The Apex Blog | The Swiss Army Knife | Jan Almasy

To everyone chasing their Apex,

How many times have you been trying to get something done. Grinding. Grunting. Head down running forward and going against the grain. When out of nowhere, someone appears and points out one tiny detail and all of a sudden your world becomes exponentially easier to manage and the task is completed in a fraction of the time. How many times have you been asked to go find something and can’t find it no matter how hard you look, then someone else comes into the room and points out where it was. It. Was. Right. In. Front. Of. Your. Face.

Many times people get so caught up in a process that they lose sight of all the tools at their advantage. Today I sat and had a conversation with a former Army Captain and current Air Force Captain in my unit. When I asked him what his least favorite quality was in an officer, he answered me with “I hate when people have to operate with surgical precision and fall apart when things don’t go to plan.” I was intrigued by this. Shouldn’t the military be focused on being precise? He went on to explain that many times a surgeon has the best equipment available, the top team, and optimal conditions to operate. If that surgeon was placed in an environment outside of their comfort zone with minimal equipment, a half-assed team, and horrible conditions, would they be just as effective? Would they fall apart?

Be a swiss army knife. A swiss army knife has an endless amount of tools and is adaptable to every situation. It is small, yet of invaluable use in dire situations. You can always count on a swiss army knife. If you were going to try and survive on a desert island, would you want a scalpel, that's only use is cutting, or would you want a swiss army knife that has a screwdriver, mini saw, pliers, and a blade all in one? Sometimes it isn’t about having all of the fancy equipment, it’s all about being adaptable, flexible, and ready to complete the task no matter the odds.

Now you may be wondering, “what the hell does a knife have to do with me?” Well, let me explain. When you’re leading an organization towards a designated task, you may not always have the best equipment, the most motivated team, or the most optimal conditions. Equipment breaks, people quit or don’t show up, and sometimes shit just all around hits the fan. When that shit hits the fan, don’t just give up, fail, and point the failure at your surroundings. That’s a cop out and a cheap exit. You WILL lose the respect of your team. Take ownership of the situation regardless of how hopeless it seems, gut up, motivate your team, and conquer that shit. Get down in the mud with your team and grind. Ask your team members for input on how to move forward, compile it, and execute it. Involve them in the process. Explain to them why it’s important to do what you have to do. Trust in your abilities and LEAD.

Tomorrow is going to come regardless of whether you decide to lie down, or charge forward. When that sun rises tomorrow, will your team look at you and say “Damn that sucked, but that leader pushed us to accomplish the task and we’re proud of that” or will they say “I can’t believe we’re here and how lazy that leader is.”  Your attitude will permeate through your team. The way you handle adversity will dictate how your team does. It’s easy to complete tasks and look good when you have the best resources available, like a surgeon and his scalpel. What will you do when shit hits the fan, and you need that swiss army knife?