40-Day Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 17: Columbus

You know how if you sail to the edge of the world, you fall off? Well, in 1462, the world was flat – according to the church of Europe – and the universe irrefutably revolved around the earth and you could be burned at the stake for saying otherwise.

So imagine it’s 1432. You’re walking by a shop that sells this new fangled thing called books. There is a new best-seller called The Travels of Marco Polo. Can you imagine Polo took 23 years to journey overland to China looking for the spice route. He eventually met the Kublai Khan who asked him, “Why didn’t you sail here?”

“Sail here?”

“Certainly, the world is round, right?”

See the Chinese and the Indians knew the earth was round and that it travelled around the sun. They’d known that for several thousand years. Polo’s mistake was he wrote about it. And this was very a controversial thing to say in medieval Europe. In Europe you could be burned at the stake for saying the earth was round and it travelled around the sun. Copernicus and Galileo were both imprisoned for such heresy! In fact, Polo was imprisoned for a time for his lies.

But Christopher Columbus read Polo’s book wondered if you could sail to China rather than travel overland. So he approached the Italian rulers for boats to find a faster route to China and the Borneo Spice Islands. They thought his idea of looking for a sea route preposterous. Everyone knew that boats that sailed outside the Gibraltar Straits fell off the world and disappeared forever. (In fact they sailed into the mid-Atlantic and because the problem of longitude hadn’t been reliable solved, they became shipwrecked or lost at sea. In fact if you are one degree out you can be 100s of miles off course.)

What a waste of good boats! The answer was: No.

So Columbus approached Queen Isabella of Spain. She thought the idea ridiculous but cut a 90/10 deal with Columbus just in case. She gave him three of the smallest and rattiest boats she had – Columbus discovered the New World – and the rest is history. He brought back amazing things like potatoes and tobacco and slaves and gold. He made three journeys – made a fortune – blew it all and died penniless and in jail. Columbus didn’t find China but he proved that you didn’t fall off the world either.

Now the merchants of the day knew that saying the world was round was still dangerous even some 300 years after Polo wrote his book. But they whispered, “I don’t care what shape the world is: we need bigger boats!” Columbus’ discovery started the race for ocean supremacy. The Dutch, the Italians, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the British all vied to rule the waves.

The point is: you always act in accordance with what you believe to be true. But once the mindset is broken you behave differently.

The merchants of Columbus’ day realised that a whole new world of trade was sitting just outside the Gibraltar Straits. It didn’t take them long to work it out that little boats were a waste of time. In 1602, the Dutch floated the idea of raising capital to build massive boat building cooperatives and basically kicked off the share market.

Arguments for limitation are basically beliefs about a flat earth! Here’s the point: if you believe the earth is flat – you’re right. If you can’t ask your clients to pay their bills – you’re right. If you can’t run a four-minute mile – you’re right. If you can’t take a stale donut back and ask for a refund or ask your staff to arrive on time – you’re right. You act in accordance with what you believe to be true – and often argue solidly for staying limited.

For some people, their world is still flat.

There is a saying: what you see is always what you get. If you believe you can … or can’t … either way you’re right. Your arguments for limitations are mostly a fiction – but the effect is often devastatingly real.

So how does this relate to peak performance and what does this mean to you? Often what inhibits peak performance is a limiting belief and arguing for those limiting beliefs. And you always act in accordance with what you believe to be true.

The Stop, Start and Continue tool was designed to help you overcome such limiting beliefs.



Ponder Columbus. Your homework is to consider any examples where you feel you are arguing for your limitations. What can’t you do?


Andrew Priestley is a qualified business leadership coach with clients worldwide. He is the author of The Money Chimp, Starting and How Money Flows Through Your Business. You can contact him through www.andrewpriestley.com

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It goes without saying that this is for information only and The Author  cannot be held responsible for any losses or damages that occur as a result of reading this material.

© 2017 Andrew Priestley/TCE Ltd

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