The Zig Zag Principle is a disciplined approach to business and life.  It is not an “easy” approach; in fact, it requires incredible effort to traverse the mountain before you as you make your way to your destination. But being willing to zigzag—and then doing it with control—will help you build a business and a life that will be stable and strong. As we wrap up this journey we’ve taken together, I want to reiterate the underpinnings of the Zigzag Principle:

You must begin by creating a foundation. 

First, you need to look deep into you pockets and see what resources you have right now.  Second, you must determine what your beacon in the fog is going to be.  Third, you must identify and hold to the values you are going to follow in pursuit that particular goal.  And, finally, you must fuel your efforts with passion and determination. 

Once your foundation is set, you can begin to zig and zag toward your goal.  

The first zig is always to get to profitability.  If you do not meet this goal, then you must try something different and keep trying until you get your business or your life profitable.  The second zag is to use the cash from the previous zig to add resources. This requires that you to let go just a little bit and teach other people how to pursue your dream.  The next zig is to scale your business.  This is the part when you are working on your business, not in your business. 

There will be more zigs and zags as you work toward your final beacon in the fog. 

Just look forward and plan three zigs ahead.  The third zig out can be adjusted and changed to match the terrain of the trail you are following.  All of the zigs and zags need to be bound by guardrails.  These guardrails are the things that will keep you away from the trees, the weeds, and the cliffs.  They are aligned closely with your values.   Each zig and zag is bound by how much money, time, and personal resources you have pre-determined to put toward your goal.  In each case, there is a financial target you need to achieve before you can turn toward the next zig, and this target is always bound by your knowing what you can and can’t afford to lose.

As you hit each zig there will be a planned reward.

The rewards are the motivation that will make you and those around you chose to make that turn toward your next zag.

I set some very ambitious goals for myself when I was a rather ordinary young man living in rural Utah. At the time, I was determined to achieve success in life, and I considered a straight line to be the path to follow in achieving those goals. When I mowed lawns to save for college, I loved to finish a job and look back at those straight lines I had created. If there was a door in my way, I didn’t see any need to open it to get to the other side. If there was a cinderblock wall between me and my goal, I was generally smart enough to recognize my need to go around it, but not without considerable resentment and a consideration of the odds of my crashing straight through. 

Given all of the skiing and mountain climbing I’ve done, coupled with my wife’s insistence that we not chart our course to Disneyland as the crow flies, it’s curious to me that it took me as long as it did to realize that zigzagging really is both a law of nature and (with few exceptions) the most effective way of getting to where we’re headed. But I finally did come to that realization, and by adopting a philosophy that was once antithetical to my very nature, I have achieved considerably more success, even as I have maintained my sanity and my sense of balance and control over those things in my life that matter most. 

While this book has, at times, focused on business settings and practices, the Zigzag Principle can be used in any part of your life. It changes the rules from “one strike and you’re out” or “it’s all or nothing” to principles that help you navigate toward your beacon in the fog. 

You may miss the mark sometimes. That’s fine, as long as you take a minute to get your head above the fog and pinpoint once again where you’re headed. And as long as your zigs and zags are guided by your catalyzing statments. There is nothing more satisfying to me than standing with a son at the bottom of a ski slope and examining the tracks we’ve made in getting down a seemingly impossible slope. Or standing on a jagged mountain summit with my wife and children and retracing our steps to the top. Both are remarkable views – ones that I hope you too will enjoy.