There is one ancient Greek parable that has influenced my thoughts and life strategies since I first learned it – the fox and the hedgehog.
Every day the fox wakes up with several creative ideas, tricks, and well calculated strategies for eating the hedgehog. Quite innovative and versatile, the fox is always seen trying something new and different. One day he ambushes the hedgehog, gorilla-style. The next day he tries a full speed head-on attack. The next day he hides out in a cave all day long waiting for the right moment to attack…on and on he goes with his tricks. But he rarely succeeds.
Meanwhile, the hedgehog, determined to live a long life among highly creative predators, has only one strategy. Unlike the fox who has infinite ideas and strategies, every time the hedgehog senses danger from the fox or any other predator, it curls into a ball making his spiky spines stick out, thus keeping the predator at bay. The fox knows this and does many things. But the hedgehog does one big thing.
Many people are like the fox. They know and apply so many ways to make money or succeed in life. They try so many things, but rarely succeed. Successful people, however, apply the hedgehog strategy.
I know one lady now in her early 60s. She started working at the age of 23 as a tea girl cum messenger and managed to rise to administrative clerk after doing some secretarial courses until she retired at 55.
For 32 years, she worked to fulfill one goal – to own some rental houses before retirement. By the time she clocked 50, she started collecting some rental income from her own apartment. Today she collects over Ksh. 300,000 every month.
How did she manage to build multi-million apartments with a secretary’s salary? Quite simple: she invested all her surplus money with a purpose. She joined a sacco, saved and bought plots of land. She avoided investing in anything else – no stocks, pyramids, side hustles or lottery.
Most of us lose focus because we invest our money and energies in so many areas and since we don’t have the time and expertise to follow up and monitor all of them, we end up losing most of it.
Successful people do the opposite. They know and apply just one big thing that works.
Even in business, it is not how many things you do that counts. It is not the number of
businesses, branches, or product lines that count. The bottom line is how effective they are in bringing you profit, which is the benchmark.
The lesson here is that every individual and every business needs to find one big thing that works in almost all situations and apply it. It could be a product that gives you a competitive advantage in the market place; it could be a marketing strategy or a market niche. It could be your job that you need to acquire more competitive skills on.
Once you have identified this one big thing that works in almost all situations, the next big thing is to apply what is called gazelle intensity, a lesson from an animal that survives faster predators.
This concept helps you to beat any competition or obstacles that come your way.
The cheetah is the fastest animal on earth. However, animal experts have established that a cheetah catches a gazelle roughly once in 18 attempts.
Gazelles know one big thing too — that the cheetah’s speed is limited to straight-line running. So the gazelle bobs and weaves and runs in circles until the cheetah gets tired and gives up.
In business, you must know your competitors well and avoid any direct confrontation or encounter, especially if they are big and well-equipped. Like the cheetah, big competitors are limited to conventional marketing and operations.
The solution is to use innovative and unconventional ways of doing business. These ways are cost-effective for small firms. Once you identify one big thing that works almost always, do not try something else. Specialize in it, stick to it, and polish it to perfection.