Use The Opposite Strategy: Find A New Way To Win The Game

You never break new ground following in the footsteps of others. Trailblazers and trend-setters know that to get there first, you’ve got to go left when everyone else goes right. Sure, it’s safer to go with the flow, but to make it big sometimes you’ve got to go it alone. Check out how these five innovators zigged while others zagged.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein

There is no question that success comes with knowledge, hard work, and determination.  But sometimes, it requires great creativity to achieve greatness in a particular career.  Many people who become successful have the skills and knowledge, but have also found a new way to play the game. Many of these people found success because they do the exact opposite thing everyone else has done.

Assume nothing.

The look on Peyton Manning’s face said it all.  He owned the first half of the Super Bowl last January.  Later in the game, after 10 unanswered points from the Colts, Drew Brees had managed to lead the Saints into field goal range twice to shorten the Colts lead to just four points.  But as Peyton walked to the locker room at halftime, it was obvious that he wasn’t finished playing up to his four time NFL MVP potential.

For the Saints head coach Sean Payton, it was time to dig into his bag of tricks.  The Saints received the ball at the beginning of the first half, so it was there job to kick the ball off to the Colts for the second.  For the first time in Super Bowl history, the kicking team decided to try an onside kick to open the second half.  The onside kick was a huge gamble that they could kick the ball off and also gain possession on the same play.  It is a very risky move usually intended only for last minute efforts to win because of the technique’s inherent risk that you will give your opponent favorable field position.

For Sean Payton and the Saints, the move paid off because they wound up gaining possession and scoring a touchdown on the resulting drive, giving the team momentum to eventually win the game.  Because no one had ever thought of trying or had been crazy (ballsy?) enough to try an onside kick, the Colts were caught off guard and the Saints took advantage of the situation to win the Super Bowl.

Trust Your Gut.

Starting in the early nineties, the stock market had become a risk taker’s playground.  Many traders would make millions by buying stocks one week and trading them weeks later.  This worked well when the markets were getting larger, but had crippling effects during the dot com bubble burst and recently with the housing crisis.

The fortunes once made by Wall Street speculators vanished within days, leaving many people who trusted their money managers with empty pockets.  Warren Buffett is an investor that takes another approach. His company, Berkshire Hathaway is one of the most successful Wall Street investment firms, returning twice as much as the average investment.  His strategy is to buy good companies and never sell them, opposite the Wall Stream norm.

He also lives very frugally even though he is one of the richest men in the world.  He owns a stucco house in Omaha, Nebraska and drives a Lincoln Town Car.  He is so popular that hundreds of thousands of people come to Omaha, Nebraska to hear him speak every year for his annual company report.

Become The Anti-something.

The first Apple computer revolutionized computing by positioning themselves as the opposite of a Personal Computer (PC).  Technology for computers had progressed quickly and computers had become more complicated almost as fast.  While all of the other companies made them more complicated, Apple decided to make their computers easy to use.  The brand itself has come to signify the opposite, with its users passionate about the brand.  Some people still use Apple products solely because they don’t have to deal with a Windows system and the inevitable Blue Screen Of Death.

Play To Your Own Strengths.

Bob Dylan, by most accounts, is not a great singer.  Let’s be honest, he would never make it past the first audition on American Idol.  However, the lyrics that he wrote were so powerful that his songs anointed him as the voice of the 60s.

He was so influential that he was one of the first artists added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2008, was awarded a special citation from the Pulitzer prize for his lifetime’s influence on pop culture.

Let Them Start, Then Finish.

The most famous of all successful opposite strategies is Mohhamed Ali and the “rope-a-dope.”  The rope-a-dope tactic was his method of tiring his opponent out by letting his opponent punch him.  For anyone without the boxer mentality, this sounds like a terrible strategy!

Even though it is the opposite from what most people would try to use,  Ali won several championship matches using this strategy.  His ability to take a punch without getting knocked out definitely helped him use this strategy, but his preparation would also help.  Ali would do many more sit-ups in the months leading to a fight to strengthen his stomach so he could take a lot of body shots before becoming fatigued.  To this day, the word rope a dope is used as a term to describe tiring out your opponents to then exploit the mistakes they make because they are tired.

These people have found their success by changing the rules to their respective game.  By using the opposite strategy, they surpassed their previous successes and to become legends in their field.

Ben is new to Baltimore/DC area by way of a new job. He is an engineer who grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Ohio State. He is obsessed with music, football, dogs and meeting new people. You can read more of his writing at www.benjamintwilcox.com/.

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  • James

    Good ideas to remember. The Rope-a-dope is smart and changed boxing. Important to balance this with not reinventing the wheel.

  • http://www.scottchiropracticoffortcollins.com Fort Collins

    Really liked the “Trust Your Gut” portion, has always served me well

  • http://sports-fan.net Saints Fan

    All I gotta say is WHO DAT NATION rules!