I heard this one long ago: When you are number 2, you are the hero; when you are number 1, you are the target.
And I’ve seen it again and again in life. Getting to the number 1 spot is a thrill, staying there is another matter altogether. And yet there is this imperative to be number one.
If someone can ever do the cost / benefit analysis, I suspect it will turn out that the additional cost of maintaining a number 1 position will often not justify the small incremental benefit you get from this slot.
As they say, the best defense is not to be there.
This can sound counter-intuitive and defeatist. And it certainly runs the danger of turning into an excuse for lack of effort. But if it is pursued as a conscious strategy, it could be the most value maximizing plan in the long run.
Perhaps more firms (and people) should think about this.
One example from the business world which actually made being number 2 into an asset was the famous Avis campaign "We try harder because we are number 2".