You can't shoot a cannon from a canoe

Fix your foundation first

Fundamentals first. I remember growing up in Minnesota, a walking, ice-skating-stereotype, playing hockey as soon as we could gather the gear. As I got older, physical fitness became part of the routine. That meant strength training. That meant weight lifting.

Back then the Ice Gods were the college players at the University of Minnesota (the Golden Gophers). I remember going to a camp where one player, a Gopher named Doug Zmolek, talked about the importance of a solid foundation.

“You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe,” he told young’uns, in an effort convince us to focus on leg strength (i.e., squats).

“Foundation” keeps popping up. It’s, of course, an Apple+ television series now, based on the wildly successful books by Isaac Asimov. The books and show span centuries and thousands of years. They cover the factors that make society fragile or firm. Fiction aside, in recent decades the most notorious terrorist organization in living memory is Al-Qaeda, which translates to “the foundation” or “the base.” And in business, everyone wants to be a “platform,” which is really just another term for foundation.

When something keeps punching into public consciousness, that signals something serious. We should be aware of our connection to the ground.

We should question the basics issues every so often. Just how solid are we, really? What are our load-bearing assumptions, and what would it take to knock them out?

For example, for my own self, my financial life is completely, inextricably tied to the US government. That’s not a bad or scary thing, because after all, it has been in existence for nearly two-and-a-half centuries, but it is a pillar of life that’s got a lot of weight to hold. And if the US government were to falter or fail, I and my family would be in a bad way.

Everyone has these keystones—of the mind and in our lives—and it’s good to check in once in a while to ensure they’re reasonable and acceptable and acknowledged.

My gut tells me that when we look around and scrutinize our life, our work, and our relationships, our day-to-day is on thinner blades-on-ice than we’d care to admit.

Like food. There’s a well-worn sentiment, that supposedly began in 1906 when Alfred Henry Lewis wrote, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.” Since then, apparently the figure has dropped to four, or even three meals to anarchy.

What’s your critical infrastructure? What support systems can’t you lose?

Because if your cannon’s cocked atop a canoe, you’d better think twice before you fire.