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Fight Like a Girl: Strategic Lessons from Wing Chun Kung Fu


In the spirit of Women's History Month, I felt that an appropriate way to honor great women past and present was to celebrate the lessons I've learned from my practice of Wing Chun Kung Fu, which happened to be created by a woman. Abbess Ng Mui, a Shaolin nun, is the founder of this highly respected martial art, popularized throughout the Western World by Bruce Lee.

A few years back I began sporadic training in Wing Chun Kung Fu at the RDU Wing Chun School in Raleigh, NC. It was there that I would learn how to fight like a girl. Unlike its stylistic counterparts invented by men, Wing Chun leaves much to be desired when it comes to fancy kicks, wide swinging punches, and supernatural flight through bamboo forests.

Instead, Wing Chun is designed to use the least amount of energy while delivering the most efficient and effective blow to the opponent. Also referred to as "inside fighting," Wing Chun is most effective at incredibly close range.

As an aspiring practitioner, I have found several business parallels with the foundational principles of Wing Chun.

  • Wing Chun looks for the quickest and shortest distance to achieve its objective.
  • Wing Chun is a very opportunistic (rather than dogmatic) form of combat. Practitioners are taught to constantly find new opportunity in every situation.
  • The premise of Wing Chun reinforces the fact that the practitioner is safer the closer they are to their opponent.

This last point seems counterintuitive because our natural instinct is to keep as much distance as possible to that which we believe can cause us harm. However, the closer we are to an object or person, the better we can anticipate their movement. The further away we are, the more uncertainty we create.

The same can be said about how we view the future and all the uncertainty we face as individuals and organizations. The key to navigating uncertainty is to get as close as we can to the subject matter. Much of my work with clients is designed to get them as "close" to the future as possible so they can better anticipate and adapt to multiple future possibilities. That's it. Simple right? Not exactly. 

As in every new discipline there are building stages, conditioning, and an overall re-training of your body, so you are able to successfully implement that which you've learned. For instance, in most if not all martial arts there is a process for strengthening the bones, ligaments, and tendons so they can endure the stress present in a real life situation. I can personally attest to the fact that this experience is very unpleasant. However, I can also attest to the fact that when I train with my instructor who's far more conditioned than I, I see and understand why we condition that way. Albeit, I usually have to put the arm pads and shin guards on before the end of practice. 

We see the same thing happening in business today. Many organizations run through the motions of strategy creation only to find that when the rubber meets the road they are more vulnerable than when they started. Just as in Wing Chun Kung Fu, it's easy to learn the motions for the sake of appearance, but a body that is not conditioned properly is virtually useless. The same can be said for long-term planning. There are more strategy manuals and methodologies available than I care to acknowledge. Many of these are theoretically solid and.... that is usually where it stops. 

The subject matter that my clients and I deal with can be both exciting and uncomfortable at times and the temptation is always there to default to a more comfortable and traditional approach to strategy. In the midst of uncertainty we as individuals become more nostalgic for the familiar. However, in the midst of uncertainty, familiarity breeds stagnation and our nostalgia moves us backward into the past rather than forward. 

Although your organization may not be facing immediate danger right now, it is important to take steps today that enable you to anticipate and adapt to unexpected events. Take my situation for example. I am not in imminent danger (as far as I know) and I am not faced with bodily attacks on a daily basis. I also hope that I am never in a situation where I have to defend myself or my family, but I am far more confident in my ability to perform in such a situation because of the actions I am taking today.  

Just as my instructor, Curtis Franz, taught me that in a real life fight situation the key is to "eat up" the space, i.e. "close the gap of uncertainty," between you and your opponent, the same applies in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally.

We as individuals and organizations must close the gap of uncertainty in order to be more effective and efficient in completing our objectives. By doing so, we are able to dramatically decrease our vulnerability and significantly increase our opportunity.

Just as in Wing Chun Kung Fu, the key to future success lies in our ability to anticipate change, adapt to the unexpected, and create and seize new opportunities. 

And that is how you fight like a girl.


Cracking the Millennial Code:

3 Ways to Motivate Your Millenial Employees


The key to motivating Millennials is far less labor intensive than the generations before them. If an employer tries to motivate their Millennial employees, those employees will, by their own nature, want to investigate and validate the employer's proposed incentives. This will kill any chance for real motivation.

