When adversity arises, character strengthens. These times are best used for one thing, one advantage that you must take: ramp up and get ahead while others are not. Revamp systems, upgrade processes, and invest.


When a bigger opponent gets in the ring with you, the last thing you should do is be reactive, because it leads to costly mistakes. Being calmly strategic is essential, with a relaxed attentiveness—ready for anything, expecting nothing, like Bruce Lee in a street fight out-numbered by opponents.

When Bruce had tougher opposition he’d use the resistance to raise his level of play, and call upon his resilience. That isn’t something you do alone, you practice, practice practice, coaching up your level of play to new heights to be able to operate from these instincts.

You have five responses to the opposing force:

1 – Pass up

Be a minimizer in denial, over-confident and get clobbered

2 – Give up

Be an exaggerator with over-reactivity and compromise

3 – Wake up

Be an observer and see the facts without editorial

4 – Show up

Be a responder to the facts and become resourceful

5 – Tune up

Be an innovator who sees the possibility and opportunity to tune up, ramp up, jump to a new level. Innovators make up 5% of the competitive sandbox. 70% are exaggerators and minimizers. 25% make up observers and responders.

Like a high performing fighter jet in the hangar, the innovator revamps for the next flight, or a race car fine tunes the motor to race better, faster, stronger in the next race. The wood-cutter sharpens his blade, to get leverage. This is called “The law of short reverse” and it works like a sling shot effect —-you pull back more, working ON your game, and then propel with greater precision and intensity.

It’s how you utilize the time you have for shoring up your back-stage in show business that makes your front-stage exceptional. And, while you’re packing your powder keg ready for game-day, the competition is not! Broadway shows who top the list know this very well when they’re offline. They tune up every piece of the pie, to make a big jump while others are still trying to adapt, and fall behind the leaders.

The innovator is what your coach needs you to be, and the strategy is this: BURN THE SHIPS!

If you are a history buff, you may know the story of Cortes and the burning of his ships. In the year 1519, Hernan Cortes arrived in the New World with six hundred men and, upon arrival, made history by destroying his ships.

This sent a clear message to his men: There is no turning back.

Two years later, he succeeded in his conquest of the Aztec empire. As leaders taking our people into new territories as unknown and potentially hazardous as did Cortes we need to ensure those we are leading that there is no turning back. He knew how to be a great leader. We need to be certain there is no off-ramp our people can use to avoid the challenges of our own new business worlds. We need to burn the ships.

We’re long past the days of conquistadors, but the story of burning the ships is as relevant as ever. I bet you’re already thinking of some aspect of your company that needs attention right now, that needs your leadership. If you leave the ships in the harbor, your people will see that you’re not fully committing to the transition needed. If you’re not fully committed, why should they be? By burning the ships, by removing any available path back to the previous way, your team will become as fully committed as you obviously are.

  • Commit to the revamp of a New Sales Structure or Automation. When you commit to a new sales system, commit to it in every way and make sure everyone on your team can see that you are.
  • Tune up your internal processes from marketing, management, service, to finance, by creating a table of contents and writing your operating manual, and tidy up your org chart with position descriptions and reporting vehicles for meetings.
  • Update Talent. If you need to upgrade your talent, upgrade your hiring systems, from sourcing to interviewing to on-boarding and compensation, use it fully and consistently, and don’t waver in your use of it.
  • Eliminate Dead Weight. Remove vampire people, customers, employees of the organization moving forward.
  • Embrace New Training. Set a training schedule to work ON your systems in all aspects, be everyone at all levels is fully immersed in it and they are implementing the practices.

Burning your ships doesn’t mean you can’t ever change course or decide that a current pursuit is not working. But no change process has a chance of working if your team has an off-ramp.

Where can you burn ships in your business? In your life? Look inside yourself right now and see where to revamp, tune up and shore things up! If the ships are still in the harbor? Burn ’em. Force commitment. And see what happens. It’s about courage! It’s about creating!

Several years ago, my dad and I piloted our own boat from Los Angeles through the Panama Canal and up to Florida over 9 months. On two occasions we ran aground in bad weather and endured two typhoon storms for 50 hours straight, 20 foot waves, a VUCA world on steroids. If you saw the film Perfect Storm, you get the picture. These 8 skills got us to make good decisions and get to Florida, missing a category 5 hurricane by two days all in one piece!

Throughout this email, I’ve attached what I know for certain to be the 8 most essential leadership skills needed in a VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. These are based on the 12-year span of research from 2008 to 2020, and absolutely what innovators due in leading strong in a vuca environment. (VUCA is a term from the military used to train rangers and green beret’s suited to overcome the challenge at hand).

Determine your leadership type: Innovator, Responder, Observer, Exaggerator, Minimizer, then look at the second page on the 8 VUCA Leadership skill sets. You could weather any storm with these skill sets.

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