• Adam Tarnow

A New TLA

Updated: Jan 9

I don’t know about you, but I love an excellent TLA (“three-letter acronym”). Every subculture and organization uses them. They save time. They create bonds. Sometimes, they even become new words. There’s a new TLA in the Tarnow household. After six months of our kids not being in school, we use this TLA often. Often, like multiple times a day. The use of this TLA has led to some interesting places...

  • A renewed interest in fishing.

  • Baking cupcakes with a hodgepodge of extra ingredients.

  • Trying to start small fires using a magnifying glass.

  • A backyard golf course complete with holes in the ground.

  • Building an outdoor terrarium for a box turtle.

  • Trying (unsuccessfully) to raise tadpoles until they become frogs.

The use of this TLA isn’t just helping my boys pass the time. It’s helping my boys learn to be successful in this new post-COVID world. What is the new TLA? FIO. According to this, no one has claimed the use of FIO as an official TLA. I might have just invented something. Maybe someone will update the Wikipedia page after reading this? What’s FIO stand for? To answer, I’ll quote George Washington in Cabinet Battle #1 from the musical Hamilton. “Figure it out, Alexander, that’s an order from your commander.”


FIO = Figure it out. I’ve used this TLA so often my boys don’t even let me know when they’re bored. If they are looking for something to do, they know my answer will be, “FIO.” This new TLA isn’t just helpful for bored kids during summer break. The ability to FIO is a crucial characteristic of success, especially in the post-COVID era. For now, the old ways of doing things don’t always work. For now, to be successful, you can’t cower in the face of uncertainty. The winners will be the teams, the leaders, and the individuals who merely FIO. FIO is what separates leaders from followers. Often, a leader isn’t the smartest person in the room. A leader is just the one who dives headfirst into a problem. A leader is someone who isn’t afraid to FIO. The post-COVID era has reminded us of something that’s always been true. When it comes to leadership, there’s no playbook. Leaders have always had to FIO. The ability to FIO led to success before 2020, and the same is true beyond 2020. So, think about a leadership dilemma you’re facing right now. Are you waiting for someone else to solve the problem for you? If so, crank up Cabinet Battle #1 and heed George Washington’s words to Alexander Hamilton. Simply FIO. If you fail, who cares, at least you went down acting rather than waiting.

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