Zigzagging to Business Success

Zigzagging is such a powerful, natural law. It’s how we live our lives. Take the moon missions for example. On the first moon-landing mission, while the module was on its way to the moon, it was actually flying off course 98 percent of the time. You would think they would fly in a direct, straight course, but the reality is they didn’t!

In nature, rivers don’t flow in straight lines and mountains have contours and detours. Also, when you go skiing if you point your tips straight down the mountain, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

The same thing is true in building a business online. When we charge directly for our goals, we have big, ugly crashes. Instead we must learn to zigzag—the entire concept behind The Zigzag Principle.

The full import of this concept came to me when I was hiking with my family in the Himalayas. I knew the risks we were facing; one real risk was contracting pulmonary edema (or altitude sickness). I knew I had to guarantee 100 percent success on our journey because I wasn’t comfortable saying, “Well, four of the five of my kids died along the way… but one of them made it to the top!”

In order to get to our goal safely, we had to take a lot of detours. In fact, looking back I realize we spent a lot of our time hiking away from our goal—chanting with monks in the monastery, eating apple pie in trekking houses, and having lots of side adventures. It took two or three weeks to get to our goal, but we all got to the mountaintop safely.

Just like my experience in the Himalayas, in business we should not be willing to accept the statistic that 9 out of 10 small businesses fail. We need to find a way to take switchbacks to get more businesses, especially online businesses, safely to the peak of success.

The Zigzag Principle

The Zigzag Principle is a sequence of switchbacks. It is a pattern that you can use over and over and over until you reach your beacon in the fog. Here are the main switchbacks, or zigzags, to get you to success:

1. Establish a firm foundation. Assess your resources and identify your beacon in the fog (or ultimate goal). Where do you want your business to end up?

2. Divert! Immediately drive to profitability. What can you do right now to get the cash you need to get to that goal?

3. Add processes and resources. What is the specific pattern or system you follow in this project? Who or what else do you need to turn your project into a business, a well-oiled machine?

4. Add a scale element to your business. Duplicate and expand. In other words, set it up so you do it once and it makes money while you’re doing something else.

This is an exhilarating concept because the Zigzag Principle gives people permission to live their lives. I have a team of stay-at-home moms who work do SEO for me. Imagine if they charged straight for their business goals—their kids would be in very stinky diapers for a very long time. I also employ a team of teenage boys, and the reality is that they have lives! My son is one of these teenagers and he is on the high school football team. Another team member is involved with debate, and another on the student council. If they were set on charging straight to business success, they would probably flunk out of high school! That would be unacceptable.

Live a Rich Life

I would argue that the richest parts of life are actually the detours we take. By slowing yourself down and allowing you these deliberate detours, you can actually navigate and migrate to higher levels of success.

Zigzagging is a powerful concept. It works. It works. It works! I know because I have founded or cofounded 33 different companies and the biggest failures came when I charged straight for my goals. I have now had my last four out of five businesses succeed using the concepts of the Zigzag Principle.

The Zigzag Principle is liberating! Use it and find the confidence to act on your dreams. Apply it to your business and find the balance to live your life while seeing business success. The key is just to step out into the fog and begin.

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