There’s a difference between being aware and being distracted.

It’s important that you know and recognize the gap between the two.

When I was in high school, I was a mid-distance runner. I didn’t excel at the sprints, like 100m or 200m. Sure, I was fast, but not fast enough for those short distances. My race was the 400m or 800m.

The ones where you had a full length of a track to run the race of your life. But not too much that you’d peter out after 3 minutes.

When you were lining up at the start line, if it was the start of the season, or you were at a meet where you didn’t know the other schools, you might not know the level of talent around you.

You didn’t know their plan of attack.

Did they start fast and maintain a lead?
Did the drop back and then surge ahead at the end?
Did they bait the other runners and then blow by them with a grin?

The first few races of the season you spent running, but also taking in information.

Analyzing your competition.
Learning to maximize your talents.
Perfecting your craft.

But as the season went on, you got a good sense of who was out there, and what your strength as a runner was.

That’s when you started to learn the difference between being aware and being distracted.

Once you understood who the top runners were, and who you might run against, you were aware of your competition. You were intimately aware of their strategy as well.

When you lined up at the start line, you knew they were in lane 4, but you didn’t let that deter you from your plan to run in lane 2. How you were going to attack the curve and make up the distance on the final bend?

You were AWARE of their presence near you – keeping them in your peripheral vision during the race. But you were not DISTRACTED, running in response to their performance, trying to “beat” them. You didn’t try to mimic their approach. If you did, you were toast.

To run the best race of your life, you were aware of your competition, but once you started running, you did not allow those around you to distract you. They could motivate you, but it was a matter of choice.

Focus ahead, not side to side.

Turn your head to look, and suddenly you’re distracted – you lose precious milliseconds and you lose your focus.

Why is this fresh in my mind?

Because today I turned my head to look at a competitor. And I quickly realized I had moved from awareness to distraction.

It started with catching a glimpse of a social media post. It was a post by a competitor.

I shouldn’t have even let it bother me, but it did.

I found myself dwelling on it for a good part of the day.
Making me question some of the direction of my business.
Causing me to doubt my skills as a marketer.

And leaving me breathless, like I was trying run behind them rather than run my own race. You could classify this as one giant DISTRACTION.

Distraction has many relatives, and they’re not any better.

Confusion.
Disturbance.
Complication.
Interruption.
Interference.

I felt all of those things as I let my focus move from what’s in my control, to the things my competitors were doing.

All of a sudden, the world started falling and I felt like I was going down with it.

Now the truth is, this only lasted for a short time. Luckily, I caught it early.

But it’s a common mistake, and I see companies making this mistake all the time.

To avoid being distracted, they don’t even pay attention to their competitors.

That’s not good either. Because then suddenly they are caught off guard when something “comes out of nowhere.”

To grow our company, position our business effectively, and market to our target audience, we have to be aware of our competition.

The strategies they use.
The position they hold
The way they run their race.

However, use that information to plan your strategy – and then remain focused.

Aware of their presence. But free of distraction.