Learn to Sail Without a Rudder

When I was in 8th grade we lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. At the time, there was outfit called Community Boating that held classes for kids and taught them to be sailors on their summer vacation. Kids would show up in the morning and sign up for a class and after some lessons and a test they would reach various levels of certification – with an official card. My brother and I went every day, of course.

A sailboat on the beach in Tel Aviv in 2007. We got bumped from our flight and got a day at the beach courtesy of the airline!

Within a few weeks I was able to take out a Cape Cod Mercury  (seats 4 or 5?) on a green flag day, but not on a red flag (windier) day. Over the summer we did additional classes and learned to sail larger keel boats and smaller lasers. We learned how to work the jib – the smaller sail that sits over the bow of the boat – and the more serious students (not me or my brother) learned to work a spinnaker –   the bigger billows sail that also sits at the front of the boat.

The most interesting training I did was something called ‘sailing without a rudder’ – a little like driving your car without a steering wheel. If you really want to be good sailor you need to understand how everything works so well that  you can manage when you are limited, you don’t have all of your tools, or something goes wrong.

It turns out that by re-positioning the weight in the boat (for example by moving your passengers to the back right corner) and by working the sail and the jib (say, by pulling them very tight), you can cause the boat to change direction, without using the rudder.

In my business I have often found myself challenged in similar ways. Helping shape online reputation may involve projecting your brand’s voice, creating and curating content, interacting with the media, etc. But many of our clients are banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies – highly regulated businesses that may not be allowed to deploy content because of legal and compliance issues.

Rather that concluding that we can’t work without our tools, we are constantly forced to develop new tools and methods – making us smarter and more capable than if we had not been challenged. In many cases these challenges force us to work much harder if we want to succeed. We are so used to being thrown curve balls that we try to anticipate them from the start.

And we keep sailing, with or without a rudder!

Taking Advantage of the Time Difference

12 years ago I created my first company and ever since then I have had to deal with time differences.
I live in Israel and my clients have always been mostly in the US, Europe and Asia.

In my early days doing business online I was up half the night personally handing client concerns – many of the clients didn’t even know I was overseas. Thanks Vonage!

Now, 12 years later, Five Blocks is a company with more than 20 employees – most of whom are in Israel at any given time.

We have started traveling a lot more than before. In the past year I was in the US at least 10 times, as well as business trips to Puerto Rico, Moscow, Zurich, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Baku.

Often I am asked about the time difference – isn’t it hard to work with people when they are 7 hours behind or 5 houris ahead?
Lately we have gotten into a groove that works extremely well.

We are GMT+2 so working with Europe is easy. New York, Boston and Washington – where more than half of our clients are located – is 7 hours behind. We try  to do our calls with them from 9-11AM (4-6Pm for us). This gives us all day to work without getting too many emails or phone calls from those clients.

Hong Kong and Singapore are 5 hours ahead of us – making morning calls work really well for us – it’s mid afternoon for our clients and partners in Asia.

The time difference forces us to schedule our calls at the beginning and end of the day leaving a big chunk of time for getting the work done – with far less distractions!

Turning a disadvantage into an advantage – that’s Antifragile!