It was a killer idea, no doubt about it.
As I sat behind my fellow students, I couldn’t help but notice how they were absorbed in their phones, all but ignoring every presentation that came on the screen.
But all of a sudden when the OODA Loop came on, they were upright, alert and completely immersed in the entire concept.
Their names are Larry Page (founder of Google) and Ray Kurzweil (Google’s VP of Engineering). That’s right, these men took time off from running one of the most powerful companies in the world to hear this idea, so you should probably pay attention too.
What is OODA you might ask? For those of you who are new to this concept, OODA is a four-step decision-making process that stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.
The concept was originally created by John Boyd, one of the most famous military strategists of all time, as a new way to approach conflict and ultimately revolutionize warfare around the world.
While it’s still used by many military leaders today, now it’s also being adopted by companies to help them thrive in a highly competitive market.
The OODA loop helps to swiftly identify problems and make changes while keeping in mind that mistakes happen and changes need to be made if or when more data becomes available.
This has been a game-changing concept for me and other successful business leaders around the world.
After nearly 17 years of running Mindvalley, these are the three key lessons I’ve taken from the OODA loop that completely transformed how I do business.
1. Failure Is Nothing to Fear
Fail fast and cheap. Fail often. Fail in a way that doesn’t kill you.~ Seth Godin, Author of 19 Bestselling books and entrepreneur
To be frank, I don’t give a damn about failure and you shouldn’t either. Ever since I built Mindvalley from the ground up, I’ve had my fair share of ‘failures’ along the way. But I don’t see them as failures. They are learning opportunities.
Take our previous coaching platform Brilliantly.com. Just six months in, my colleagues Ajit, Cecilia and I realized that this business was bound to fail and we had to kill it completely. Instead of dwelling on a lost project, we went on to build Evercoach which is now the world’s leading coach training platform.
Then we decided to launch an event called Extraordinary Summit which failed to make a profit, but eventually led us to our annual event called Mindvalley Reunion. This has since been renamed Mindvalley Live and has become very successful, now in its third consecutive year.
At one point, one of our star interviewers Jason Campbell launched a video series called Mindvalley Insights. It didn’t take off and he called it a massive failure, but he ultimately learned from it. Now Jason hosts our newest Mindvalley podcast Superhumans at Work where he interviews leading minds on peak performance and how to optimize work. The podcast is climbing up the ranks as we speak.
And long before I even started Mindvalley, I had already failed at two businesses, lost all my savings and had to rent a couch to sleep on until I got back on my feet. But, again, I learned from it all.
The point is, without these supposed failures some of Mindvalley’s greatest success stories would never have been born.
If I had been too afraid to take risks or felt so defeated by projects that weren’t going as hoped, Mindvalley wouldn’t be even close to what it is today.
As far as I’m concerned, failure isn’t a roadblock or a sign of defeat; it’s a redirection toward where you’re meant to go and who you’re meant to become.
As long as you learn how to innovate and change direction when things get tough, failure may be the best thing that could ever happen to you or your business.
2. Be Ready to Pivot at a Moment’s Notice
The single biggest criticism I receive from new employees is my tendency to change direction quickly.
Someone even once said, “Bring a tape recorder to your meeting with Vishen. He will change his mind often.”
My answer? Hell yes I do.
Jeff Bezos once told Inc. Magazine that changing your mind is a sign of high intelligence and that sticking to your initial decisions can actually hinder your growth.
So I’m simply practicing what Bezos preaches — and in an industry moving as fast as personal development, we need to be able to pivot very fast.
Jeffrey Perlman of Zumba even said that a major reason he became a Mindvalley Advisor is because, “I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as you.”
It’s through this process of rapid iteration that we’ve come up with tons of new ideas on the fly. We test them out, fail fearlessly, and try again until we find the right projects worth pursuing.
I’ll never forget what Google X co-founder Tom Chi said about rapid iteration when he spoke at our signature event A-Fest:
Aim for rate-based goals instead of outcomes. If the stats say we have a 5% chance of an idea working, there is a 64% chance after 20 ideas and a 92% rate of success with 50 experiments.~ Tom Chi, inventor and co-founder of Google X
I had my own experience testing this theory out when spontaneously trying out an experiment during our A-Fest event in Croatia.
