Punching Above Our Weight

The tiny country of Estonia has birthed ten business unicorns* (including Skype). It is NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence despite having only a population of 1.5 million and a land mass just ½ the size of my home state of Georgia.

They achieved independence from Soviet Russia without a shot being fired (see The Singing Revolution documentary) with their powerful culture of shared song, dance, and poetry. Their distinctive language survives even after 700 years of domination by surrounding empires.

Estonians in their 30s are the first generation in all that time to be born free and have free-born children. Read that again. Let it sink in.

I often share the story of Estonia with my small-business clients.

Are you one of the smaller companies in your industry? Do you dream of an impact bigger than your size would suggest? Determined to shake things up in unexpected ways by being true to your unique talents? You could do worse than model after the country its people call “Eesti.”

There are the usual characteristics:

  • they don’t quit,
  • they are brilliant at workarounds,
  • education and learning are never-ending.

But what I’ve observed over the years (my mother immigrated from there) and felt when the ambassador spoke here recently is a quiet determination that is like a deep, bass hum.

Estonian humor is wry, self-effacing, with a zinger (or stinger) embedded in it.

The strength developed over centuries of being conquered and discriminated against (under many empires, native Estonians could not hold office, minister, or teach) is tensile – like flexible steel.

What do I draw from all this musing?

Our focus can be sharp and our drive strong, but staying power and punching above our weight are fed in the quiet hours of facing fear, laughing at ourselves, and breathing into a determination that may shake but will not quit.

Do you want your business to punch above its weight? Contact me!

*In business, a unicorn is a startup company valued at over US$1 billion which is privately owned and not listed on a share market.

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