Fosbury Flop

If You Wanna Make History, You Gotta Do Something That Has Never Been Done Before

Up until 1968 no man had ever crossed the high bar backward and won in an Olympic competition; it simply was not the way the high jump was done. At every track meet and Olympic event for more than 100 years, the bar was jumped one of two ways: either by the western roll or by the scissor kick. Naturally, it was crazy to think that a 16 year-old high school sophomore would change that.

Dick Fosbury & the Fosbury Flop

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Dick Fosbury was having trouble qualifying for his high school high jump competition. In order to qualify, Dick needed to cross the bar at a minimum of five feet, but try after try, he couldn’t make it over. He was using the western roll, a tactic that his 11th grade coaches continued to push at practice. Dick soon realized that the western roll wasn’t working for him.  Rather than give up, he decided to try something different. One afternoon he jumped over the bar backward, and to his surprise, surpassed the five-foot mark with ease. Despite Dick’s success with his backward crossing strategy though, his 11th grade coaches continued to make him practice the western roll. The coaches agreed that his technique was fine for getting him to 5’6, but that it wouldn’t get him much further.

A few years later, Dick was practicing on his college’s high jump team, and attempted his backward technique. Although he was successful, his coach once again said it was a bad idea, and that Dick should only use the western roll. 

You won't make the Olympics with that technique. 

Dick was in school during the early 1960s, and for more than 100 years, the western roll or scissor kick were the only techniques people used for the high jump. The world had only seen these two methods since the sport’s beginning, so jumping over the bar backward seemed outrageous and silly to most. Nonetheless, Dick continued to practice his backward jump, and despite what his coaches told him, began using it in competitions. 

After one of Dick’s performances, a newspaper ran the headline, “Fosbury Flops Over the Bar,” meant to mock Dick’s backward cross over. The name stuck, and from that point on the Fosbury Flop was Dick’s signature move.

Among the mocking headlines, were several other obstacles working against Dick’s new technique: it wasn’t making him the highest jumper, his coaches didn’t believe it would get him far, and he had 100 years of high jump history working against him. There was no evidence that this was a good idea, but Dick had a feeling he was on to something big, and eventually his persistence paid off. When Dick crossed the bar at 6’4, his coach finally gave in and encouraged him develop this new jump. 

Following his coach’s support, and a lot of time spent practicing and honing a new technique, Dick began to win. He won competition after competition, yet few people tried to mimic the Fosbury Flop. Not even his own teammates tried the technique that they watched Dick practice daily. As Dick continued to win more competitions, and become even better, the Fosbury Flop eventually got him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. 

Jump forward to Oct. 20, 1968 in the University Olympic Stadium in Mexico City. Dick has made several successful jumps, and is preparing for a 7’2 attempt. He runs, jumps, positions himself to once again cross over backward, and misses. It was a defeating moment that brought back so many memories of naysayers; The coaches were right. The Fosbury Flop was just that - a flop. You can’t jump the bar backward and get higher than doing the western roll; that’s why his competitors were beating him. Maybe he wouldn’t win the Olympics like he had dreamt of for so long. He could feel the crowd watching to see what he’d do next.

It wasn't over yet for Dick; he still had one more attempt. Not at 7’2” but at 7’4! He was more determined than ever. He ran up to the bar, threw his body in the air, arched his back and with his hands by his side, Dick made a 7'4 jump to set an Olympic record and take home the gold.

That day, Dick not only made his gold medal dream a reality, but also he changed the history of the sport forever. The Fosbury Flop, something that was once seen as a mockery and a failure, is now the only technique that high jumpers use. Dick wasn’t afraid to try something different, and his story is a great lesson to all of us: if you are going to make history, you must believe that you can do something that has never been done before.

Difference Between Plan and Strategy

Plan versus Strategy: What’s the Difference?

Often in life, whether it’s personal, professional, or otherwise, we’re tasked with determining what comes next. How will you overcome an obstacle? How will you meet your goals? In these situations, some people create a plan – a to-do list – and they list all of the things that they intend to do in order to make something happen. Others, though, come up with a strategy - a specific set of actions and a specific decision not to do some things in order to win. A strategy is focus. It’s knowing that you can’t be great at everything, so instead you pick the some things and ignore others – even when that “feels” wrong. 

To put this concept into perspective, consider the story of “David and Goliath,” a story that we typically tell to illustrate a little guy beating a big guy. The story of David and Goliath is much more than that, though. It’s a story about how a good strategy can beat a sizable and powerful opponent every time.

