Strategic Horseshit

Sam: Babe. GUESS WHAT? I have this grand idea. LISTEN. This is going to be BIG. I have thought the whole thing out to the end. Here’s what we are going to do. We will move to a big city, take a loan; setup like this REALLY big tuck shop, DISRUPT the whole tuck shop industry and become millionaires. How do you like that strategy? We are going to be millionaires, babe. Millionaires, you hear me! BIG City, here I come!!

Helen: Sam, I don’t like big cities. The children are sleeping — stop disrupting the household. I ain’t moving anywhere.

Sam: Well, Okay. I am going quail hunting. See ya.

(Sam returns from Quail hunt)

Sam: Babe, my buddies just told me Bentonville, Arkansas is a great place for quail hunting. The entire city has like five people. Should we move?

Helen: CHILDRENNN – wake up and pack up your freakin’ bags.

Sam didn’t go on to disrupt an industry. He didn’t end up a millionaire. He ended up a billionaire and disrupted an entire country. Samuel Moore Walton did to America what America did to the rest of the world. He created a place everyone wanted to get to. Sam founded Walmart.

If you haven’t heard of Walmart, just imagine a BIG country, specifically, the 25th biggest country by GDP with a population (employee) size that would send Helen, Sam’s wife into the same cave you are getting out from.

Sam started the first Walmart in, guess where, Bentonville, Arkansas. The town with like five people.

Here’s the point of Scene 1, Act 1 of this play.

In the immortal words of Helen Robson Walton which I swear I am making up, “Screw your dumb-ass strategies and analysis.”

Sam moved to Arkansas because it was a good place to go quail hunting. He continued to care deeply about his idea of opening a retail store. Moving to a big city was a strategy and not the dream.

His dream was something else entirely. And you never mix the two. Strategy is the bullshit you use to convince people into believing you. Worse, into convincing yourself into believing yourself.

Sam Walton’s real strategy was so simple that not moving to a big city didn’t deter him: His strategy was to sell products at a price lower than his competition; a strategy so simple doesn’t even qualify to be in Economics 101.

The small city was a serendipitous part of the strategy, not the strategy itself. He wasn’t attached to a strategy (moving to a big city) just because it’s what he wanted in the beginning.

He wanted to build a store and that is exactly what he continued doing. For the next fifteen years, Sam opened more and more stores in small cities. All because he differentiated belief from bullshit.

At a time where we are enamored by unicorns, valuations and entrepreneurial batshit, we seem to forget the single thing that is responsible for sustaining the stuff of dreams: care. For your own idea.

At the center of Walton’s belief was not a strategy or a long-term plan. But to care for the people he served. It didn’t matter to him whether these people were in big cities or Bentonville.

Strategy, at best, is serendipity. In Walton’s case, small cities became the goldmine left unexplored. And when Sam hit upon it, it’s not the valuation he was after. It was the value he could bring to everyone that walked into a Walmart. To the end, it is all he cared about. That was his only strategy.

Having a strategy without belief means nothing. In most cases, it’s a coverup for the fact that you have no clue what you are doing. That’s why most strategy is horseshit. Because it’s foolish to rely on serendipity as a system of success. You need something far deeper and meaningful, to begin with.

Sam Walton’s worries were as banal as his strategies. One morning at 6 AM, he phoned his friend and asked this: How do you inspire a grandchild to go to work if they know they’ll never have a poor day in their life? Despite the success, he continued to find meaning in his belief that every customer should be cared for.

While you can’t stop your boss from horsing around, screaming strategy into your face every day, you should by now see the emptiness in the whole fling.

We now have ideas about *strategizing* our lives. If you don’t want to step on this horseshit, find something to care about.

It’s all Sam did. He was less afraid of being wrong and when he saw he was wrong, he just shook it off and went in another direction — to care about. This isn’t a strategic change. It’s common-sense.

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