In Search of the Gnu

It’s a Saturday morning and the dogs and I emerge before 7 to take care of some yard and pool work, then take the truck to get coffee and dog biscuits.

The first order of business is to fill the bird feeders, including the one I have ceded to the squirrels. Our unspoken, interspecies pact is that they will confine themselves to the feeder nearest the house, a beautiful, three-tube affair, and leave my other four, mounted on a branched pole, alone. (The latter is protected by squirrel baffles, two remote drones, and a small missile system I purchased on Ebay, but I’ve seen the defenses breeched on occasion by the rodents.)

However, the Sciurus carolinensis members in the yard understand that I am not responsible for, nor do I include the actions of, Koufax, the Wonder Dog, in the agreement. He has nabbed at least seven of their kind, amidst 14 confirmed, successful chases (the latest of which was a possum bigger than Buddy Beagle a few days ago, necessitating another visit to the animal emergency center, but that’s another story).

The squirrels appreciate Koufax’s cunning, having seen him in action all too many times—he runs between the prey and the trees, for example, not directly after the other animal. But they consistently fail to appreciate the equivalent of Shepherd torque. German Shepherd Dogs have been known to hit 30 miles per hour, and I estimate that Koufax gets to about 20 MPH in under three seconds. My Bentley is zero-to-sixty in 4.4 seconds, and that’s with a dual-turbo-charged 552 horsepower. Koufax is accessing a single dog power.

All this got me to thinking.

A cheetah can do 70 miles per hour and accelerates at a ferocious clip from a standing start. How else could it catch a wildebeest or an impala? It’s not just speed, it’s acceleration.

That’s what a great many consultants lack, blindingly rapid starts. They take too long to get moving, searching for perfection, questioning their worth, over-complicating the situation. The goal should be to rapidly reach the opportunity and exploit it in the easiest manner possible. Occam’s Razor.

A woman explained to me the other day that she wanted to sell a complex, computerized methodology, which a professor friend had developed, to determine how many key people were supporting a project, and who was tepid or resistant. “In a matter of days,” she enthusiastically explained,” you can have visual indications of who’s really on board and who is not, with 85% accuracy.”

“What if I told you,” I said, “that I can determine the same thing merely by asking certain questions and observing behavior with 100% accuracy in a couple of hours, with no costs associated whatsoever?” I replied.

You get the picture. The cheetah can’t catch the gnu without making a commitment to run like crazy toward the objective. Koufax runs for all he’s worth, and if he misses his prey, it’s not for having held anything back. I’m working on five different books right now, and two major, new development projects for consultants, and I’m spending time every day at the pool. I hunt fast, not long.

Stop being tentative. We’re here to make waves, not to stick our toes in the water. When you decide to pursue something, burn rubber, leave a trail of dust, push the pedal to the floor. Otherwise, the gnu is gone.

And even if you’re not successful, the sheer ecstasy of the speed and the hunt will pump you up for the next sprint. How fast do you get out of the blocks?

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “In Search of the Gnu

  1. Well put, well said.

    I too have a squirrel/bird balancing act and a dog on patrol. Unfortunately, my dog tends to evaluate the opportunity rather than give chase. Your example made me think of my relationship, not only with my dog and the back yard denizens, but with my clients. Perhaps I am too quick to coax and encourage rather than lead the charge!

  2. Alan:

    I found your blog through your recent article in the July 2008 newsletter of Management Consulting News.

    I find your perspective and your writing to be very helpful. This article was written just for me! I tend to hold back, specifically to overcome my tendency to look before I leap. I end up in evaluation mode forever, and then lose the momentum.

    Sieze the moment!
    Thanks again,

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