I wanted to see how crowdsourcing would go over in that space, so I threw out one of my planned speeches and asked the audience to deliver their own.
But during the following year, I decided not to do it again because I noticed audience feedback had rated the crowd-sourced speakers poorly.
I could’ve stuck to my guns, pushed on and tried to force something that just wasn’t working. Instead, I chose to let it go and move forward.
Did my idea fail? Of course it did. But again, I learned something from it.
By learning what didn’t work, a new idea emerged—to shift the A-Fest event themes to award-winning iterations like ”Biohacking The Body and Brain.” We’ve now done this for several years and continue to receive great feedback on having a theme around each event.
In an industry that evolves as fast as EduTech, we must constantly keep on our toes and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. It’s our willingness to make waves, scrap ideas and start over that has allowed Mindvalley to move so quickly and have many successes.
3. Sometimes it Pays to Be a Little Paranoid
Studies have shown that the very best CEO’s are admittedly pretty paranoid.
In his book Only the Paranoid Survive, Former Intel CEO Andy Grove puts it perfectly:
The best way to maintain a company’s success is to always be paranoid.~ Andy Grove, Former Intel CEO
He explains that in order for companies to be successful, they need to stay ahead of what he calls “strategic inflection points.” These are basically impending threats to a company’s existence, like competition and emerging technology.
In other words, I have no choice but to be paranoid. Because in an ever-evolving field like EduTech, anything and everything can change at a moment’s notice.
Many of our competitors are dying off and shrinking for two simple reasons. They just weren’t paranoid enough and the exponential change was too much to handle.
According to Ray Kurzweil, Google’s VP of Engineering, there was as much innovation in the world from 2000-2015 as there was from 1900-1999.
And if you think that’s scary, there will be just as much technological advancement from 2016-2022 as there was from 1900-2000.
In the coming years, there’s no question that AI, VR, AR, Robotics and Digital Manufacturing are going to disrupt countless industries, EduTech included.
So in this rapidly-evolving world we’re all living in, it’s not just the strong that will continue to survive, but also the adaptable.
And as these massive shifts take place, I predict that most of our competition will either die off or be swallowed up by change, leaving us as the dominant player.
We move faster than anyone else I know and I have no plans to slow down anytime soon.
Driving the Message Home
To this day, it’s still difficult for me to believe that Mindvalley has grown from a mere $700 investment to the world’s leading personal growth brand. And as you now know, this 17-year journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
I’ve had countless failed projects and experiments over the years, but practicing the OODA Loop has helped me learn how to rapidly pivot in a new direction and pursue opportunities which were even more successful in the long run.
And with everything I’ve gained from my fumbles and failures along the way, I wanted to do more than simply learn from my own mistakes; I wanted to help others as well and give back.
I am excited to share with you the lessons and insights I’ve absorbed to help other business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs save some time by learning from my screw-ups. My new book The Buddha and the Badass is all about merging the twin powers that I believe make a successful business leader.
You have the Buddha, an insightful spiritual leader who moves through the world with ease. And you have the Badass, a changemaker who constantly challenges the status quo.
The truth is, you already have them inside of you. Once you learn how to access them both at once, you will become unstoppable.
Some of the key things I explain in this book are how to –
✅ Activate your inner visionary
✅ Uncover your soul print
✅ Attract your allies
✅ Upgrade your identity
✅ Bend reality
✅ Become unf*ckwithable
If you’re ready to radically shift your beliefs about success and transform the very nature of how you work, you can pre-order your copy of The Buddha and the Badass using the link below.
And if you want to guide your team on their own path to becoming a badass business leader with a buddha state of mind, you can check out the cutting-edge programs we’re offering on Mindvalley for Business.
I truly hope you find these mental models helpful for your passion projects and in your career so that you spend the rest of your life doing work that inspires, uplifts and empowers you every single day.