Charlie Songhurst knows a thing or two about survival. He came out of college already a business founder, did corporate strategy at Microsoft with a focus on partnerships and acquisitions (including Yahoo and Skype), and continues to invest and consult today. He’s had plenty of experience with winners and losers in his career so far. Songhurst told Patrick O’Shaughnessy that the act of survival is the act of avoiding catastrophic mistakes. What most people see as success is really the result of staying alive long enough to get lucky.
“It’s not that good soldiers become veterans, it’s that lucky soldiers become veterans, but veterans are good soldiers.” You may have to read that quote twice (or five times if you’re like me). It’s humbling to admit how much luck plays a role. You’re not going to find “don’t die and pray for luck” in any business strategy books. But, there is a balance here to borrow. It’s a balance of short-term risk and learning against long-term survival and luck.
Songhurst explains how the act of surviving is what puts you over the experience curve. The goal isn’t to just stay alive and get lucky, it’s to stay alive and get good. Here’s a message we can get ourselves and our people behind. It acknowledges the need to survive, the need to learn, and the reality of yet another challenge looming beyond the horizon. The better we get, the bigger the challenges we can take on. The bigger the challenges, the more the rewards will resemble “success.”
We can apply Songhurst’s survival strategy to our own jobs and careers, as well as to our strategies with clients, colleagues, and communities alike. Like the veterans, we have to figure out how to stay in the game and get good. The rest will take care of itself, if we survive, keep learning, and give it time.