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“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.” – Christopher McDougall
In every market whether business, jobs or investing, there are lions and there are gazelles. The lions are the fastest, strongest, fiercest animals in the field while the gazelle is a fast, light, pack animal that finds safety in numbers.
The lion represents the leader in the market: he feeds on his competition and swallows up the slowest weakest gazelles. There are few lions, and only the best can become lions in the field.
The gazelles symbolize the “herd” of average players that flood the market and swarm the terrain in packs. Where one gazelle goes, the rest follow. Unlike the few lions on the field, there are scores of gazelles. As a gazelle, you do not have to be the best to survive. Instead, you must only be faster than your slowest competition to win another day of life.
The lion requires a complex skill set and a high standard of performance to live, He must become strategic while hunting and move contrary to the direction of the herd. He must appear where the herd does not expect him if he is going to kill and live another day.
The gazelles only need an average skill set and average standard of performance. The herd feels secure when everyone is the same and the gazelles organize themselves in a crowd. The crowd makes the gazelles feel safe because it gives them a thin veil of protection from the lions. This thin veil keeps the lion from focusing on any one gazelle, for the lion cannot catch them all. The lion can only catch one gazelle for his dinner and let the rest of the herd go. The gazelles know this and they base their survival strategy around this fact.
As an investor or entrepreneur, which would you rather be? The Lion or the Gazelle?
Would you rather have the illusion of safety and move with the herd as a gazelle?
Or would you rather have the freedom of the lion to hunt and kill on your own terms?
In my investment/entrepreneurial career, I have always chosen to become the lion.
In my opinion, the lion is a better choice in the investment/entrepreneurial world because I have always had a rule for myself: Whatever the average person does – do the opposite of it and you will succeed.
Most people are not successful at all, so if you do the opposite of the average person, logically you will be a success.
If the average person wants to buy, then sell.
If the average person drinks, then don’t drink.
If the average person smokes, then don’t smoke.
If the average person has a 60-inch plasma screen TV, then don’t own a TV.
If the average person has a PC, get a mac.
If the average person doesn’t exercise, then exercise.
The formula is quite simple and it works more often than not.
People are pack animals, much like gazelles. As mammals, we flock and freeze when we are scared. We form packs to feel safe and we want to belong to a group.
Unfortunately, groups don’t know how to make decisions or create good ideas. Decisions and ideas come from an individual and never a collective.
A committee of professionals built the titanic while one man built the Ark.
No matter which subset of the world or the market you look at, there is always a majority and a minority.
Pareto law states that 20% of your actions create 80% of your results. This relationship applies to markets and people as well. 80% of the market is dominated by 20% of the players.
In the case of the lion and the gazelle, it would be more skewed. Perhaps the lions as 5% of the animals control 95% of the gazelles.
In America, 1% control 99% of the world. This is exactly the same concept as the lions and the gazelles.
The question is, why would anyone want to be a gazelle when you could be a lion?
The truth is, most people are not lions because it’s easy and convenient to be a gazelle while it is extremely difficult to become a lion.
The gazelles have safety in numbers; they do not have to be fast (just faster than the competition), they can feed on grass, which is plentiful and at the end of the day they can go to sleep with a belly full of grass. They don’t have to worry about hunting and killing because they can graze all day. Gazelles know that tomorrow will be the same easy routine and find security in the herd.
Lions on the other hand hunt alone or in very small groups. They have to be much faster than the slowest gazelle or they starve to death. Lions cannot eat grass like the gazelle and require meat survive. Every day the lion must be tracking and hunting for his next kill. If the lion fails to kill a gazelle, he goes to bed with an empty stomach and too many empty stomachs in a row means death for the lion. The lion has no security and must be better than the gazelle to survive.
To be a gazelle is to be average.
To be a lion is to be a champion, a performer and an athlete.
Every day, both the lion and the gazelle are running, to survive. But what makes the two animals different is “who” they must be on a daily basis to survive.
In every business, every industry and every market, there are lions and there are gazelles.
Every morning when you wake up, you must make the choice between running the field as a lion or a gazelle. No matter which one you choose, you are going to be running anyways.
Are you committed to being the best in your field and taking the lead as the lion? Or would you rather blend into the crowd and take your chances as a gazelle?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter which animal you are. Either way, you will be running. But if you’re running anyways, you might as well choose excellence and learn to be the lion.
Thanks for reading,
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