A Thousand Ways to Skin a Cat…

Which is the "right" way?

Do you ever wonder how a phrase makes it into our lexicon, especially one which involves the mutilation of a house hold pet?  While first off least to offend the feline loving readers, this post is not about the eating habits of Andrew Zimmern, and in fact do think cats are great having them for many years.  As what the point is about today, is success.  So you’re sitting back in your recliner or comfortable office chair saying “what does this colloquial phrase have to do with my success and why is there a thousand ways anyhow”?

In simple terms, to “skin a cat” means to achieve a stated objective (success in task) and this is where the important inference which precedes this statement becomes notable as it says that there are a “thousand” ways to achieve “success”.   To analogize, my wife and I live in a unique community where we have three relatively major thoroughfares to get us from the north end of the city to the south end where we sometimes need to go.  Each path will take us to the same place, meaning either way is the “right” way as it achieves the goal of getting us there.

However the catch to this is one path is a highway where we can drive at faster speeds and stops are limited meaning we can make the 15 mile commute in short order.  While the second route is a surface street with far slower speeds and numerous stop signs at the various crossings meaning the time to reach our goal is longer.  The third and final route is a rural one which takes us far out and around in the countryside, and while there are fewer stops and the speed limit isn’t as low the distance makes this the slowest choice of all.

Now with our drive behind us, we note that all three achieved the same task of getting us to our goal and inability to reach the goal would have meant failure in task.  So of the three routes, which was the “right” one and which “wrong”?  As all three serviced their purpose and some out there may even be raising their hands to say the difference was the efficiency to  which you’ve missed the point as the time (which we typically perceive as cost) is longer for successive each route, however each route still has its own value proposition which must be accounted for.

As the first “highway” example is plain and boring with limited additional experiences, unlike the second which takes us along Lake Huron providing us a grand view leaving us inspired by the beauty of nature, while the third also brings the rural contrast of rolling fields and wide open areas allowing the soul to spread out.  So again, which is right and wrong?  The answer is  there isn’t one, as the point is success and not so much the path, in fact there has been a lot of work which shows that the ancillary outcomes of a journey are typically more valuable than the journey as look at the moon race.  While the goal was amazing, what is even more amazing was the vast number innovations the journey provided us which we use today and will add value to our society for eternity.

As in the closing paragraph the point is any path selected will provide its own value, however the bet even if more expensive needs to be on success itself as “success” is especially in the business world an accumulative process.  So failure to “accumulate” means a failure to grow as each success stands on the shoulders of its predecessor which leads me to wonder.  When a company is faced with a challenge and in one hand it holds the ability to achieve “success” it needs, why is it so drawn to the unknown in its other hand?  This will be a post for another day…

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About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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