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Self-Awareness Leads to Success as Proven by the Princeton Offense

Remember that great upset in the 1996 NCAA Basketball Tournament? The one where the defending champion, the talent-laden UCLA Bruins, lost in a thrilling last-minute game to Princeton?

Watch it here: Go to 4:07 of the video.

UCLA was favored in every way–talent, point spread, seeding. And while upsets do happen, the way Princeton did it teaches us how being self-aware is vital and can lead to great success.

Princeton wasn’t the most athletic group. They were good, solid players, but individually none of them stood out. But they could work together as a team.

Led by Coach Pete Carril who founded “The Princeton Offense”, they used a very slow-developing offense with a lot of passing. They knew that if anybody was going to score a lot of points, it would be UCLA—so Princeton kept the total score of the game as low as possible, so that UCLA couldn’t build up an insurmountable lead. Instead of trying to be something they weren’t, Princeton worked with what they had and they won.

To put it briefly: Princeton was “self-aware.”

You should be, too. Let’s say you run a small business. You don’t have a lot of employees yet, but you’ve had some success and you’re ready to hire some additional quality people. Who do you want to add to your team?

Let’s say you are good at sales, but not great. You are not good at hunting. You are excellent at designing a strategy and implementing it. Let’s say you are well connected. You are nimble and you are good with people, and you know your competitors are not as client-friendly as you are. Your competition has large infrastructures, but they are not able to adapt like you. While these competitors say they are customer service friendly, it’s just corporate speak.

If you are self-aware, you realize you need to hire a marketing person to hunt, you need top sales reps, and you need someone who can help you manage it all so you can remain flexible–while your competition is stagnant. You can’t afford to keep trying to do all the marketing and sales tasks yourself, because that’s not where your skills lie. You need to spend your time servicing your clients, keeping them happy and showing them how much more focused on them you are then your competitors. Self-awareness also helps you strategize on who to prospect—identify your niche and focus on that.

The “Princeton Offence” is now a strategy college basketball teams use when facing athletically superior competition, and Pete Carril is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Be aware of who you are and then use your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. It works.