Naysayers, Competitors, and Roadblockers

Rick's BlogI led a workshop recently for a senior management team that included some veterans of the corporate world. Just a few hours into the session, one of them blurted out, “This bigger game stuff is incredibly simplistic. I don’t see how it can be of any use to anyone.”

Well, thanks for your positive feedback!

I let this naysayer get to me initially. I stewed about his critique that night. I was hurt. And feeling insecure! Yet, when I woke up the next morning, there was a fire in my belly. I wasn’t angry. Instead, I was very clear about why the Bigger Game is an important tool, especially for those who’ve become cynical and resistant to fresh approaches. I realized that Mr. Naysayer needed me much more than I needed him!

I rocked the second day of that workshop. I came up with concepts, contexts, and content that had never occurred to me in the past. Mr. Naysayer proved to be a terrific ally, a gift that just kept on giving, because he inspired me to up my own game. And he ended up receiving great value from the workshop!

Recently some naysayers showed up and told Chuck and I that we were crazy for producing another Bigger Game Expo. We were told it didn’t make good business sense and that we shouldn’t go after high-priced speakers. Well, I must tell you, our immediate thought was, “Oh yeah? Well, wait and see!” Again, that fire in the belly showed up. We are now more compelled than ever to create an incredible Expo experience.

I think we all should embrace our naysayers, competitors, and antagonizers. They can drive you to make your game bigger and better. You may not like them. You may even curse the fact that they’re in your life. But anyone or anything that motivates you and fuels your passion is an ally in some way.

The brilliant Henry Kimsey-House, cofounder of The Coaches Training Institute, first taught me the leadership principle that says resistance is our friend. You may have seen this applied in a comedy club. Professional comedians are adept at taking hecklers and making them part of the act, tapping the resistance and turning it into a more engaging and “alive” performance.

Tap into any resistance coming your way and use it to your advantage. Don’t get mad… get creative! In fact, it could be that your own naysayer might have a point. You should consider that too.

AlliesYour allies can also include competitors and arch foes. Where would Hertz be without Avis? Coke without Pepsi? Fallon without Kimmel? Overcoming the challenges presented by competitors will make your success all the sweeter!

My former boss David Overton, founder of The Cheesecake Factory, embraced the concept of competitors as allies. He welcomed it when other restaurants moved into the same areas as his own, because he believed the more people who saw his restaurants, the more who’d want to visit them. He also felt that because there was usually a wait every night for seating at The Cheesecake Factory, the competitors provided an option for diners who couldn’t wait to be seated. David clearly operates from an abundance perspective. He believes there’s plenty of success out there for all to share, and rejects the idea that it’s merely survival of the fittest or that there’s only so much success available in the universe.

The point I’m trying to make here is pretty obvious. Our allies can come in all shapes and sizes, and in people and things that you least expect. Don’t just engage with the obvious allies in your life… get curious and see what’s waiting for you around the next corner. You might just be surprised!

More to come-

PS – I’d love to hear from you about some unexpected allies in your life! (Please comment below)



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  • Kara Exner Reply

    I love the idea that the naysayers can be a catalyst for upping our game! I also try to embrace the concept that everyone is a teacher — even the naysayers. As I tell my two little boys: some people teach us how we’d like to be in the world, and others teach us who or how we *don’t* want to be. Thanks for a great article!

  • Andrea Willets Reply

    I have been working with a non profit and its Board of Directors for the past month, and the Executive Director informed me that one of the Board Members believed that I had convinced the President to resign. We were gearing up for a second meeting and I knew that I would be having to meet and hold the group with this particular member believing this “absurd” story. It rattled me and I considered, “How can I show up and convince her and any of the other members that it just was not so.” I checked in with my own moral compass and decided that by doing my job, I may have influenced the President’s decision to step down. I began to truly embrace my impact and the importance of the job I do as a facilitator…revealing the system to itself. Yes, indeed I influenced the outcomes in that board room, by doing my job well. And I am clear that I am not a consultant, but have a huge impact on the space as I reflect and reveal the system to itself. I am not attached to outcomes, but I am attached to doing my job with integrity and fierceness that results in not making friends but encouraging alignment and cohesive, creative work environments. The Board Member that accused me of “convincing” an outcome was indeed an ally. She made me pause and consider my impact in a deeper sense, check in with my own integrity, and gave me my own reflection of a job well done. When the next meeting came around I found myself confident, relaxed, and at ease. The entire BOD’s were as well, because some deeply embedded toxic energy had been cleared, and the Board was ready to move ahead, re-aligned and re-energized for more possibility.

