and hence love to play. Usually mommy and daddy sponsor their game play. The games we play are simple enough for a child to understand but they also involve strategy and chance and require wits, which makes it fun for everyone. At the end of the trip I was amazed at the stash of cash my nine-year-old daughter was putting into her suitcase. For her it was a very good vacation.

Now I will admit that when playing against my daughter I do not play the same way I would if playing against others; however, not everyone at the card table shared my philosophy, especially her brothers. All were playing to win, and for several of them the thought was that if you’re old enough to play and win, you’re also old enough to play and lose.

My daughter was able to play some very strong hands. Sometimes I could not believe the cards she was dealt. She was a considerable opponent, and could not be dismissed because of her stature. When she played she didn’t just play the cards in her hand; rather, she was fully engaged. I remember one hand in which my brother-in-law, Mark was battling it out with my daughter and she was holding her ground. Mark, playing to win, laid down a card that caused her to lose the hand. As she threw her quarter into the pot she said, “Uncle Mark likes to pick on little girls.” To which grandpa said, “Hey Uncle Mark… take it easy on my granddaughter!” Over the next few hands Uncle Mark felt the sting of grandpa and others around the table. Soon he was out of the game. My daughter’s pigtails bobbed as she did a little dance to celebrate Uncle Mark’s exit from the game. You don’t mess with a little girl in pigtails.

I forget whether my daughter won that game and she certainly didn’t win all of them. However, she was a strong player because she didn’t just play her cards, she played the table, and with all she had. She turned her “weakness” of being a little girl into a strength that others simply couldn’t compete with. Was it fair? No. But neither was it fair that Uncle Mark was twice her size, had been playing cards much longer than she has been alive, and that he was not holding back in trying to separate her from her money. He had his advantage and she had hers.

Today’s marketplace is like a card game, one filled with fierce and stiff competition. Businesses are in competition for market share, and it seems like more and more competitors are getting into the game every day. There are big competitors and small competitors, and fair play is not the rule of the day. Everyone is playing to win. Like a card game, in the marketplace there is an element of chance, and success is a result of strategy and wits, which requires that you give everything you have.

It can sometimes seem unfair, and it actually is when you consider that small independents are trying to compete with national corporate chains. Big conglomerates have million-dollar marketing campaigns, prime retail locations and more at their disposal. But it could also be deemed unfair that the small independent can make decisions more quickly and service their community more uniquely, while having less overhead. On both sides of the coin, the game is simply not fair.

As I write this a TV commercial is flashing across the screen advertising a new vehicle. One of the major selling points is a feature that was developed by the auto manufacturer, branded by the same company and owned solely by that company. Hey they are focusing on something the competition cannot compete with! That’s not fair!

No, its not. Unfair play can be broadcast in HD on national television and no one is surprised or shocked. No one calls their MP or shakes their head in disapproval, because unfair play is accepted. Cheating and lying may be punishable infractions, but unfair play is fair game.

Whether you are competing for market share, a job, or nickels and dimes in a pot, it is important that to gain advantage you do not play a fair game. It may not be nice or what your mother told you but it’s reality. The opposition has distinct advantages. So what? So do you. The important thing is that you focus on and exploit your advantages. Find those advantages and exploit them to their fullest. Big business does it, small business does it, and little girls in pigtails do it, too. Because to win in any competitive market you need to play with more than just the cards you are dealt.