The Story of David and Goliath

The story begins with two armies; the Israelites are facing the Philistines near the Valley of Elah. One army is stationed on each side of the ravine, and in order to attack, one army would need to cross the ravine and then go uphill to meet their opponent. Attacking an opponent uphill, though, is a death sentence because the opponent’s advantage is just too strong. The two armies were in a deadlock.

After several days, each of the armies decided to send forward one man to fight on the entire army’s behalf; the winner of the fight would be declared the winner of the battle. The Philistines had a huge man, Goliath, who was said to have towered over seven feet. Goliath stepped forward, covered in armor, swords, knives, and other weapons. He even had a man to carry his shield. Goliath was prepared for a man-to-man fight.

The Israelites, in awe of Goliath’s stature, were hesitant, except for one man who volunteered. David was small. He was not strong and did not have any armor. Saul, the Israelite leader, offered David his armor, but David refused. He had no weapons except for a sling and five river stones.

After seeing David’s size, Goliath arrogantly called to him, “Come to me! Come to me so I can take your life!” Goliath needed David in close range in order to kill him and David knew this. Instead of confronting Goliath, David pulled back on his sling, and shot a small stone, hitting Goliaths forehead. Goliath fell to the ground, and David immediately cut off his head.

David had a strategy; he made a choice to be good at one thing and ignore others. In those times, there were people who were so good at slinging a rock that they could hit a small object from a very long distance. They used this method to hunt animals, including birds, which meant they must have very good aim or they would starve. David was one of these people, and he practiced hour after hour, year after year.

Goliath came in with an expectation of how the game would be played. He assumed both men would walk out, approach each other, and have hand-to-hand combat. That expectation not only left Goliath defeated, but also dead.

The Story of Vivek Ranadive’s Basketball Team

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Another excellent example is that of Vivek Ranadive, a single dad who wanted to spend more time with his 12 year-old daughter. Vivek’s daughter played on a basketball team, and although he’d never touched a basketball in his life, Vivek decided to coach her team so he could be with his daughter more often. The fact that he had never played basketball was just the start of his problems. He had another major issue: the team really had no talent. They could not shoot, and they didn’t have much experience. What Vivek did have, though, was a strategy. 

When he looked at the way the game was played, he quickly realized something: each time the ball was put into play, it was done so uncontested. The team would throw in the ball, dribble it down the court, and then the defense would only begin once the offensive team was within shooting range. Seeing this, Vivek thought, “What if we just don’t let them throw in the ball?” The team only had five seconds to throw in the ball, and then 8 seconds to get it across half court. Vivek came up with the strategy to force turnovers, and then go in for a layup.

At practice, Vivek only had the team working on this strategy. He ran drills where he had the girls waves their arms in the air, and spent the entire time practicing forced turnovers. The team didn’t love basketball practice at first, but then they started to win.

One opposing coach was so upset he wanted to meet Vivek in the parking lot. The other coaches accused him of cheating, of not playing fairly, and of not letting the girls play real basketball. 

Peter Shankman once said, “If you are going to challenge the status quo, you are going to piss people off.”

Ultimately Vivek’s team played in the national championship. Now Vivek Ranadive, a tech billionaire is the owner of the Sacramento Kings.

The point is, you can change the way the game is played, and you can win. Strategy is a decision to do some things and not to do other things in order to win. In David and Goliath, David chose to do one thing. He swung a rock fast, hard, and with pinpoint accuracy. He just did one thing. For Vivek and his daughter’s basketball team, that thing was turnovers. Again, just one thing.

This is strategy. It is the decision to do one thing so well that it allows you to beat your competitors. I don’t know about you, but I would never want to be Goliath or any team that’s up against Viveks daughter’s basketball team. I want be the person who challenges the status quo, who pisses people off, and the one who ultimately wins.

Life is an Open Book Test

Do you remember being in school and feeling the dread that came with an upcoming test? Maybe you were still a few chapters behind on your reading, or maybe you put off studying until the last minute. Either way, there was no better moment than when your teacher surprised the class with those three magical words: open book test. 

It was like a weight was lifted. The class would sigh in unison, and you would get a decent grade. There were always a few kids, though, who chose not to use the book, and I never understood why they didn't take advantage of that. Why wouldn't they want to get a better grade?

