In It or On It?

A business coach once gave me a piece of advice which I didn’t quite understand at the time. She told me that in order to be successful and grow, I have to be able to step back at times and work “on” my business versus “in” it. It wasn’t until years later, after many seminars and lessons learned, that I finally understood what she was trying to tell me. When we are working “in” something, whether it be a job, a task, or basketball practice, we get caught up in the tedious mechanics of what we are doing. For example, if we are working at Starbucks, we have to concentrate on exactly how many pumps of syrup and what kind of milk goes into making the specific drink a customer ordered. While focusing on details are necessary for the daily operation of a business or a basketball team, they do not allow for growth.

Why? Because we never have time to work “on” our business, craft, etc.  Working “on” something means stepping back to look at the bigger picture. It means allowing ourselves to see things from a different perspective and being open to changing things that we thought were working well. In business, this may mean no longer offering a service that is not profitable. In basketball, working “on” our game requires us to look at ourselves from a holistic perspective. This may require us to look at practice and game footage of ourselves and really see where we can improve. Do we always drive to the left? Do we hesitate to drive to the basket when we have an open lane? Only by stepping back to work “on” our game will we be able to make the adjustments necessary to take our game to the next level and completely focus while we are “in” our game.

Sounds simple, right? It is…but we have to make the time. Many times we get so mired in the day to day minutiae that we feel like we can’t step back because a ball, or two, will get dropped. Well, I have news for you, the companies, athletes, and employees who do not make the time will get left behind. It might not be immediately noticeable, but soon we will look up and wonder what happened to so-and-so. Don’t believe me? Anyone remember Circuit City or Blockbuster? Seems like a distant memory. Now can we find the time?

Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Let’s choose…will we be the ones left standing “on” top or the ones left “in” the dust?