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  • Writer's pictureTristan Wilson

Becoming a Master Observer, Like Peyton

Updated: Oct 8, 2022

Peyton Manning was not guaranteed to be first pick of the 1998 draft. Many scouts at the time thought that Washington State Quarterback Ryan Leaf had greater arm strength and better accuracy. Sure, Peyton came from a famous football family and had led the University of Tennessee to SEC championships. And he demonstrated both physical and mental maturity. But what seems like a slam dunk decision now was a challenging one at the time for Indianapolis Colts Team President Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Mora (Yep, the ‘playoffs’ guy). In fact, part of what tipped the scales for the Colts to take Peyton with the #1 pick was that he was highly prepared in a combine meeting with Colts management. And Leaf? He showed up late and Jim Mora apparently flipped out. There are no Indianapolis regrets here as Peyton started from Day 1 and later led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory on his way to a Hall of Fame career, while Leaf flamed out and became one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history. Peyton is widely considered in the league as one of the top quarterbacks of all time. 2 Super Bowl victories, 13 Pro Bowls, and 55 touchdown passes in a year. The numbers speak for themselves. His most compelling attribute? In my view, his legendary preparation.

Photo: New York Times

Peyton was obsessed with being more prepared than the opposing team. This drive for excellence manifested itself in hours of watching game tape of both his team and the competition. He even had his home retrofitted with a makeshift movie theatre with tape from every game and every competitor. Peyton’s 2014 speech in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia (his wife Ashley’s alma mater) sums up his approach:

“If you really want to be a game changer out there, become a master observer... The simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted can be a source of great power and creativity.”

In highway bidding, the same contractors often bid against one another, sometimes in perpetuity. I have heard contractors state that “We just focus on our own stuff and what we control. We’re not worried about the competition.” I have candidly felt this way myself at times when things were super busy.

Let’s pause and consider how well that sentiment would go over in an NFL office leading up a conference championship: “We’re playing the 49’ers this week but we’re just focused on what plays we are going to run and not worried about the 49’ers schemes and the mountain of data we have on them.” Any successful coordinator or head coach would tell you this is a recipe for a trouncing.

One does not control the competition, but one does control how well prepared and informed one is about them. The journey to becoming the best requires a Peyton-like curiosity and drive to understand of the competition: historical data, people, habits, culture, resources, capacity, workload, strengths, weaknesses, appetite, and many more. Can this be overdone? Sure. But rarely is it the case that folks are spending too much time on understanding what drives competitor behavior. More common is tunnel vision on our own personal or company issues, as this is human nature. Competitor behavior directly impacts market share and dollars left on the table. Not taking things for granted and becoming a master observer like my fellow New Orleans native Mr. Manning is a sure-fire way to set a contractor apart from the pack. And the next small step in that pursuit is the one that matters most.

Photo: Business Insider

Sidebar: I place all blame on Peyton and Eli for keeping me up past my bedtime to watch their Monday Night Football commentary 😊 !

Thanks for reading. At Edgevanta, our proprietary SaaS platform enables highway contractors to track and forecast critical market dynamics and increase the predictability of the project acquisition process.


Tristan Wilson

CEO and Founder

Edgevanta, LLC


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