A Little Advice That Went a Long Way

A few years ago I heard a sermon, and the priest said something that really struck me: "When you are having a challenge in life, when you are having a difficulty, this is God letting you know he needs you to learn something." This simple phrase helped me realize that I shouldn't see the obstacles and road blocks in life as problems, but as lessons in progress. This has been a test all along, and the best part is - it's open book!
Another memorable piece of advice I received was from Bobby McFerrin, the guy who sang, “Don’t worry, Be Happy." He once said “we all worry so much about the foods we put in our body - organic, low fat, low sugar - but we've got to be sure to feed our minds with good stuff every day, too." Luckily I had already started.  

The Book That Started it All

I believe you can learn just about anything with the right book. Spend a weekend with a good one, and although you might be an amateur on Friday, you'll be an expert by Monday. Over the past few years I’ve shifted toward audio books, which make driving and running much more productive because I can listen and learn.

Let's backtrack a few years, though, to where this fascination with books began. I was 18 years old and sitting in the back of math class in my first semester of college.  I couldn't understand why I needed to learn algebra at that time in my life; I simply had no use for it. So while the teacher was solving X’s on the blackboard, I sat reading a book called Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Clement Stone and Naploeon Hill - a book that changed the trajectory of my life. 

At the time, there was one thing I knew for sure: school did not make sense to me. I wanted to be rich, and I was not going to sit through four years of school before I even got started. I dropped out of college and began my pursuit of starting a successful business. 

A Roster of the Best Teachers 

Since that time, I have read hundreds of books. One of the biggest advantages to reading is that you can delve into a particular topic at the time it's most applicable to your life, and then you can take immediate action on whatever lessons you learn from the book.

Some of the greatest minds in history and most successful business professionals have written books sharing their experience and challenges, and their books are essentially blueprints to success. Here are a few of my favorites along with the lessons that they taught me:

  • The Art of War taught me how to use strategy to build a competitive business.
  • Jack Welch’s autobiography taught me to focus on what you can be the best at, and the importance of training in the workplace.
  • Titan, a biography about John D. Rockefeller, demonstrated the concept of identifying the choke point in your own business and using that to control the pipeline of business in any industry. In Rockefeller's case, it was railroads. 
  • Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great and Great by Choice, taught the importance of consistency during good times and bad, a concept he calls the “20 mile march.” He also taught me how to minimize risk by shooting bullets then cannonballs, the importance of getting the right people on the bus, and setting Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGS)!
  • Donald Trump taught me the importance of thinking big and negotiating aggressively. When I read his book, The Art of the Deal, back in the 1980’s, he demonstrated the impact that negotiating a price reduction of just 10% could have on your bottom line.
  • Most recently, Gary Keller further demonstrated how to be truly focused in his book, The ONE Thing. He showed me why multitasking is bad.
  • Zig Ziglar motivated me when I was down, taught me how to listen, and taught me the Secrets of Closing a Sale.
  • Dale Carnegie taught me how to win friends and influence people.
  • In his autobiography Henry Ford taught me the difference between maximizing profits and maximizing value, which is what he did when he used an assembly line to mass produce cars. In fact, he was so committed to the concept of selling cars as inexpensively as possible that in 1914 he decided his company made too much profit and refunded every customer (300,000+!) $50.

These are only a few examples of the ways I've used books to guide my life and career. I'm no genius, but I can tell you that life is an open book test and that I use the book every time. 

The next time you face a challenge, wonder what to do next, feel unqualified to do what is in front of you, and feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders remember: 

It is a test. 

But it’s open book.

Tips for Business Success

Thirteen years ago, I began my business in the dining area of my little apartment with a laptop and an old desk that I pulled out of a dumpster.

As of today, Max Borges Agency has been on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America for the past six years, and has also received recognition as a “Best Place to Work” in South Florida Business Journal and Outdoor Magazine four years in a row. To date we have 60 employees (and are hiring more by the day), and gross more than $10 million in revenue.

I am not highlighting these accomplishments to impress you, rather to impress upon you that the techniques I used – and would like to share with you – do work. They are techniques I used to build my business, and they will help you build yours, too, whether you are in the midst of opening a business or looking to take your current business to the next level.

The first thing you should know is that just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you should turn it into a business. For example, just because you are an excellent cook doesn’t mean you should open a restaurant; cooking great meals and running a business are two entirely different things.

