The slogan “win or die in 2009” has made its way around the office here. The first image that came to me when I heard it for the first time was the haunting message found in the hotel room used by Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim several years ago. Kim died from too many blows to the head by boxer Ray Mancini in a match in Las Vegas. After the fight, and Kim’s death, a hotel lampshade was discovered to have “live or die” scrawled on it by the boxer before the event. Kim knew he was in for the fight of his life with the world champion Mancini, and he prophetically gave himself no plan for retreat with the message on the lampshade. While the gauge for success in business is not literally a matter of life and death, “win or die in 2009” also creates a psychological scale with no middle ground. Offering no choice other than success can help us rise above the mental bar we set for ourselves – allowing for a greater threshold of tolerance for pain, annoyance, impatience and many other factors that can sabotage a potentially great project, job or even a career.
Many times, success is merely finishing the job you start. It doesn’t necessarily have to be outstanding or unique; you just have to cross the finish line. A good friend’s son was graduating from high school last year. He was going on to college and was mentally “finished” with all things related to high school. Ted had done well in his school work, but had not completed all the requirements for the ultimate prize for the Boy Scouts – achieving Eagle Scout status. Ted and I talked about all of the distractions he was dealing with at that pivotal time in his life and why the Eagle trophy was no longer a high priority for him. I reminded Ted that he had worked as a scout for many years, and he would look back, perhaps years later, and regret the decision not to finish.
The deadline was drawing near, and Ted called me the day before his 18th birthday – the day of his project deadline – to report he had finished the requirements for Eagle Scout. Ted is like so many of us. Life and all the clutter it throws in our path can sometimes distort what is really important. We sometimes mistake being busy with being productive. Nowadays, that can destroy a business quicker than rising interest rates. We must remain focused on the prize – the finish line – and let nothing deter us. This strong will to succeed will help us overcome a weak economy.