Read Part 1: 10 Questions You Must Answer to Thrive in Uncertainty with Jim Collins HERE.

Question #6: What specific disciplines must we sustain, even increase to a fanatic level as we experience this change?

Collins illustrated the value of discipline, especially in times like this, drawing on his concept of the 20 Mile March. He compared the expedition of Roald Amundsen to that of Robert Scott. Where Amundsen traveled 20 Miles every day – regardless of conditions, Scott adjusted his team’s progression with weather – traveling further on good days and not at all on bad ones. Amudsen reached the South Pole first and made it home safely while Scott and his entire team perished only 11 miles from their supply line. The 20 Mile March, as outlined in Good to Great, revolves around the basis that, “Those that have the discipline to 20 mile march in good times and bad – they are the ones that prevail in turbulent times.”

Collins shared, “A 20 Mile March is self-imposed, rigorous performance marks to hit with great consistency, which imposes order amidst disorder, discipline amidst chaos and consistency amidst uncertainty.

Discipline is the heartbeat of your 20-Mile March – a sense of self-control in a world out of control. What is your 20 Mile March?”


Questions #7: What are your oxygen cannisters that you must preserve and protect?

David Breshears succeeded in scaling Mt Everest when many climbers ultimately failed because he made the decision to bring extra oxygen canisters to make multiple summit attempts. When faced with a storm, he was prepared to shelter, then attempt the climb again in better weather. Collins used this story to illustrate “Productive Paranoia,” or how a Level 5 leader can always be prepared for the worst.

Reiterating again his core philosophy on uncertainty, Collins said, “There will ALWAYS be a storm in the future, so what are the oxygen canisters that you need to preserve and protect so that they are available to you when the future storm comes?”

Cash can be an oxygen cannister, but so can customer, vendor and employee relationships.

“It’s what you do before the storm comes that has the most to do with how well you weather the storm.”


Question #8: What does it mean to prevail?

“In the midst of uncertainty,” Collins said, “you need to ask: ‘What does it mean to prevail?’” Referring to his earlier stories, Collins shared, “David Breashears’ goal wasn’t just to survive, it was to get an IMAX camera on the summit. Stockdale’s wasn’t just to survive, but to turn that into the defining period of his life. Your BHAG defines why you are saving the oxygen canisters.”

BHAG is a concept Collins developed in his book Built to Last. Short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” Collins advises that this bold mission statement should be, “clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort.”

“Don’t just survive. What does prevailing mean to you?”


Question #9: What should be on your ‘stop doing’ list?

Collins shared that this can be one of the most difficult questions for CEOs to face, but one of the most important. “Real discipline is in what you have the discipline to NOT do. This is a very good time to ask yourself, ‘What should we not do? What should we stop doing? What should we have confronted a long time ago?’

This allows you to have more freedom of energy, resources and people to fanatically focus on the BHAG. If you have more than 3 priorities – you don’t have any priorities.”

Collins cautioned, “It’s not about preserving the core business, it’s about preserving the set of core values and inspired reason for being that never changes. Understand the difference between your true Core Purpose and your practices and activities. Preserve the Core and stimulate progress.

The secret to change is to first figure out what’s not going to change.”


Question #10: How can you help someone else? How can you be of service to others?

Collins believes that “Level 5 leadership is helping others.

As a leader, you’re not there to succeed, he said, “You’re there to serve.” David Breashears gave away several of his oxygen canisters to aid the rescue effort on Everest during that storm. And a storm is when leadership is needed the most. “When everything is difficult you should turn and ask: How can I help you?

Ask yourself: How can you render service to someone who needs it?”


Thriving in Certain Uncertainty

Collins wrapped up this event, provided by The Growth Faculty, with a Q&A session to address attendee questions. When asked what the top 3 priorities right now, in this uncertainty, should be, Collins shared:

  1. People: “Does the current situation represent an opportunity to upgrade the bus? Who are the people I absolutely MUST keep? How can we come together to get ourselves out of this situation? Everything goes back to people.”
  2. Relationships: “What are the relationships that I can draw upon? What are the relationships I need to build upon?”
  3. BHAG: “What is the point of surviving? If you don’t have something that’s worth struggling and suffering for, then it’s easy to give up.”


In this world, as Collins said, “We always have to be thinking about change.” If uncertainty is guaranteed, our job as leaders is to prepare, guide and grow our organizations through these periods of turbulence. But how do you thrive in certain uncertainty?

You can start by taking these 10 Questions Collins shared and reviewing them with your leadership team.