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Fear as a competitive advantage

Fear as a competitive advantage

I was thinking about how I and many people in the FIRMSconsulting community broke out of our orbits partially driven by fear.

And I thought:

Can fear be a sustainable competitive advantage?

After considering my journey and the price you have to pay when driven in some considerable way by fear, I concluded that fear can be a competitive advantage, but it’s not a sustainable competitive advantage.

Most humans cannot be motivated into action by fear for sustained periods of time. Usually, you use fear to drive forward in a sustained burst to create some foundation, and then you rest.

For example, you can use fear to force everyone to fix a company’s failing business model. That may work. And then they can rest a little once the business is not failing.

Noteworthy Highlight

The actual proposal we referred to in the recent Legacy program High-Value Letter of Proposal. “Why,” and “Why now?” Those are the two most important questions you have to ask yourself when you view the proposal of a competitor and prepare your own proposals. Most do not do this. When they view the proposal of a competitor, all they try to do is try to understand what they can copy and what they can borrow, and understand the pricing behind it. In a sense, they’re extracting the least amount of value that they can extract from a proposal. However, a proposal is a powerful tool to understand the strategy of a company. Exclusively available within the Strategy Control Room (Advanced).

That’s how we put a man on the moon and beat the Japanese. We used fear to make some big move with a clear end in sight. Robert Solow, the Nobel Laureate who advised McKinsey on its first productivity study of the US, said there was a simple reason corporate America responded so well to Japanese companies.

“Never underestimate the power of fear.”

In my case, I was driven partially by fear all the way to the time I finally decided to leave the corporate environment. While driven by fear, there was no big move that would allow me to rest. In my case, I have decided (mostly unconsciously) that fear is my strength. And, as an analogy, it’s like I have decided to raise my kids and manage them till they die to live with this sense of fear.

It cannot work.

It was what the USSR did.

They never used fear to build something that could survive without fear. And because they never did that they had no choice but to keep fear since it’s all they had as a tool and weapon.

My grandmother did not allow me to speak about the government, or the West, when we were alone in our house, because she was afraid anyone would somehow hear us. This is how oppressed people felt before the collapse of the USSR.

Noteworthy Highlight

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Fear is also very common in the Asian community.

According to my Asian friends, and based on what I observed working with clients, they are trained from a young age to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants because of how they grew up. They fear having to live in poverty again, be that their personal experience of poverty or that of their parents or grandparents. They fear not being able to fulfill their obligations like taking care of their parents.

But at a certain point that fear stops driving them.

We get tired and drained from doing what fear made us do. That is when people start wondering why they became a doctor, or a banker, or a management consultant, and start thinking about what they should do instead.

If you got that far in life to a large degree driven by fear, similar to many driven and ambitious leaders, it’s time to start laying the foundation for a more sustainable and less damaging competitive advantage you can use going forward.

If you need help figuring it out, enroll or upgrade to the Legacy membership level. You can follow A MidLife Strategy Update where Michael shares, in real-time, the design and implementation of his MasterPlan. And then submit your questions for Legacy results clinics (2 times a month). The next one is June 20th. If you are Insider, you can upgrade to Legacy for a month or longer and back to Insider without losing Insider status (just make sure you email team@firmsconsulting to help you retain your status). Enroll in Legacy here (scroll to membership options and select Legacy). With Legacy, or one of our coaching programs, you can get my and Michael’s help to make this year the best year it can be versus letting it pass by without making any meaningful progress.

Take care,

Kris Safarova

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