August 23, 2020


Here's an image from a game of Pickleball.

The team with the peach-colored shirts is already doomed here. The woman in the white hat is, based on the angle of her paddle, going to hit the ball straight into the net or is angling toward the guy in the green shirt ... he'll just push the ball down the sideline past her and earn a point. Sometimes (often) as a consultant you can see the future before your clients see the future.

Meanwhile, it's not fun to lose points. You do everything right and you still lose points. Your opponent is also trying to do everything right, so something has to give. Eventually you get frustrated.

Here's an example. I injured my back playing pickleball. Four bulging discs between L2 and S1. Painful!! It took me eight weeks to rehab back to a point where I could go back out and play just a little bit.

My wife has a group she plays with. She invited me to play one game with them (you typically play six games in a row in our Club ... part of our COVID rules), so somebody sits out the last game so I can get one game in per my Chiropractor. We begin playing, and my body IS ... NOT ... cooperating. Worse, two things happen that get me mad.
  1. The woman my wife is playing with asks me "do you want me to take it easy or to go all out?"
  2. We're losing 9-2 and my wife, whom I'm playing against, says "how about we reset the score at 2-2 so you can play a bit longer?"
These are players I should be able to beat ... but on this day my body won't cooperate ... and much worse, my brain starts to not cooperate. It's the "how about we reset the score at 2-2" comment that sets my brain off.
  • "I'll show them! Reset the score at 2-2. They're gonna pay."
Now I'm looking for juicy, tasty balls that I can smash back at them, as a way of showing my opponents how brilliant I am even though my brain isn't working properly anymore and my body isn't capable of working properly on this non-descript Thursday.

In poker terms, I'm about to "tilt" ... I'm about to act irrationally ... testosterone is about start flowing ... bad decisions are coming.

If you want an example of what it looks like to tilt, watch this poker video (click here).

The first example of tilt happens when a nice, juicy, tasty ball is hit right at me, shoulder height. All I have to do is hit the ball down the middle and it's an easy point. But that's not what I do. My body feels miserable. My mind feels miserable. So I make my life even more miserable by tilting ... I try to hit a cute ball down the sideline, I mis-hit the ball, and it just glides out of bounds.


Now I'm mad at my opposition, I'm mad at myself, and I'm mad at God for bending the rules of physics for just a brief moment in time.


When you are a consultant, you see clients tilt all the time.

Catalog clients tilt the moment you question the catalog. They suspend all logic and revert into a belief system ... in poker terms, they push their chips into the middle of the table and say ALL IN. They want to bully you into folding your hand. As a consultant, you have your data. You likely have a much better hand than your client has. And yet, you're going to fold a lot of hands and let your client "win" ... no sense pushing the client past the point where the client is comfortable, correct?

E-commerce clients tilt all the time ... "we a/b tested the lifestyle image coupled with 30% off and cart abandonment programs coupled with retargeting and an influencer program on Instagram, that works best ... who are YOU to tell me that doesn't foster customer loyalty?"

You've all seen it happen in meetings ... you challenge the feeble-minded Vice President and he immediately tilts. You tell the CEO that her strategy isn't working and she double-downs on her path. Tell any omnichannel marketing expert that they are wrong and whoooooooo-boy, look out, that individual is about to tilt.

In games, you want your opposition to tilt ... you have a tremendous advantage.

In consulting, you want to bring your clients just to the point of tilting ... once they tilt they no longer listen. But you need to push the client if you want change to happen, so you learn how to push them just up to the point where they're about to tilt ... then you bring them back from the brink.

Your career trajectory depends upon pushing people ... they're not going to change because you tell them to change. You have to nudge them ... and yet, you can't push them to the point where they tilt. This is an art, a skill well worth acquiring.

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