Because Millennials are the product of the Information Age, they are motivated by the process of discovery and the ability to grow at their own pace, which tends to be far more rapid than their predecessors. Here are three very simple ways you can create a motivated Millennial workforce:


Work to uncover your employees' true needsAlthough Millennials need money like everyone else, they are far more interested in meaningful work and participation rather than menial work and compensation. Money is a means to an end and a superficial motivator for Millennials. Once a more engaging opportunity arises, they will usually take it regardless of your monetary counter-offer.


 Allow them to create their role in the organizationThey will certainly get bored with their role at some point. Rather than giving them the option to fit their assigned role or find a new company, allow them to discover the areas they are most passionate about when applied to the organization. This again puts the burden of "quality" on the employees, allowing them to take direct ownership over the quality of their role in the company. This is a good practice to continually apply. They cannot say they are leaving because they are unhappy with their role in the organization when they created that role themselves.


Encourage strategic input from your employees: If you haven't figured it out yet, Millennials have something to say about well...everything. This should be seen as a positive. Millennials have lots of ideas and some may be the innovative solution you didn't know you were looking for. Millennials are looking for a challenge. Challenge them to envision the long-term success of the organization and you will be delighted with the outcome both from their input and their increased engagement around the office.


Stop spending countless hours and wasted energy on trying to figure out what will make your employees happy. Take that energy and create the environment that will allow your team to flourish and contribute to the overall success of the organization. At the end of the day, it's up to them to be happy. Oh, and age has little to do with that. 


Leading the 21st Century: breakthrough strategies for long-term success - a workshop especially designed for c-level leaders.

How to transform your organization, gain competitive market advantage, attract and retain top-level employees, and create breakthrough strategies to ensure the long-term viability of your company.

 What do strategic leaders do that others do not?

  • They seize new opportunities by identifying patterns in emerging trends and issues both inside and outside their industry.
  • They challenge industry norms and baseline assumptions about the future.
  • They construct plausible scenarios and test their strategic assumptions against multiple future outcomes.
  • They approach strategy as an adaptive process that is in tune with changes in the external environment.
For more information contact us at:
Featured Podcast Interview 

Rick Smyre Founder and President -   Communities of the Future

I had the great pleasure of interviewing internationally recognized futurist and President of the Center for Communities of the Future Rick Smyre. Rick is also known as an architect of the new field of "comprehensive community transformation." In this interview Rick shares his insight on the future of the economy, education, and economic development. You can listen to the full interview here.



Moving in the Right Direction: 3 key attributes to help you get there first


So you've recognized the need for new ways of thinking and a new approach to your long-term strategy. So now what? Here are three key attributes that are required for any leader or organization to take the first steps in creating their successful future.

  • Extraordinary faith in the collective abilities of their team.
  • A willingness and excitement to venture into the unknown and embark on a journey of discovery.
  • A willingness to fail and take risks in order to evolve in, and adapt to changes in the external environment.

All too often we allow the fear of failure to dictate our choices and assessment of risk. However, the reality today is that excessive risk aversion is the greatest liability for future success. 


The key to successful risk taking requires a comprehensive approach to planning rooted in a quest for opportunity rather than fear of the unknown.


Ask yourself:

  • What is the worst that can happen if I take this risk?
  • What is the worst that can happen if I do nothing?

If we are honest with ourselves we will see that a temporary failure is easier to live with than a lifetime of regret.


In This Issue
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Video: Identifying and Creating New Markets

Why U.S. diversity may save us in the end check out our podcast on the iTunes store

Download a free copy of our latest ebook

In the Media

I was recently quoted in a story about the changing face of the newsroom. Frederick Reese wrote a great article examining the implications of people powered news and the issue of credibility and threats to journalistic integrity. You can read the entire article here....

I was recently quoted in the E-Commerce Times by Erika Morphy for a story on how Verizon's FiOS business model will impact content creators and distributors. You can read the entire article here:

I was recently interviewed by Gracie Bonds Staples for a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Gracie wrote an excellent article on how people are reinventing themselves in the 21st century economy. You can read the entire article here...

Join me at this years Band Together concert May 4th in support of the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities. 

May 4, 2013 at 6:00 PM 
Door Open: 5:00 PM


Buy your tickets Here
and support the: 

The Jared Nichols Group
[email protected] | http://www.thejarednicholsgroup.com
524 Hillcrest Circle
Boone, NC 28607