Winning on the uphills
Interesting business lesson learned on a bicycle: it's very difficult to improve your performance on the downhills.
I used to dread the uphill parts of my ride. On a recumbent bike, they're particularly difficult. So I'd slog through, barely surviving, looking forward to the superspeedy downhill parts.
Unfortunately, I had a serious accident a few years ago (saving the life of a clueless pedestrian by throwing myself onto the pavement). Downhill might be fast, but it's crazy.
Lesson learned. Now, I look forward to the uphill parts, because that's where the work is, the fun is, the improvement is. On the uphills, I have a reasonable shot at a gain over last time. The downhills are already maxed out by the laws of physics and safety.
The best time to do great customer service is when a customer is upset. The moment you earn your keep as a public speaker is when the room isn't just right or the plane is late or the projector doesn't work or the audience is tired or distracted. The best time to engage with an employee is when everything falls apart, not when you're hitting every milestone. And everyone now knows that the best time to start a project is when the economy is lousy.
Most of your competition spend their days looking forward to those rare moments when everything goes right. Imagine how much leverage you have if you spend your time maximizing those common moments when it doesn't.