There comes a time during a game when you have a short amount of time to either make something happen or hang on for dear life. This usually occurs in the last five minutes of a game or during injury time. You have about five minutes to make something out of nothing to either tie the game up, create that winning goal or not concede. The stakes can be huge, and in reading this it may seem easy. Simply give it one last push, right?
Here’s the thing, you have already played for 85 minutes and given everything you have, that’s why you are a high performer, that’s why you’re successful, because you give everything you have to get you to the result you are at with five minutes to go. Five minutes sounds like nothing, but for any of us who have played at any level, this last five minutes seems like an eternity. Everything in your body seems to function slower and everything hurts. Your lungs are burning, there’s no way you can keep this intensity up for another five minutes. Here’s where you reach for those magic words, DIG DEEP. Because the amazing thing is, you know it’s there somewhere, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find it. It’s no longer a physical challenge with yourself, it’s all physiological. You know it’s there somewhere, you know it. How do you know it? Because you’ve been here before, in this exact situation, you know it’s going to hurt, you know it’s going to be long. But you also know that the clock keeps ticking and if you can just find it and hold on, that whistle you have been craving will eventually come and the sheer relief makes it all worthwhile. Hearing that whistle after you have dug deep when you have already given everything sounds like it has come from an angel and heaven itself. When that whistle comes and you have coasted for the last five minutes, well, it just sounds like any other whistle. Especially when you are facing someone who has dug deep and gotten the result they wanted. And guess what, there is always someone digging deep, the question is, is it going to be you or the other player you are facing?
In business, we never give in. Sure, we can look around at some shocking failure and think, “Erm, they definitely should have given up a lot sooner before they burned through all that cash.” But how many of those failures would have been a success if they had just hung on? Amazon was not the first online store, iPod not the first MP3 player, and Walmart not the first grocery chain.
We also have some breathtaking examples of business leaders who showed such unbelievable grit and determination by digging deep and never giving up. Enter Elon Musk. Musk had a great start to his entrepreneurial career and rather than go into great detail here, the highlights are that he made $20 million on his first business, and then $180M on PayPal. Brilliant, right? He must have though he could do no wrong and everything he touched turned to gold. His next moves were SpaceX and Tesla. Both of which were cash burners (one literally). Imagine a product you have that costs about $20 million to launch. Usually, if you fail at the first launch, you can tweak a few things, do a recall and fix everything. Now imagine if that consequence of getting a bit of software code wrong is that the thing EXPLODES. There’s not much salvation from a rocket that blows up and then burns up on reentry. The Tesla roadster was estimated at costing (and sold at) around $100k and it ended up being $120k. Around 2008, when the financial crisis hit, banks had stopped lending. Elon said he had enough money for three attempts to get a rocket into orbit and all three had exploded. Tesla had to do a round of layoffs and had run out of cash. What did he do? He dug deep. He had so much belief in himself and his companies that he handed over his last $20 million that he had kept in reserve from the PayPal sale and slid it across the table to go all-in. Imagine that, you would be risking the last of the $180 million that you made, an amount that to anyone else would have set them up for life, a life of complete luxury and excess by the way. It didn’t matter, he wanted to dig deep and win this game, he visualized it. He knew it. How many other players would have done that or simply turned the lights off and kept their not too shabby $20 million. The fourth rocket was a success, earning SpaceX a $1.2 billion NASA contract, and Tesla got an investment from Daimler, saving them also. 1-0 Musk.
On an everyday basis, where do we see this at work? We have all seen it. The bank loan that we are trying to get that seems to be taking forever and everyone is asking why. The big sale you are chasing that you are hearing is a fool’s errand but there is something about it that you just know, somehow, will be the one that changes everything. Getting that workout in before work on those cold, dark mornings. How easy is it just to go and grab a coffee instead, I’ll hit the gym after work?
Dig deep, you know what the right thing to do is. When you dig deep and make those positive actions, you become the player everyone fears, especially in the last five minutes. You will notice the other players around you who didn’t dig deep. You’ll be listening to other people talk about going to the gym after work when you know they won’t. They’ll be talking about giving up on a deal because it’s taking so long, even about switching jobs because it’s not going anywhere. Who’s fault is that? What kind of player are you, the one who digs deep in the last five minutes or the one who gives up?