A colleague and I were discussing “leadership” and what that truly meant. We came up with this analogy, which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Imagine you move rocks for a living. The more rocks you move, the more you’re paid. You don’t move rocks, you don’t get paid. Thus, you understand the direct linkage between putting in time and compensation. This is the hourly wage model– some rock movers get paid more than others, whether flipping burgers, working in a big corporation, or drilling teeth. The more teeth you can drill, the more you’re paid. Are you a corporate wage slave or someone who is paid piecemeal? This was me for twenty years of my life– a prostitute selling my time for money. Whether I billed $5 per hour or $250– it was the same thing. One day in the proverbial quarry, you decide that moving more rocks to get paid more was not the right answer. At best, you might move 20% more rocks than the other guy in a particular day, but it wasn’t sustainable. So you leave the quarry for 7 days, much to the surprise of your fellow laborers. In that time you move no rocks and make no income.
But when you come back, you are driving a bulldozer. Now, in one day you are able to move 100 times what a single laborer can do. But to get that bulldozer, you had to temporarily earn nothing– plus spend money to buy the vehicle and spend time learning how to drive the thing. Your fellow laborers, noses down, continue to keep moving rocks– they don’t look up to see you in the bulldozer. They have heard about bulldozers in the magazines, but never thought it was something possible for them.
You hang out with the other guys driving bulldozers. You have newfound wealth, which is fleeting, since the crowd you run with also enjoys the same standard of living. You’re right back in the middle of your peers. It feels great to be 100 times more productive than you were before, but you’re not quite fulfilled.
So you leave the quarry again and disappear for 7 days. In that time you move no rocks and make no income. And when you return, you are back with 100 bulldozers and 100 other eager new bulldozer operators. You’ve opened a bulldozer training school! Flocks of manual laborers who used to move rocks now come to be trained by you. And you make a commission on the rocks they move, since these laborers didn’t have enough money to buy their own bulldozers. These laborers are now moving 100 times what they did before, but given the costs of training, equipment, and your profit, they only make 10 times what they did before. Still, they are happy.
And you are temporarily happy. With 100 bulldozer operators moving 100 times as many rocks as a single man can do, you’re at 10,000 times your earlier productivity. Your lifestyle has changed, too. You have have a Granite Card by American Express and have a new mansion in Boulder. People admire you–you’re a ROCK star. They think that the secret to your success is getting stoned.
But it’s not enough– something inside you is not quite satisfied. You can only train so many new bulldozer operators per day. You’re still moving rocks in a sense, just mass quantities. Growth in your bulldozer school is directly related to the amount of time you’ve put in. So one day you close the bulldozer school. The press thinks you’ve gone mad– that you’ve lost your marble.
SCALE UP AGAIN
You disappear for 7 days. And when you return, you’re holding a brochure in your hand– “How to Open Your Own Bulldozer Training School”. You’re created a franchise model, where you are training up other school owners. You have first hand experience in training new bulldozer operators, so new school owners can rely on your experience. You now have sold 100 franchises, each one with a happy owner training 100 bulldozer operators, who in turn do the work of 100 laborers. That’s 1 million times leverage.
You would not have been able to pull this off unless you had personal experience moving rocks, driving bulldozers, training bulldozer operators, and running a franchised business. You were able to take your knowledge and multiply it. If you didn’t intimately understand each aspect of the business, scaling up would have just multiplied losses.
Now examine your life and what you do. Are you moving rocks or are you multiplying? Writing software is a multiplication process. You can write one copy and sell it an infinite number of times. You could hand-build a single PPC campaign for a client or perhaps write a campaign management tool that can do it over and over in an automated fashion. But just like the rock moving analogy, if you aren’t a practitioner with hands-on experience in managing campaigns, your automation won’t be effective. There are lots of guys selling software that builds websites, manages PPC campaigns, creates SEO reports, sends out emails, and any variety of tasks.
If you want to create massive value, consider the rocks that you are moving. Can you write software or processes that can make life easier for others– or perhaps do some task faster, more effectively, or at lower cost? Everyone has something they know exceedingly well. What is that skill for you? You don’t have to be able to write code. Software is nothing more than rules for machines, just like processes are rules for humans.
McDonalds is a software company that just happens to make burgers. People go to McDonalds not because it has the most delicious burgers, but for the consistency of the food and the experience. You can take pimply-faced teens all over the world, minds distracted with their latest relationship dramas, speaking different languages, skilled or not– and still turn out that same value meal each time. That’s process for you.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
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