Companies that grow fast often don't take a traditional path. The visionary leaders of these companies have a talent of looking beyond what has ever been done to create a new way. Being different from the crowd usually triggers fear as you reach new levels of growth.

I invited Jesse Itzler to join me on my podcast, Leaders in the Trenches, to discuss building brands that are category leaders. Itzler has proven himself in building multiple billion-dollar brands. He co-founded Marquis Jets with no aviation experience. Marquis Jets eventually sold to Warren Buffett. He worked with Zico Water to create a new category of beverage with no experience in the beverage world either. Zico sold to Coca-cola after nearly a decade of brand-building.

We talked about how he pushes his creativity to go beyond the traditional playbook so many people use. Itzler says his success comes from a mantra: "Normal is broken." That rang true for me, because I've seen it help plenty of companies.

Take Velocity Global, for example. It's an international employment company that ranked No. 4 on this year's Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America, with a three-year revenue growth rate of 38,817 percent. CEO Ben Wright shared with me that the company didn't follow a normal path in their growth--he built and grew the company without taking a penny of private equity funding. That's not normal.

Go against the grain. You have to be willing to take chances and do something different. I've found tremendous value in nontraditional strategies.

Itzler and I talked about how you can rewire your brain beyond normal thinking. Start with these three tactics:

1. Change the little things.

Break from your daily routines. Take a different commute to work. Brush your teeth with your other hand. These are all small things you can do to change the rhythm of life. Itzler says, "Do everyday things in a new way to get the brain thinking in new ways."

My first experience with this was to walk with my dog without my cell phone. It felt odd to leave the house without my phone. On the second trip, I appreciated the time away from technology. Now I realize this has created time to think by breaking my old habit.

2. Schedule a big experience each year.

Put something monumental on your calendar each year. Ideally, something so big it causes you to change the way you prioritize your time. You end up dropping the less important to make room for the more important.

Itzler says he loves physical challenges. He finds something so big each year that it changes him just in the preparation--when you have 365 days to anticipate a single event, you approach it differently. "Experiences light the fire in the belly," he says.

3. Create new relationships.

When you hang out with the same people, you tend to stay in the same patterns. Finding new people to spend time with will open the mind to new thinking. Itzler literally made this part of his personal brand--he lived with a Navy SEAL for a month to push his mind and body to new heights, and wrote a book about it. He recently wrote another book about living with monks--aptly titled Living with the Monks--to document the challenges and value of increased mindfulness.

Visionary leaders rarely follow the playbook of others on their path to success. If you accept that "normal is broken," you can start to expand your thinking.

Published on: Sep 18, 2018
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