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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Retro post #91

Great find by Johnnie Moore, John Kay’s article on Obliquity is excellent. Kay writes that goals are often best achieved when pursued indirectly – this is the idea of obliquity.

Like Johnnie it reminds me of a sports metaphor.

Late last year CBC ran a show “Making the Cut.” The show followed a heap of people, mostly guys, through a torturous trial to see which six would get to try out for NHL teams.

People came from all over Canada to give it a shot. Cops, firefighters, labour guys, students, ex-pre-pro players, and even one guy that played pro.

This last guy got my attention. He was fat and cocky and I loved hearing him rave about his skills.

During one of the first scrimmages the producers had the camera follow him around and they interviewed him after while watching the footage. His perspective has stuck with me (despite his self-proclaimed magnificence):

The camera is angled wide, he’s coasting around mid-ice and he says, “Right here I’m really uptight and anxious to show these guys the difference between me as a pro and these other guys. I’m feeling like I’m out of shape and can’t keep up. I feel like I need to make a great play.”

He fumbles a pass. Gets smoked on the boards.

Suddenly it’s clear something changed. His face moves from strain to intensity. His clumsy gait evolves into a sure, smooth action. His next pass is crisp. He dodges a vicious younger player.

“Right there I remembered why I love hockey. I just love to play. I just decided to have fun with these guys and enjoy myself.”

He stopped striving; he started playing.

Entrepreneurs are often brilliant in a few key areas. This brilliance carries them through the first stages of their company. But it’s not long before their gaps begin to glare.

The natural reaction is to plow forward. Head down, determination burning they try to make it through with brute force. An early consequence though is they push themselves off their game.

Their brilliance starts to fade.

Like Johnnie says in his post, profit might look like the purpose of this bull-headed rush, but it rarely is. Most entrepreneurs start things because they love the idea and start new stuff. They start off to have fun.

When then fun stops it’s time to find an oblique alternative.

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