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One Quick Thought on the Weakest Link and High Performance

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Most of my fellow citizens would argue that we are a great soccer nation. If it is the case, the national team seldom stands up to this expectation. 

Back in my childhood during one of the 1980’s world cups, we were (again) eliminated at the pool stage… then (as usual) came the endless flow of criticism and rationalization. 

I chose not to listen to that public lynching. Yet my brains caught a few ideas against my will 🙂.

We failed (again) because our attack was inefficient. We defended but couldn’t score. How could we possibly win?

This is when my late father said: 

The strength of a system is determined by its weakest link.

He used the classic image of a bucket where the lowest slats determined the overall volume of liquid it could carry.

It felt intuitive and I saw the pattern repeat itself in life in many contexts. I grew up with the belief that leveling down is a usual coping mechanism nature uses to deal with multiple standards within the same system.

Then someday a friend informed me over a corridor discussion that a Ferrari engine exploded during an F1 race. Investigations showed it was linked to a bad quality screw, maybe it was a bolt but it doesn’t really matter. Then, I recalled my decades-old discussion with my parents. The image of the slats bucket showed in front of my eyes and a question arose:

If the lowest slat was the equivalent of the least reliable part of the F1 engine… Why didn’t the bucket explode?

It’s all about the use you make of it. Imagine the belt of a washing machine breaks during a slow cycle, there is little chance it’ll undergo heavy consequences. The overall machine was designed to bear higher pressures. Now imagine that same belt breaks during high-speed spin, the impact will, most probably, be sizable.

Same goes for anything else in life. If all you want is some average performance, the weakest piece (the lowest slat in a bucket) of the system has no other consequences but determining your maximum potential performance. But if you are looking for high performance (F1), then the weakest link will most probably blow up the whole thing.

So depending on what you expect, use the proper metaphor… Bucket vs. Ferrari. It may save your company!

PS: I never thought that someday, I’ll put the words bucket & Ferrari that close in the same sentence 🙂.

If interested in learning how to work with your nature not against it, check out my book at

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