  • sue gleeson Reply

    hi rick
    this post really resonated with me. Recently I was asked, “How can you say there is a loving God, who has designed us with a compelling purpose, when there is so much evil in the world?”
    I really had to struggle to come up with words that adequately speak to what i feel in my heart about this.
    I don’t know if I am there yet, but I would say that we are each responsible for our own lives, we get to look deeply for our compelling purpose, which will lead us to our next Bigger Game and then the next, etc. We then become a part of the solution to the evil that we see in the world. If everyone knew their compelling purpose and acted in accordance with it, I think there would less evil in the world and we would be part of the solution without ever having to really understand the ‘why’ of evil.
    this is why I am a Bigger Game trainer! I absolutely love that we have a beautiful model/ workshop experience which helps people to find their compelling purpose

  • Ashley Reply

    I loved reading this – light & dark define each other, make each other richer.
    And I’m seriously considering the Expo now. 🙂

  • Gary Reply

    As a lifelong nay-sayer I would like to take a moment to speak up for nay-saying. Let me clarify. I am a firm believer in seeking knowledge and insight wherever I can, however, I am also a disciple of healthy cynicism and have considered it a cornerstone of my ability to carefully weigh options and help me make the right choices in my life. I admit it, I view some new ideas and “outside the box” thinking at arms length but I am proud of my thoughtful hesitation and careful examination before I buy in and give over. “Show me the money” I say. While I am not the heckler type that Rick describes in his wonderful post, I do tend to be a resister. But I can also be your friend if I believe!

  • Rayanne Reply

    Just what I needed to hear! Wrote this blog after being inspired by naysayers and conflict — What an oyster teaches us about turning conflict into growth …

  • michael Reply

    When I was working with rockbands the issue of competitors came up. They all felt the other bands were their competitors. I had to shake up their world a bit about that. The conversation went something like this:

    Me: How many clubs are open in your area on a given Friday night?
    B (for band)Uhm about 20.
    Me: okay so how many can you play in while still playing in the one you’re in?
    B. None
    Me. so isn’t it in your best interest that these clubs stay open?
    B. sure
    Me; so if the other bands are successful there then those clubs will also become places you could play because no club will keep the same band every night right?
    B. …………yeah……..but they’re taking away people who might come to our show
    Me: maybe some but mostly No they’re not. How many does this club hold?
    b. about 700
    Me so what happens when it’s at capacity?
    B. they can’t come in, they have to wait till some leave
    Me. and do people really wait through ALL 3 sets just to see you for 10 minutes at the end of the night?
    B. no they go somewhere else. some wait tho
    Me. they do but certainly not enough to take ALL the people away from ALL the other clubs
    B. so what’s your point
    Me. here’s the deal…each other band is your ally. they’re keeping the clubs open, yes but that’s the small view. They’re actually in an unconscious concerted effort with you to train people to come out on weekends to see bands in the first place. The other bands are supporting the scene growing to be a bigger pie that you all take slices out of instead of fighting for a bigger slice of a smaller pie.
    B….okay? then who are we competing with?
    Me: to be honest? I’d say it’s anyone keeping an audience out of a club on a weeknight or even weekday night…that means, anything that will keep them home whether it’s chinese takeout, blockbuster video or whatever, even restaurants that keep them out of the club
    B so what do we do about that?
    Me well, two things. first drop the whole campaign about how other bands suck. when you say that kind of stuff in public it comes back to bite you and remember, the staff in any club has their favorites so what you say matters to what they say to customers when youre not here. Promote, them tell them to follow you but when they can’t get in to go see such and such and defintiely don’t sabotage the opening band so you look better because it just makes you look worse.

    here’s the second one: give the fans, the audience such a compellling experience every night so they feel like it was something special that they don’t want to miss. Make them feel special instead of treating them like they should worship you. Then they’ll want to be with you for more of those experiences…It makes your experience more attractive that sitting at home eating chinese..”.

    Bottom line, was, it was a challenge. Some bands got on board and thrived and some bands stayed caught in the kill or be killed mentality, but certainly a shift in who is/ isn’t your ally is useful

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