We knew “Ed” was going to be a problem as soon as he showed up. Let me explain. It all started with an ad that read:
“This ride will very likely kill you or, at least, seriously injure you…and your ego.”
The advertised ride was a week-long guided mountain bike trek. It started with the famed Kokopelli Trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah, then took you along the razor edge of elevated moonscapes and mesas. Massively technical, physically grueling, there were points where one wrong move would’ve led to perilous outcomes.
Thing is, this story isn’t about mountain biking.
It’s about life. And business…
Six of us came together for the first time at the trailhead, sizing each other up. We did the usual “how do you do’s,” but the question on everyone’s mind was “who can actually ride, and who’s most likely to get us killed?” There’s a lot you can tell just by looking at a rider.
I kept things low key, mounting a well-worn Specialized hardtail that didn’t absorb bumps all that well, but gave me pinpoint control and hyper-efficient power. Stripped-down, it was a bare-minimum ride. Nothing flashy. Same for my garb. A ratty old bandana under a beat up helmet, threadbare t-shirt, broken-in riding shorts and battle-tested shoes.
On the other end of the spectrum was Ed (named changed to protect the innocent). Sporting a week-old $4,000, spit-shined full-suspension ride and a body festooned with a festival of skin-tight neon lycra, spanking new gloves and helmet, near patent-leather shiny shoes and hi-tech wrap-around shades. He. Was. Styling. I’d ridden with enough Eds to know there were really only two possibilities. He was a gobsmackingly good rider, or he was delusional and about to die.
Two hours later, Ed was gone.
For the next 24 hours, we thought he was dead.
Without permission, on a monstrously dangerous trail, he sprinted ahead of the pack. Building on a foundation of arrogance and enough high-end gear to delude him into thinking he knew what he was doing, he ignored warnings and his own complete lack of skill, took a wrong turn and didn’t look back for hours.
Search and rescue had four people looking for him all night. Two on ATVs, two more on motorbikes. Risking their lives in the dark to find him. He wasn’t found until the following day. Physically battered, but okay. His bike, well that was another story.
When he finally made it back, his first move was to take a swing at the group leader. Blaming him for “abandoning” him to die in the desert. In fact, he’d actually heard the rescuers looking for him but didn’t flag them down because he was angry at us for leaving him.
Absolute height of denial and arrogance.
But, it’s also the story of “instead of,” rather than “in addition to.”
Before committing to this “challenge of a lifetime” ride, Ed spent weeks researching and then buying the lightest bike frame in a quest to get a slight performance edge, instead of, rather than in addition to focusing on the monumentally larger edge that would’ve come from riding more often and losing even a portion of the 40-plus extra pounds his personal frame carried. And, no, it wasn’t just that he was a bigger guy, but had put in the time and was super-fit in his larger frame. He hadn’t. If anything, he was recklessly physically unprepared.
He bought the most-expensive, fastest shifting gear system, instead of, rather than in addition to spending thousands of hours riding, wiping out, grinding up mountains and down trails, developing the ability to intuitively forecast and make the split-second shifts that drive epic performance, even on the worst equipment.
He bought the most expensive, plushest suspension, instead of, rather than in addition to learning how to feel the billions of data points that scream from the dirt up through the tires, spokes, frame, seat and handlebars and into your body with a firmer ride, and give you the information needed to understand traction, power, leverage, impact, force, acceleration, speed, steering and control on an embodied, expert level.
He’d invested all of his money in the external stuff, instead of, rather than in addition to owning the fact that you can strap a true rider, someone who has done the work, on a 1983 Schwinn Stingray clunker and she will destroy the arrogance-driven, gear-deluded newbie who thought winning was more about window-dressing than going deep and working your butt off.
Thing is, this story isn’t about mountain biking.
It’s about life. And business.
It’s about you, your career and, if you aspire to build something great, it’s about that vision.
I see this all the time both in the world of aspiring or new entrepreneurs and established business builders. It’s so much easier to just buy better stuff, build a better app, use a better platform, install a better system, build a flashier marketing funnel, write more compelling copy, wrap your product in better packaging.
You look outside of your own personal emotional and cognitive ecosystem for “the big leap.”
All those external tools and systems and strategies and platforms and bells and whistles matter. They can make a difference WHEN they exist in addition to, not instead of a fully-optimized, aligned and utterly lit-up YOU.
In that case, they become complimentary vehicles of growth. But, alone, they don’t fix the biggest problem. The thing that is really holding you back.
The single biggest simultaneous fail-point and success catalyst is you.
Not your gear, your platform, your system or technology.
Technology didn’t make Steve Jobs better, Steve’s voracious mind made technology better.
Stop looking outside yourself for the big win.
You want to grow faster, know yourself better.
You want to make more money, be a better problem solver.
You want to attract better talent, build a stunning culture of one.
You want to make a bigger difference, train in empathy, intuition and compassion.
You want to leave a legacy that matters, be a better human and leave people profoundly changed.
You want to live a better life, before anything else, invest in a ruthless self-knowledge, then build every effort, every action, every element of your vision around the fiber of your being.
You are the killer app.
The ultimate, yet most ignored technology lies in the space between your left and right ears.
Bake a profoundly better human cake.
Everything else is frosting.
So, why don’t we do this?
Because it’s hard. And, with rare exception, we’re wired for the easy win.
It’s the same reason you go for the pill from your doctor, instead of changing the way you eat and move and live.
Because it’s easier. On occasion, it’s truly necessary. But, whenever it’s taken “instead of, rather than in addition to” the behavior change that’s often the root cause and lifetime fix, it also serves as an illusion and a panacea. Something that, like Ed’s zillion-dollar gear, deludes you into thinking you’re doing what you need to do to be the best you can be and build what you want to build.
But it’s a lie. And, it will come back to haunt you. Always does. Always will.
The best of the best, the people who are now and will in the future eat you for lunch, build themselves, through fierce effort and expert guidance, into unstoppable human engines of intelligence, creativity, intuition, compassion, service, expression and heart. Then, they build a culture that empowers the people they bring into their enedeavors to do the same.
They exalt self-knowledge, personal growth and meaningful expression as the heartbeat of success.
And they are hyper-aware that they, on an individual level, are both the keys to the castle and the sand in the machine. Equally capable of fueling acceleration and impact or delusion and collapse.
So, my question is this…
Which will you choose?
Delusion or determination?
Ownership and effort or glitz and blame?
If you really want to invest in something this year, your #1 priority…
Should be you.