Pick Your Battles
Big-C Versus Little-c Challenges
“It’s not a hill I’m willing to die on” is an old military quote that refers to not holding your ground when you believe something is of little or no consequence. While it is of the utmost importance to stand by what you believe in, it’s also just as important to know when not to die on a hill.
Let me start by saying this has nothing to do with morals or personal values. Stand up for what you truly believe, no matter what. Conviction to your own core values is a defining element of character. What I’m talking about here are the everyday creative and production decisions you make at work.
So, how do you decide which hills are worth dying on? It’s best to ask a question, get an answer, and let go of any disagreement when it doesn’t make a big difference in quality, cost, or time. Questioning things that don’t make sense brings understanding to a situation. When you get bogged down in inconsequential details, though, it can drag down the project, or even a whole company. This is why it’s important to know the difference between Big-C challenges and little-c challenges. Realizing the difference between the two saves both energy and reputation.
Big-C challenges are the hills you are willing to die on and should be reserved for things you strongly believe in. They add value, save money, and/or could be a real game changer – basically anything that makes a big impact. Little-c challenges are the hills to walk away from and are things that have a small impact – like changing the background color in a video game from blue to light blue.
If you make everything a battle, you dilute the importance of Big-C challenges when they really matter. But, by saving your energy for known wins and issues of real value, you build your long-term reputation and credibility. When you do this, it also makes it easier to score little-c battle wins too. I.E. “Ya know, Bob is always right about the important stuff, maybe he’s also right that the sky in Kaptain’s Kreed 9 should be light blue!” Be careful: when you cry wolf too often, it makes it hard to take your more important challenges seriously, and that hurts everyone.
Early in our careers, it’s common to fight more battles as we’re learning what challenges to expect, and that’s okay. While some of knowing how to distinguish a Big-C from a little-c comes with experience, some of it can be sped up with knowledge – and that’s why it’s so important to be informed.
Have you experienced any Big-C or little-c challenges lately? How did you handle them? How do you pick your battles? Let me know in the comments below!