That said, if you think you are ready to run your own business, have a business that could be doing better, work at a business that could be doing better, or know someone with a business that could be doing better, here are some tips that can help:

Focus

When you are starting out, you have limited resources. The only way to win is to focus - focus on the one thing that you know you can do better than anyone.

When I started my company, I did anything anyone would pay me to do, and it was an extremely hard way to start a business. When I eventually decided to focus on technology, things got a little better, but it was still a stretch from where I wanted to be. When we took it a step further, though, and started focusing 100 percent on consumer technology, that is when my business soared through the roof.
The idea of maintaining a key focus may seem obvious, but there were dozens of agencies dabbling in consumer technology and none of them were honing in on it. By maintaining our focus, Max Borges Agency became the number one in the country in just five years.
For you, focus might mean an industry, a type of customer, or even a location. It’s really about focusing your efforts so you can own it.  

 

Create a band of pirates

How? Hire people you love. Hire people who you are excited to work with. Don’t just look for employees who will be your friends, but for people who are smart, and who you think will make a real difference in the future of your company. People who clearly have a passion for what you do and what your company stands  for are the ones that will remain loyal and stay with you forever.  

Fire jerks immediately

Don’t hesitate. Don’t wait. Don’t think they might get better. They won’t.

Fire good employees ASAP

This might sound crazy, but remember: good is the enemy of great. Good employees get by in big companies, but you don’t have that luxury. You have to be ruthless in keeping only great employees. Plus the good ones have a right to work where they can be great. We all make mistakes. Get over it and set them free.

Align employee incentives with your ultimate goal

This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Most people get paid hourly or an annual salary, and if they are lucky, receive a bonus at the end of the year. That sucks. What if they have a really great month or a great week? Why should they have to wait to get a bonus? Structure pay so that people get paid each week for results.

At my agency, we pay all account people a percentage of client billings for which they are responsible for. If they get a new client, they make more money in their next check. If they lose a client, they lose money on their next check. Of course you have to hire people who like this kind of structure, but most super-achievers do, you’ll set your company on fire!

 

Hire for your weaknesses 

You have to know what you suck at. I know that I suck at follow through, but I am good at getting things started and getting people excited about my ideas. Since I know my weakness, I hire a lot of people who have great follow through. My first employee was a master at follow through.

One word of warning, though: if your weakness is numbers, you’re going to have to suck it up in the beginning. You can never fully delegate the financial side of your business, or you’ll leave yourself wide open to being ripped off. You need to learn enough to keep control of the company financials, even if someone else is doing the dirty work.

 

Every solution is for the future 

If you have a problem today and your company is continuing to grow, it is imperative that you think about solutions that will work when your company expands twice or even three times as it is now. If you don’t, you’ll continue running up against the same problems time and time again. A procedure that works when you have ten customers probably won’t work when you have 50, so think ahead, and plan for your future success.

Only spend money on the things that will drive your business 

When a friend of mine was starting out he asked me for a bit of advice. He said, “Max, I need some help finding an office.” My response to him was, “An office? You don’t even have a client! Your office is your kitchen table, personal laptop and your cell phone.” The point here is to spend as little money as possible to get your business going.

As you grow, inevitably, you will bottle neck your own business

When you start out, you do every job. You do the sales, marketing, client work, accounting, contracts – everything. As you grow, and each of those jobs starts to grow, be sure you delegate tasks or hire employees. 

This is hard sometimes. I remember when it was time for me to hire an accountant because it was too much work for me, but not enough to keep someone busy full time. What I learned was that by hiring more than I needed, it opened me up to grow my business more quickly. I always try to anticipate the bottle necks so they never even slow me down.

 

Process

I’m not really a process guy, but I know the value of having good processes and procedures in place so I hire people who are great in that area. When you have good people and good processes, you can “set it and forget it.” This makes your business infinitely more scalable. One book that has had a big impact on my company is The Checklist Manifesto.

Be scared

I often speak on the importance of being fearless, but I have to admit that one of the key drivers of my success is that I never let myself get too confident. Since the beginning, I was always terrified it could end at any minute. Jim Collins calls this productive paranoia in his book, Great By Choice, and I encourage you to practice it because it will keep you on your toes.

Every business will be successful through a combination of luck and skill

The key is to know the difference. You’ll end up doing some things right because you know the right things to do, and you’ll also do other things right simply because you got lucky. You need to learn the difference, so that the next time around you won’t need luck to be successful.