Game of Inches in Business, Sports, Life..: Its Difference Between –Success & Failure, Winning & Losing, Living & Dying…

“Life is a game of inches – and the inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. We fight for that inch – we claw with our fingernails for that inch – because we know when we add up all those inches, that’s what’s going to make the difference between winning and losing – between living and dying.” ~ Al Pacino, movie “Any Given Sunday”.

A game of inches… you may have heard phrases such as: Business is a game of inches… Life is a game of inches… Football is a game of inches… Pick your favorite activity and add the phrase “is a game of inches” afterwards; you can probably find this phrase applied to just about anything in life. Is this really the case though? Is it just about inches?  Doing activities by the inch is painful and tedious at best. The thought behind the phrase is pragmatic, practical in its application, and it usually means:

  • Keep focused.
  • Keep doing the little things and big things will happen.
  • Keep moving forward, before long, you will have moved a distance.
  • Keep doing the detailed work; it will help you achieve something bigger.

However, if we are just focused on inches, we are always looking down and just seeing a very limited view of what is possible. The preamble to “a game of inches” needs to be “the big step, the big idea is…” This delivers the purpose to which the “inch” activities can be applied. It creates the inspiration for the perspiration. No matter what we do or want to do, we need to know the “big idea” or the purpose that is driving us forward or motivating us onward. It is what delivers meaning to living our life as well as setting the direction. Jon Mertz’s key points are:

  • A game of inches applied to any activity without a clear purpose is drudgery.
  • A clear purpose without an “inches” plan is frustrating.
  • A game of inches applied to any activity with clear, accepted purpose is energizing.
  • Only accept a game of inches when a meaningful purpose and direction are tightly wrapped around the actions necessary.

In the article “A Game of Inches” by David Heitman writes: College bowl games…NFL playoffs…this is a great time of year if you’re a football fan. Football is often a game not just of yards, but of inches. Likewise, ‘a game of inches’ is a lot like business. It’s often in the smallest details—and unrelenting attention to them—that separates average from good; but more importantly, good from great. In marketing, it’s about making sure you have precisely understood the motivators and aspirations of your audience: Lots of listening and pondering.

No sloppy guesswork. It’s about using the right words—sometimes the only right word—in a headline or body copy, editing and re-editing until perfect. It’s about timing a media buy with precision and sensitivity to your audience’s cycles of receptivity. The list goes on, but it’s almost always a ‘game of inches’ that separates the champions from the vanquished. For companies that cultivate the precision, ingenuity, and energy to ‘squeeze an extra inches’ out of every carry, the rewards can be record-breaking.

In the book” Smart Risk-Taking” by Doug Sundheim writes: I was spending so much time looking for “big plays” that I wasn’t doing many of the small things needed to move the flags down the field. I wasn’t fighting for the inches – even though I know that’s the secret of success, especially in this market. The inches we need are everywhere around us. We miss them because we don’t think they’ll be enough – they won’t get us to where we want to go. So we don’t fight for them. Somehow it’s easy to forget that they add up over time and make all the difference in the world.

The worst part is that we lose our edge when we stop fighting for them. And we need that edge. It’s what keeps us sharp enough to make the big plays when the opportunities arise. Are you fighting for the “inches” in what you’re doing right now? If not, where are you letting small successes fall through the cracks and possibly losing momentum? Can you identify 1 or 2 areas where you can make progress immediately even if it’s not a “big play”?

In the article “Motivation is Game of Inches” by Paul writes: Designing a great program that helps you achieve business objectives isn’t a matter of big goals and big plans.  It’s an exercise in grinding out the inches. But we don’t like that.  We like big and we like flashy. Unfortunately, big and flashy are low probability plays. Most of us can remember a time in our past when a coach told us – “don’t swing for the fences – just get a hit” – or – “three runs of 4 yards is as good as one play of 10 yards.”  We teach our kids that doing a bunch of little things well will result in success.

