When I was in my early twenties, my roommates and I entertained ourselves by playing an old Nintendo. We stumbled across a game titled, “Caveman Olympics,” which had an event where you and a competitor would race to start a fire. Two cavemen set next to each other on the screen and the players’ cavemen would blow on their piles of kindling as fast as the players hit the “A” button. In order to start your fire first, you had to build up a rapid tempo of hitting the button and maintain it.

Your business has a tempo too. There are a series of tasks that take place for you to produce value. E.g. for a service business, they would start with marketing tasks, continue to sales, and then dive into operations before delivering an outcome to a customer. Like in Caveman Olympics, a certain tempo is needed to develop the momentum to scale up to the next level and start the fire.

What made Caveman Olympics fun was not the insane tempo of button mashing, it was that you could hit your opponent and knock them out for a moment as they tried to start their fire. By hitting the “B” button your caveman would pause, look over at your opponent’s caveman, and then swing a club at them. If the opponent failed to duck in time, stars would appear over their dazed head, and they’d stop blowing on their fire for a few seconds causing it to diminish into a smaller and smaller flame.

This is one of the fundamental challenges of expansion. Once you know the steps to produce value, you have to build up the tempo of executing on those steps. However, your environment is going to try to hit you on the head with its club on a regular basis. Distractions, false opportunities, and mishap will continually present themselves.

Which is why you need to know when to keep your head down.