Strong Fit, Weak Fit

Happy Fourth of July to readers in the United States. That’s where I am too, and it demonstrates today’s idea quite well.

Nearly everything I write about is US centric. I live in central Florida so that’s an influence too. Sometimes I wonder if a larger city would provide more opportunities for connections, collaborations, and commitments. Then I remember that each strength is a weakness and each weakness is a strength.

Brad Gilbert was a middling tennis player before he realized his fit on the courts. It was a match against an opponent he called “Fat Fritz.” If you just looked at the two you’d think Gilbert would win in straight sets. Fritz dominated. It got to Gilbert. ‘Why?’ he wondered. So he sat down and watched Fritz’s next match. "I'd watch a match like I was studying for a history test."

He wrote notes. He collected dossiers on opponents like he was an Interpol agent. Gilbert did this to find his fit. He realized that overall he was a pretty good player, though with few outstanding parts to his game. Gilbert had to discover the situations where he was good at something but his opponent was not. "I'll lose if I go strength to strength. I'm good, however, at working my strengths against my opponents weaknesses."

It may seem like your fit would better if only (fill in the blank). But that’s not the case. Our weaknesses can be turned into strengths. For more than forty years Avis ran the ‘We try harder’ campaign. They may have been second best but they told consumers that made them care more. Gilbert wasn’t great overall but he was great in certain conditions.

Sometimes our fit means playing to our strengths. Sometimes our fit means embracing weaknesses. Yesterday we noted that Guy Spier couldn’t copy Warren Buffett and move to Omaha, but he could learn from him and move out of a cacophonous city.