Somehow we lose that coaching intelligence when we hit the business world. We want the headline for going big. Look at the steps that lead to success.  If you have a sales reward program, then reward the number of calls, the number of meetings, the number of qualified proposals.  You’ll be surprised how many sales will close if your people are focused on the little things.  If you have non-sales employees, then look at the job functions and the tasks associated with success in the position – reward those tasks. Focusing on the big result forces your audience to take their eye off of the little things that truly drive success.

In the article “Every Journey Begins with a Single Step” by BenchMark Coaching writes: Winning in your business or personal life is all about inches. It means going small distances successfully and then going farther still, one-step at a time. A champion is someone who goes as far as they can and then takes another step to go further. And winners seldom win by a landslide. Successful people simply take the consistent steps needed to get to where they want to go.

If there is something that you want to do or have in your life, begin it. If there is a place that you want to be, take a step toward getting there. Don’t worry if everything isn’t figured out yet. You don’t need your entire plan created in order to get started. Start right now even without the perfect plan. All you have to do to get the ball rolling is take a step forward, even if it is just an inch. Then keep taking steps…

In the articleJust Like Winning in Sports, Generating a Healthy Bottom-Line in Your Business is a ‘Game of Inches’!” by Donald Cooper write:  In most sports, winning is about being a just little bit better than your opponent at the basics of the game.  It’s about blocking, tackling, back checking or hitting just a little bit better. It’s about winning a few more free throws or getting the ball deep into the corner of your opponent’s court. It’s about being a millisecond faster or being just a little bit stronger. Winning is ‘a game of inches’. And so it is in business.

Generating a healthy bottom-line is about being just a little bit better than your competitors at a few key things. It’s about selling just a little bit more.  Increasing sales by just 5% could grow your bottom line by 20% to 40%, depending on your gross margin. Turning your inventory just one more time each year could increase your profit by 25%. So, are you winning the “game of inches” in your business…or are a lot of little things, not done well, eroding your profitability?

The solution is simple. Start a list of all the things that you can do just a little bit better to amaze your customers, grow the business and increase your bottom line. Get your staff involved.  Schedule a two hour “winning is a game of inches” rally (call it anything but not a “meeting”). Remember, businesses do not die from a single shot to the head.  They die, slowly but surely, from a thousand uncompleted tasks.

In the article Life is a Game of Inches (So is Football)” by Matt Cheuvront writes: We’ve all been stuck in a rut, down on our luck, out of a job, going through a bad break up, losing a loved on – each of us has experienced a sense of personal ‘hell’ and when you’re in it – you feel like you’ll never get out, that it’s all too overwhelming to bear. It’s so much easier to give up and say “I can’t”–but it’s the individuals, the entrepreneurs, the businesses who face adversity and journey through hell, yet have the patience and persistence to move forward, inch-by-inch, who will stand above all the rest and see the most success in the end.

“You find out life’s this ‘game of inches’. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small — I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.”

Some believe in fate, some in free-will. I’m a proponent of opportunity. We are given choices and decisions throughout our lives – some small, some much more substantial. And then we’re asked to make a choice. Life isn’t about fate or free-will; there will always be results of your own actions, and some things that will ultimately be out of your hands.

But what we can control are the choices we make; e.g., the 4th and Goal, or the 3 seconds left in the biggest game of your life, or should I run or should I pass decision that will define you. Focus less on the things you can and cannot control and instead, focus on the choices you make.

In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin’ to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what livin’ is: The ‘six inches’ in front of your face!

I’ll replace the word ‘die’ with the word ‘fail’. It’s the guy who’s willing to fail that’s ultimately going to succeed. We are all inherently afraid of failure; nervous about walking the first step and taking a leap of faith into the unknown. But the people who get it understand that fear of coming up short of the goal-line doesn’t mean they should automatically play it safe and kick a field goal.

They understand that sometimes, you just have to go for it; and that fear can be a motivator that drives success. For everyone who is thinking about trying something new; the only person holding you back is yourself. Don’t let fear take control of your life; and understand that even the best of them, even the most successful win, inch-by-inch…

“Football is a game of inches and inches make a champion.” ~ Vince Lombardi