A Small Business Owner's Glimpse Into 2015 Gleaned from American Ninja Warrior

January 5, 2015 / by Michael K. Redman

While I’m not prone to prognostication I do love to look ahead and consider where we are going as a company and what we need to pay attention to. This holiday season I was reminded of some really great skills that I will need in business in the year ahead. The funny part of this inspiration is where it came from. They say good things sometimes come from the strangest places and this holiday season that’s no joke.

My college daughter, home for the holidays, decided to go all OCD on us and start watching multiple seasons of American Ninja Warrior. The show involves athletes competing on crazy difficult obstacle courses. My hands actually sweat as I’m watching the show. The ultimate goal is to make it to the mother of all obstacle courses, Mount Midoriyama. The competition started in Japan and came to America 6 years ago. To date no American has ever been able to complete the Mount Midoriyama course.

What can I say, it was the holidays, we had a few days off and I hadn’t done a TV binge like this since watching 7 seasons of West Wing in 3 months a few years back. After the first 7 or 8 shows and bonding time with my daughter I started to get worn out. I would leave the room to do other things and I would get sucked right back in. Then I found myself making American Ninja Warrior analogies at work and started thinking about life themes from the show. I realized there were actually three important attributes from ANW (American Ninja Warrior) for my real day to day world of running a successful small business.

Those three attributes are; Balance, Agility and Strength.


Balance is the most important skill in business and in life. Balance is the ability to hold tension between things. Balance is what keeps you from falling over whether you’re standing still or running at break neck speeds.

When you watch the athletes on ANW it’s their balance that allows them to face great obstacles, risk danger and achieve heroic activities without falling and being disqualified. The slightest mistake can lead to failure. 

A lot of business people I know have mentioned that these last few years have felt a little death defying at times. It has required an ability to balance a whole lot of demands. Have you felt like that? I know I have. Balance is the first skill that I am going to be working on this year so that when a great opportunity comes into reach I will be ready. I can become over committed to a project or to a problem that I ignore other things that require my attention. These things throw my balance off and enlarge my blind spots and invariably something either blindsides me or just gets dropped. I would rather get to the end of the week, month or year a little slower but keep everything balanced and taken care of.


[Photo Source: David Becker/NBC]


Agility is the second skill I realized didn’t just apply to these herculean athletes but applied to me and my small business also. Agility or the ability to be Agile is defined as:

1 : marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace <an agile dancer>
2 :  having a quick resourceful and adaptable character <an agile mind>

In business being agile helps me deal with the daily challenges that come with the shifting needs of my staff, my clients and the economy. When I’m balanced it gives me the opportunity to be agile. During the great recession we had several things happen that took us off guard. 

One of those things was a significant client who was not doing well himself and decided after 3 years to let us go to save money. When you lose a good sized client it hurts in multiple ways and you have to adjust.

We also were involved in a market where we had over 20 clients that were selling treatments for toenail fungus. When this industry dried up because people didn’t have the money to pay for cosmetic treatment we lost those clients and half of our revenue in 1 year. This radically tested our ability to move quickly, adapt and be resourceful. I’m not sure we did it with “easy grace” but we love to celebrate that we are still in business.

As you can see, being agile is really important for all of us so that’s why it’s my second skill I see needing in 2015.


[Photo Source: David Becker/NBC]


I learned a long time ago strength is both a physical and an emotional characteristic. These last few years have taught me to persevere, be humble and work hard even in the face of professional terror at times. If that doesn’t take inner strength I don’t know what does. Many of my friends in business have demonstrated some of the greatest strength and courage I can imagine doing their best to take care of their employees and their families.

In business being able to bench 400 lbs isn’t usually helpful unless your running a gym but being able to flex your business muscles is important. 

Strength is equated with our capacity and in business our capacity is often equated to our financial health as well as our capacity to meet the needs of today. This next year I’m committed to continuing our commitment towards making smart decisions in how we manage our finances and how we manage our staff. I want to make sure that we are exercising in a way that makes us stronger and gives us more capacity. We want more capacity for the challenges that come our way so we can perform successfully and we want to be ready for the amazing opportunities that I believe will come our way. Both will require our ability to have unspent capacity. 


[Photo source: David Becker/NBC]

The future is yet to be written for any of us. Over the next year I’m optimistic for myself, my clients and my friends in business. I am watching the trends and listening to the “Experts” in the areas I operate in so I can reduce the chances I am caught off guard. You are probably doing that more than I am. If so, well done, you!

So for all the things I cannot see and for what ever tomorrow will bring that the experts and I did not see I am preparing in my own special way. 

I am predicting that we will all need those three attributes of those crazy American Ninja Warriors: Balance, Agility and Strength to overcome 2015 and become victors in our own small businesses and in life. I hope that you are successful in all the obstacles you endeavor to overcome during 2015.

Happy New Year and God Bless,


Since 2002, Half a Bubble Out has been dedicated to providing marketing, advertising and small business consulting that meet the needs of our clients. We specialize in powerfully telling stories through Inbound Marketing to grow your business filled with more passion and provision. Based in Chico California, we serve clients throughout Northern California and across the country to New York. 

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