My children got three chickens for Christmas last year. They have given them names and love them like domesticated pets. And we’re getting a couple of eggs a day so everyone’s happy. Except the Fat Rat.
A week ago, my daughter found the Fat Rat stuck in the chicken wire surrounding the cage. It seems that the rat wandered into the cage to feed on grain whilst the chickens were out pecking. When they returned and were locked in for the night, it found itself trapped and attempted to escape by forcing its way through the wire. It’s head and front part of body got through fine. But the Fat Rat couldn’t squeeze its sizeable rear end through the wire.
The more it pushed, the more it became ensnared. By the time my daughter found it, the Fat Rat was truly entangled in wire and could move no more. We tried to help the Fat Rat and managed to free it by cutting the wire. As we did our best to help it, its instinctive reaction was to keep fighting. It tried to bite me three or four times before running out of energy.
Once freed, the Fat Rat huddled and shivered, clearly in shock. It then hobbled into a pumpkin vine and disappeared. Until my daughter found it dead on the path a couple of days ago.
I see businesses like the Fat Rat. They charge headlong at opportunities and throw massive resources at them. In the face of defeat, they throw good money after bad instead of retreating and regrouping. Had the Fat Rat retreated when it first got stuck, it would likely still be with us today.
In his 2012 book, Great By Choice, Jim Collins talks about firing bullets to test and validate a strategy before finally firing a cannonball. It’s a great analogy. The Fat Rat fired a cannonball and found it had no more ammunition.
“The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.” (Falstaff in Shakepeare’s Henry IV Part One)