Sometimes the key lessons in life are learned at the oddest moments. One lesson in particular comes back to my mind at least once per week, as I push forward on my entrepreneurial endeavors and help other entrepreneurs do the same.

The lesson comes from an obscure movie, Force 10 from Navarone—Harrison Ford’s first lead role, albeit second billing on the credit to Robert Shaw, who was far more famous in 1978. This is a movie I first saw on a Sunday afternoon on TV as a pre-teen and a dozen times again on TV over the next many decades.

Force 10 is a WWII film about destroying a bridge, which quickly turns into a movie about destroying a dam to destroy the bridge. Having one goal turn into another is another good lesson, but not the one I’m talking about here. The unique lesson is in how to blow up a dam.

The lesson is that a small nudge can make a big impact, if placed in the right place, and if boosted by some external pressure. Tweet This Quote

Yes, you could drop a few huge bombs on it, but in the movie they were limited to just two backpacks of explosives. Seems quite insufficient for the job, but (to spoil the predictable ending) it worked.

The lesson is that a small nudge can make a big impact, if placed in the right place, and if boosted by some external pressure.

Literally, in blowing up the dam, you just have to weaken the structure. The water pressure will do the rest. In running a startup, you often just need to put an idea into the right person’s head, or get a few articles published, or give the right public speech to the right audience, and then sit back and wait for the momentum of the market to push your plan forward.

Entrepreneurs tend to be impatient, and thus many never think of this strategy (until I recant the movie’s plot to them). Most entrepreneurs want to raise a ton of money and buy their initial market share. Most entrepreneurs expect the world to come calling just because they’ve solved some problem.

Entrepreneurs forget that compared to the big wide world, they have basically zero resources and no money, and thus have no power. Unless, that is, they think about the world as a dam, find the hidden pressure, make a small dent, and wait for that pressure to do the work for them.

An earlier version of this first appeared on Luni’s blog.

Michael Luni Libes

Author Michael Luni Libes

Luni is a 25+ year serial entrepreneur, (co)founder of six companies. His latest startups are Fledge, the conscious company accelerator, where he helps new entrepreneurs from around the world navigate the complexities between idea and customer revenues, and, an online service connecting impact investors. In addition, Luni is Entrepreneur in Residence and Entrepreneurship Instructor at Presidio Graduate School and an Entrepreneur in Residence Emeritus at the University of Washington’s CoMotion, the center for innovation and impact. Luni is author of The Next Step series of books, guiding entrepreneurs from idea to startup and The Pinchot Impact Index, a way to measure, compare, and aggregate impact.

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