Productive Paranoia

I found a very interesting topic in Jim Collins latest book called Productive Paranoia.  Every great company that he followed embraced this concept to a certain degree.  I watched the importance of this first hand.   My mentor’s Orrin Woodward  and       Chris Brady are always pre pared for what could happen.  The interesting twist was this paranoia did not make them procrastinators. It did not make them sacred to make decisions, or have “analysis paralysis”.   It just made them very aware that hard times could come and they should prepare for the worst but not let it affect their end goal or mission.  Most people, especially the choleric or high D personalities think this means not making decisions or having a “sky is falling mentality”.  That just shows how much they need to grow.  Some times shot first and then ask questions can be the end of your company, relationships or finances.  To succeed through difficult times requires some pre thought and planning for,  WHAT IF.

One example of this is a team of people, lead by Breashear,  that were climbing Mount Everest to do an IMAX video.  They were at Camp 111 some  24, 500 feet up the mountain.  As they looked down, 3,000 feet below them, there was a group of 50 climbers heading their  way.  He had spent an entire year planning every aspect of this trip and his investors had spent millions of dollars to make this trip successful.  Their goal was to get the best film shots of the journey to the summit and to bring everyone, safely, back down the mountain.  As he was getting ready for the day’s journey and saw those 50 people coming up the mountain.  His productive paranoia started to kick in.

Productive paranoia number one – build cash reserves or buffers in case something goes wrong.                                                              He knew that he had this one licked.  He had prepared for this climb a year before the actual climb.  He had enough gear and reserves, oxygen canisters,  to make it through almost anything or any delay.  He felt comfortable with the first stage of paranoia.

Productive paranoia number two – bound risk = death line risk, asymmetric risk, and uncontrollable risk.                                           This is the one that really mad him nervous because all three risk were evident.  What if a storm comes up and gives those 50 climbers time catch up with him, what if all those climbers are at the summit at the same time,  what if they need to get down the mountain fast but these inexperienced climbers are in their way, what if the weight of all these climbers pulls out the anchors,  what if he cant get the shots he wants because there are so many climbers on the mountain – he met with his team and after thinking through they decided to climb down to base camp and ascend after the mountain had cleared.  Key point – they could do that because Breashear brought enough reserves in case something went wrong.  He was productively paranoid.

Productive paranoia number three –  Zoom out then Zoom in and remain aware to changing conditions and respond effectively. This was the process he went through.  Zoom out – the mountain has changed and is different then what he expected  ( unusual amount of climbers )  Zoom in – new plan.  We have enough reserves and funding to wait it out and still get the shots we want.

There are many examples of companies that survived because they  had a productive paranoia through process.  Southwest Airlines also went though this process and when 911 happened they were the only airline to turn a profit because they had planned for the worst.

Do you have enough money set aside in case something breaks in the house?

Do I have a budget so I can make sure the money I need to run my business is there?

Am I teaching my kids to say no to drugs before some one else ask them to try them?

The goal I am about to run for, do I have another plan in case something changes on the journey?

What if our house doesn’t go up in value?

What if the stock market takes another big drop?

What if gas prices go up another dollar?

We can apply this same thought process, not to slow us down or get stuck in the mud, but just to be ready in case something does happen. This is how the great companies not only have survived but thrived during changes in the economy, changes in regulations or new competition.

God Bless

13 thoughts on “Productive Paranoia”

  1. Thank you Bill, once again you point out the importance of knowing where you are going, of thinking things through, and planning for success.

  2. Bill,
    Outstanding Article! Through reading this, and other posts by Kirk Birtles & Aron Radossa you guys have been consistently teaching people to be consistent in our activity, in a reasonable time frame, and then to take the time to evaluate the results. Having the resources to implement the game plan is one of the hardest ones to measure and definatley a blind spot I’ve had to deal with. Admitting that we may need to invest more time/money or taking the time to work through the plan has been tough but the results have been showing up. Thanks for your time in writting & preparing.

    Dan Pinkelman

  3. Thank you Bill for addressing this. Prior to LIFE I was not a planner and I have had struggles with finances. I continue to struggle to this day, but I am able to plug into the information the Policy Council has provided and I am able to think about the future, better planning for my home and my business. I appreciate your relate-ability and your forward thinking. Thank you.

  4. Mr Lewis,

    As usual you are telling the absolute truth! There have been so many times we have hoped for the best and planned for the best; only to be devestated when the worst happens.Thanks to this organization, we are now getting information to change our thinking. How we handle our finances and how we game plan for our business is getting a lot better. This is the kind of information we are not getting when we see the “everything must go” ads on tv and online. We are taught the “buy-now-pay-later” doctrine from very early on and this is how we “unlearn” it. Thank you for being in the fight and helping us to break the bad habits society seems so determined to teach.


    Brian and Jess Suddeth

  5. im the worst at this no budget no script but want to change my life 4 me and my children.and struggling to pay bills .other things happening with kids bracies ,things they need i dont have the money 4 .feeling like overwhelmed and flustrated.

  6. Wow, another amazing post Bill.. The LIFE information has transformed my thinking and has widened my knowledge and understanding of Finances.. Before this, I was lost and had absolutely know idea how to handle any amount of money.. My life was in shambles.. Plan for the future, with not only your finances, but in everything that we do in life.. I am so blessed and thankful for the guidance of the leaders of Team/LIFE !!

  7. This mental fitness challenge is doing amazing things in this country. I am so glad to be involved with leaders that are geared towards building other people in the areas of the 13 resolutions.

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