3 min read

Make Room For A Worthy Adversary

Make Room For A Worthy Adversary

Being the eldest of four, I was born with an advantage in many childhood circumstances. I was big and taller, I'd been playing the games our family loved longer, and I knew what rules Mom and Dad were more likely to let slide. I remember my younger brother asking us to play by "5-year-old rules," so he could keep up.

That disadvantage eventually faded, but it didn't change those years of "only play 60% as good as you can" to make it fair for others. We all can play down to the level of our competition - to still win but not win in a dominant fashion. To keep the game looking competitive, but to be toying with our opponent whom we have sized up and found them lacking.

But how often, post the playground, sizing up our counterparts incorrectly?

One of the most famous scenes from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride, features the skilled swordsman Inigo Montoya and his catchphrase, "You killed my father, prepare to die." He is waiting to kill the man in black, and, upon challenging him to a duel, he quickly realizes that he has assessed this stranger's sword skills incorrectly, but never fear, he reveals - "I am not left-handed." He'd been fighting with his less dominant hand because he lacked knowledge about who he was fighting.

I feel like a lot of leaders are fighting "left-handed" right now. There is a real sense that leaders in the world and in the industries I am working in are not fighting with everything they have because they don't view the challenges they are solving to be worthy enough opponents. Sure, there are exceptions, but in general, I find the tenacity of most leaders boring and routine.

There seem to be countless leaders fighting the challenges of everyday life in 2024 and coming out ahead, but so few leaders are fighting for a new understanding of what the world could be and how it all could go right. They are struggling with retention, competitive compensation, and thorough DEI policies but have lost sight of the reason they started building a company in the first place. They are debating which platform to share their "tips for better board meetings" on but haven't truly sized up the challenges and challengers to their life's work and are settling for a fight that only requires them to play at 60%.

When we stay playing by "5-year-old rules," we eventually forget how to play by the full set of rules with our full force unleashed for the hard-earned victories that a worthy adversary brings about. I hope to always seek out the boss at the end of the next level and hope that it keeps me sharp for whatever challenges stand between me and the wins that allow me to level up again. And I hope I continue to find others doing the same to remind each other not to get caught "fighting left-handed."

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