Something I learned early in ice skating was many other skaters are present on the ice, and some of them might be in my path (or some might say, I in their paths!). I also painfully learned it was important to avoid colliding with them, especially when skating fast (which I love to do). My success in these endeavors rose virtually to perfection when I realized a very simple, effective decision technique.
The technique is never make eye contact with the other skater during a high-speed approach. What I discovered was the moment you make eye contact with an approaching skater, the two of you attempt to communicate with your eyes. That is the problem.
Once the eyes are locked, you are both sunk. Very minute eye signals occur followed by directional changes. Each skater immediately discerns these directional changes and then immediately makes counterdirectional changes. Now you are both making the same counterdirectional changes. This creates an endless direction-change loop until the collision! If just one of the skaters would choose to stick to a projected path, then the other skater would understand which path to avoid.
This little skating lesson has applicability to our personal growth, professional growth, and leadership. Knowing other “skaters” are on the “ice” has some value. That knowledge should inform your strategy. Businesspersons must know their competition. Professionals should enhance their development by observing others. Entrepreneurial strategy may need to emulate another company or do the opposite of another company.
We can learn a lot from other people and companies, and we should. Just remember that learning a lot from other entities does not mean they determine your direction or destination. Those matters are solely your decisions.
If we focus too intensely on another company or person, that can lead us to a nasty outcome. The superior approach is to focus on where you want to go. When you do that, your resources tend to align to support your direction while others get out of your way so you reach your destination.
As leaders, as entrepreneurs, as businesspersons, and just as people, ice skating teaches us this truth. While skating life’s crowded rink, know who is on the ice, but remain focused on your direction and destination.