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Quick Win

Remember the old Wile E Coyote cartoons?

In every episode is a coyote chasing a road runner.  Instead of using his natural abilities, the coyote utilizes elaborate plans and complex gadgets (from the fictional company ACME).  Of course, he fails every time – spectacularly.

Wile E Coyote

These cartoons first debuted in 1949 and ran to 48 separate episodes with the road runner as the co-star.  Some of the episodes are titled “Zoom and Bored,” “Hopalong Casualty, “ and “Whoa, Be-Gone.”  Most end with a 3,000-pound rock falling on the coyote’s head, dynamite blowing up in his face, or falling to the bottom of an immensely deep canyon (all you see is the puff of dust where he hits the bottom).

These cartoons raise many questions about Wile E. Coyote.

Is the coyote intelligent, persistent, and focused?  Or is he crazy, obsessed, and irrational?


What we do know is Wile E. coyote is looking for a quick win (credit to Seth Godin).

“Because he doesn’t persist with a plan that builds over time, all of his outlandish stunts add up to nothing but frustration.

The coyote is obsessed with gaining at the expense of his enemy.  As a result, he’s faced with either defeat or short-lived and ultimately empty victory.

The coyote is obviously immortal, but he’s always in pain.  Either in the pain that comes from hitting a wall at 100 miles an hour, or the pain of knowing that yet another short-term plan came to no good.

The coyote challenges the laws of physics in the belief that he, and he alone is entitled to his own rules.

The coyote is happy to spend money on ludicrous devices that make promises he must know are empty, but instead of investing, he keeps chasing the gimmicks.

The coyote picked the wrong goal.  Even though it’s clear he can’t succeed, he doesn’t switch, obsessing about sunk costs instead.

And even though he has experienced the frustration of the short-term selfish shortcut again and again, he never pauses to consider what would happen if he created something of value instead.”

The Quick Win

A quick win is known by many names: slam dunk, no-brainer, low-hanging fruit, sure thing, and easy-peasy lemon squeezy, to name just a few.  In other words, quick wins are those things that you go after that are almost guaranteed to succeed.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs must be cautious when focusing on a quick win.  Although I don’t want to overshadow the fact that a quick win is still a win, there are several common “quick win” traps encountered in business.

  1. Focusing too heavily on details – In looking for a quick win, the leader tries to ace one component of the job. However, focusing intently on this goal, they don’t pay enough attention to their broader responsibilities.
  2. Reacting negatively to criticism – Based on previous successes, a manager may believe they have an undeserved skill set or a business mandate.  As a result, they may view criticism, given in an attempt to improve a project or business process, as an act of aggression and may even find ways to retaliate.
  3. Intimidating others – When leaders come to new roles convinced of their brilliance and the inevitability of their rise in the organization, they can be intimidating to those around them.  Confident of their plans’ success, they can mistake their employees’ compliance for agreement and endorsement.

The Bible

Ecclesiastes 9:11 says,

I have observed something else under the sun.  The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle.  The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy.  And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives.  It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

Quick wins are notorious for being self-congratulatory, short-lived, and out of perspective.  Credit is seldom placed where credit is due, and it is an act that is hard to follow.

God is the designer of our successes and the instigator of our lucky chances.  We are never the driver of our own success.

Don’t be Wile E. Coyote, constantly looking for a quick win and the easy path to success.  Had Wile E. coyote relied on his God-given skills, he might have occasionally caught the roadrunner.

Successful business leaders know quick wins are unsustainable and that using the talents given by God is always the best path forward.