Are You A Disrupter?

Note: This post is not an endorsement of any candidate, political party, or the actual election process. Please drop your guard and just read it for the point I’m attempting to make.

Disrupt Word Changes Status Quo New Business Model See-SawWe are well into the political primary season and the candidate that is grabbing all of the headlines is the one we half-expected to anyway: Donald Trump.

What’s interesting is that in spite of attacking every sacred cow of politics, as of this date he is still leading in the Republican poles.   I just read an interesting post on CNN.com by Mel Robbins that gives the reason. Trump is what is referred to as a disruptor. He has first gone after the written and unwritten rules of a political campaign and then twisted them around in his favor. If you attack him conventionally, he simply changes the game on you. If you try to attack him on his terms, you look woefully unprepared. His popularity among Americans who are weary of Washington politics-as-usual is pretty evident. Where before politicians played their games thinking Americans were entertained by it all (and having worked in the DC area I can tell that there are plenty of folks who are entertained by it – I prefer WWE for my entertainment thank you), they now see they are looking increasingly vulnerable.

Being a disrupter is different than being a contrarian. Contrarians take an opposite viewpoint sometimes for the sake of getting an audience. I sat through a presentation by a contrarian while facilitating a weeklong orientation week for newly minted Federal SES employees. I found him brash and biting, and his message of little substance.

Disrupters on the other hand, have a specific goal in mind: winning. In my case it’s getting more business. In Trump’s case, it’s becoming president. Regardless of your goal, if you can’t win conventionally, you have to change the game. Here are a couple of examples:

Our early revolutionary war fighters were homegrown militia. They couldn’t compete man-for-man with the British army so they drew the redcoats into the woods where they would have to fight on their terms. Red provides little camouflage in the woods, especially when you’re fighting against men who grew up in those woods.

Cab drivers, who for too long were able to take advantage of travelers inside of their filthy B.O.-masked-by-a-Christmas-Tree-air-freshener cabs are now threatened by the user-friendly organically-grown Uber phenomenon.

The danger of being a disrupter is that you are a threat to your own status quo. If you work for an organization, prepare to be isolated, criticized, and ostracized. Even if your motives are pure, and you want your organization to succeed, you might find yourself on the wrong end of a termination. But if you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner, this is the key to your success.

For years while living in the DC area, I tried to crack the Federal market to get training and development contracts, along with every other consultant and coach. Finally, I changed the game and targeted the private sector. I ended up with more work than any of my colleagues, and it was better paying work with less administrative hassles and overhead. I changed the game so that I could win and I did.

This week, think about what constitutes a win in your life and your career. If it’s really important to you, consider what you can do, legally and ethically, to change the game in your favor, so that you can finally win. Like him or hate him, it’s working for Donald Trump. It’s worked for me, and I know it can work for you.

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