We’re Not Number One, We’re Running Our Own Race

Canoeing the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande, 2024

I was off the grid for a while recently, came home to finish some documentation for an ongoing project, and had to do some research on outfitters in Maine. Several had listed themselves as the “premier” outfitter in Maine. What does this mean? I don’t begrudge anyone for a bit of self-promotion; it comes with the territory of running a small business. But just about everyone is the “premier” according to them. It reminded me of the post below (below the horizontal line), which I originally posted back in 2016. I updated it a bit, and am reposting it because I think it is likely more relevant now than it was then. Hike you own hike, run your own race, do what you do and don’t concern yourself with search engine rankings, top ten lists, or anything else. Most (almost all?) of it is contrived BS anyway. The photo for this post is from what I was doing while off the grid recently; canoeing the lower canyons of the Rio Grande river on the Texas/Mexico border. More on that later.

Age Quod Agis – Do What You Do

I’ve fielded several phone calls in the past 2 days where I was asked to compare our program to some of our ‘competitors’ (their word, not mine). I don’t think we have any competitors because no other school uses our format and no other school shares our objectives and intended learning outcomes. It’s like comparing or ranking apples and bicycles; it doesn’t make any sense.

To create a ranking, the parameters for the programs in question would have to be the same, as would the desired outcomes. That isn’t the case for any two long-term outdoor programs I’ve come across.

Think of a running race where the competitors are all going in different directions, have a different starting and finish line, different distance, and hoping to get different things out of the experience. How would you determine who won? You couldn’t. Things like a race only work if everyone has the same starting and ending point, everyone is chasing the same goal, etc. When the parameters are different, they’re not running the same race or playing the same game. To use the race analogy, you’d have a bunch of people running different distances at different times on different courses of different lengths. How would you choose a winner? A better way to differentiate might be to describe the race, not the racers. For example, someone out on a turkey trot is clearly running a different race than the person on an ultra-marathon.

So don’t listen to anyone running around saying, “We’re number 1!” They want the marketing mojo and social proof that comes with being number one, but subjective assessments like this don’t actually measure anything. Objective assessments, such as how long a company has been in business, how many programs they’ve run, etc., are useful. So is taking into account what they’re trying to achieve.

We’re running our own race, not competing with other schools or outfitters. Our goal has never been to become number one. It has been to run the best programs we can run, to keep getting better, to keep pushing ourselves, and to leave a body of work that leaves no doubt where we stand.

Blog, Educational Philosophy

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I like this philosophy. Instead of panicking about “keeping up” or “beating” others, do what you do with genuine care and integrity. It’s a different measure for success, but I believe a far more fulfilling one.

  • Thanks Corey.

  • Derek Faria

    Great post as usual Tim. The new websites look great! Hope you are all enjoying your time on the Semester program….I am sure you are though. Happy trails bud.

  • Thanks Derek. I can’t wait to get you up here my friend.

  • John W

    I really like the philosophy that you are following. In some ways, the goal of being no. 1 can have the opposite effect.

  • Thanks John. I agree with you. Chasing status, ratings or rankings is antithetical to the woods life as I see it.

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