7 Seconds to Midnight

Herb Kelleher is my kind of guy. Herb Kelleher has taught me everything I need to know about Life

How much time before your risk profile changes? 

Do you have seconds?



7 Days?

7 Weeks?


7 Years?

Herb Kelleher is my kind of guy. Herb Kelleher has taught me everything I need to know about Life. For those that have not come across the industry revolutionising, straight talking, Wild Turkey swilling founder of Southwest Airlines, well time to get learn some really cool stuff. Herb is famous for creating his business plan on the back of a paper napkin and transforming the airline from three jets to the largest low-fare carrier in the US, with an incredible 41 years of profitability.

Jim Collins wrote a 400 page love song to him in Great by Choice. Well to be fair, it was probably more an empirical, non-judgmental, scientific, ethnographically based, data lead 15 year meta-review of all the best companies in the world. What Collins (and his co-author Morten T. Hansen) looked at were 20,400 companies, sifting through 11 layers of cuts to identify cases that met all their exacting criteria. Only seven did. They labeled these high-performing study cases with the moniker 10X because they didn't merely get by or just become successful. They truly thrived. Every 10X case beat its industry index by at least 10 times.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.

Maya Angelou

Collins found that creativity and innovation were not as important as relying first on empirical evidence and observation. Bold moves had to be made from an empirical base. While this is sound advice in our current economy, not all innovative entrepreneurs might agree. Herb serves as a brilliant example of a 10X-type leader, whose preparedness before 9/11 and the recession left him standing when other airlines fell. Kelleher backs up the book's theory (and mine) that discipline ranks first above creativity.

At the end of this fantastic book, it addresses the key concept of luck and ultimately summarises that most successful 10X companies were not affected more or less by luck, rather they used the luck they had to positively move forward. When faced with bad luck, they were ready to rise above the chaos. The authors state that we are not imprisoned by our circumstances and are free to make the decisions to become great.

It is a must read and it led me to these sensational Kelleher quotes:

We will hire someone with less experience, less education, and less expertise, than someone who has more of those things and has a rotten attitude. Because we can train people. We can teach people how to lead. We can teach people how to provide customer service. But we can’t change their DNA.Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats, and leadership really involves responsibility. 

A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.

You must be very patient, very persistent. The world isn’t going to shower gold coins on you just because you have a good idea. You’re going to have to work like crazy to bring that idea to the attention of people. 

I forgive all personal weaknesses except egomania and pretension.

One piece of advice that always stuck in my mind is that people should be respected and trusted as people, not because of their position or title.

It is my practice to try to understand how valuable something is by trying to imagine myself without it.

I've found that many of the greatest ideas surface in bars because that's where many people cultivate inspiration.

He also taught me that great organisations tend to be one fad behind. Meaning you don't have to be first or the fastest. Old School.

"It's absolutely wrong to say, 'You should always go as fast as possible," Collins says. "[You] want to go slow when you can and fast when you must. … [When faced with disruption,] the right first question is to zoom out and ask, 'How much time do we have before our risk profile changes?'"

Organisations that are front edge innovators often are not 10X success stories. "We found that every environment has a threshold level of innovation, and you [must] be at that threshold in which you’re operating to even be in the game,” Collins says. “But what matters then is the ability to blend discipline with creativity in such a way that this discipline amplifies that creativity rather than destroying it. If you can then build a great organisation that can replicate and scale its innovations, [that combination] produces the great results."

An example is Intel. Its mantra "wasn't 'Intel innovates,'" Collins says. "It was 'Intel delivers.' The reason Intel won is not because at any given moment in history it was the most innovative—there were numerous crucial points in its development where it wasn't—but what it had was enough innovation to be in the game combined with an amazingly disciplined organization that could manufacture and multiply its scale and could deliver chips on time [affordably] and do it in a replicable way."

Smart change management may mean changing little—or not at all. Sometimes acting too fast increases risk. Sometimes acting too slow increases risk.

The critical question is, How much time before your risk profile changes?’

  • Do you have seconds?
  • Minutes?
  • Hours?
  • Days?
  • Weeks?
  • Months?
  • Years?

The primary difficulty lies not in answering the question but in having the presence of mind to ask the question.

Be Amazing Every Day.

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