Friday, January 4, 2008

Chances

I've played in one pro-am golf tournament, a few years ago during the local LPGA tour stop. We lucked out: Our partner was Rosie Jones, a great golfer and an even better person. You can learn a lot about golf, and more about life, walking fairways with Rosie.

After yet another unmemorable dead-left duck-hook, I turned to Rosie's caddy and deadpanned: Who's the best out here? Serious question, though I did not give it much thought. The looper incredulously replied: Anika. Of course, I thought, kicking myself like Chris Farley; how can you be so stupid!

Embarrassed, I pressed on. What makes her so good? I asked, expecting a technically athletic -- she's a great putter, a straight hitter, a whatever -- reply. His response: She gives herself more chances -- birdie putts inside 15 feet -- to score than anyone out here. Simplistic, logical and poignant.

It took me three years to analogize Annika's greatness and Rosie's caddy's wisdom with business. What makes a business (or a businessperson) so good? The competencies and assets of an organization or individual are obvious; they're antes for being in the game. Differentiation (and success) comes from maximizing the quantity and quality of chances you or your company have to prosper. Success crescendos when you knock it (your proposition or effort) close to the hole, often. The more short puts you have, the more likely you are to excel. The shorter the puts, ibid times two.

Making a 60-foot put is exhilarating, but it's a tough way to run a business or hack through life. Stroking a continuum of 10-footers -- better yet, tap-ins -- is a much more fruitful existence, and creating such chances is the root of prosperity. Better to be good than lucky.

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