Want to impress your kids?

Take a piece of paper and fold it in half, then fold it in half again, and again — up to 42 times. OK, maybe it’s not practical for the average person to fold a paper in half more than about eight times. But if you did hit the 42 number, it would reach the moon.

“No way!” you might say. “A piece of paper is simply too thin to get to any significant size by folding it only a few dozen times.” Well, sneer all you want, but the fact remains: fold it 42 times, and it would reach the moon.

You see, with each fold you’re doubling the thickness, which leads to an exponential increase that, starting slowly, would eventually increase with each fold until by the forty-second fold the paper — which would need to be large, to begin with — would have reached the required 238,900 miles to reach the moon. (If you could fold it eight more times — a total of 50 times — the paper would be 93 million miles thick and would nearly reach the sun.)

Lesson from the paper-folding

There’s a big difference in thinking regarding a “linear increase” versus an “exponential increase” — whether in paper thickness, or in investing money, or in life.

In my business, I’m a self-entitled “idealist” or “possibility” thinker. I’m always coming up with new ideas and thinking in terms of how far we can take the business. Some may accuse me and those like me of looking through rose-colored classes, but idealist thinkers are essential to building a strong team. This way of thinking has allowed our company to scale to what were formerly unbelievable heights — almost exponential heights, like the paper-folding example.

I definitely haven’t gotten the company to this point alone. I’ve paired myself with some critical “realist” counterparts, including in my case my son Emron, who manages our cash flow, and is our marketing inventor; Carl, who turns my “fast start” ideas into programs that can function and grow; and a number of others.

Matching the person to the right role

No one is optimally skilled at everything, but learning to assign the right person to the right role has allowed our company (and others I follow closely) to rise to formerly unbelievable heights.

For example, the ideal COO may possess a get-things-done mentality and will never be effective or satisfied in a creative role. And there is plenty of proof around the old maxim that the entrepreneur on the team is the person who has made and lost millions in their lifetime but will more often than not “die broke.”

Much has also been said about the peril of letting the CEO be the leader of sales. Sure, a CEO’s need and passion to take the company forward can probably make them the company’s very best salesperson, but only for a time. If they hold that role for too long, the bottleneck in capacity will surely slow the company’s growth.

Harnessing your big ideas

As an idealist and a fast starter, new ideas are churning through my head daily, and I’m prone to act immediately on my impulses. To make this work, however, I’ve learned over time that I need to pair myself with a “realist” counterpart.

That’s my son Emron, who manages our cash flow like a hawk and allows me to indulge my creative thinking without getting the business in trouble. Likewise, I depend on our marketing inventor to fulfill the essential role of turning my “fast start” ideas quickly and efficiently into programs that can function, allowing us to learn as fast as possible if the idea is a win or a loss.

We have others in the company who also help me, and those leaders under me, to make use of these bright ideas that continue to get tossed around. As a result, we don’t go chasing down a path that will distract from our company mission and goals. My role is to make up the ideas; my project manager (Carl) makes the ideas real; and my process managers make the ideas recur like a well-oiled machine to create predictable results.

Bringing it all together

Each of us should identify — or have someone else help us identify — the unique gifts within us. This helps us and our company place the right people to fulfill the company’s critical roles. Our managers should know us, and our strengths and weaknesses, well enough to help point out these gifts of ours, but often they don’t — for whatever reason. We should be proactive.

If you’ve identified yourself as a “possibility thinker,” congratulations. I can relate to you. But a business, and the world at large, can’t run on possibility thinkers alone. Think about what you were born to do well — or a skill you have mastered over the years. Then use that talent to its full potential and surround yourself with greatness to take your company, your family and others to the moon!

Call to Action

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Originally published at medium.com