Jason was surrounded. With $100,000 on the table, there was no room for error.
Barbara made the first move. Knowing that Jason was ex-CIA, she approached cautiously. As she wrapped Jason’s wrists in duct tape, a smile played at his lips.
It took just a second for Jason to free himself.
Moving quickly, he cornered Robert. Within an instant, Robert’s wrists were zip-tied. As Robert struggled, Jason handed him the parachute cord that he wears as a shoelace. Following Jason’s instructions, Robert used the cord to set himself free.
Jason Hanson’s presentation was over. The Sharks were impressed. Daymond John agreed to invest $150,000 in Jason’s company, Spy Escape and Evasion, in exchange for a 45% stake. The rest is history.
I met Jason at a conference shortly after his “Shark Tank” appearance and learned how to escape duct tape, zip ties, and handcuffs firsthand. In fact, there are still large patches of hair missing from my forearms.
His six years as a CIA officer give him a unique perspective on strategy, entrepreneurship, and life. Here are a few of the lessons that Jason teaches, and a few he’s continuing to learn as an entrepreneur.
Survival Depends on Connections and Adaptability
While with the Agency, both Jason’s mission and his life depended on his ability to trust his contacts and their assistance.
Although the stakes are no longer life or death, connections are just as critical in business as they are in espionage. That’s why Daymond John has had such a transformative effect on Jason’s company.
Since Daymond joined as a partner, Jason has appeared on “The Today Show,” “Rachael Ray,” and countless morning shows. Spy Escape and Evasion just signed a $1.2 million royalty deal to license its training products through a survival gear company, and now Jason is working with a production company to create a reality show. He also recently signed a book deal with HarperCollins that included a six-figure advance.
Thanks to Daymond’s network and Jason’s adaptability, the company is enjoying tremendous growth.
Perception Is Reality
A homeowner who leaves the porch lights on while away on vacation is like an entrepreneur who runs a spammy blog. Criminals and customers will see through the ruse, and both strategies will end up backfiring.
To shape perception, you must be credible. Whether he’s appearing on TV, tweeting, or teaching, Jason always displays cool confidence and seasoned experience. In an instant, he can switch from crafting a handcuff pick out of a bobby pin to discussing the escalation of force needed to disarm an assailant.
For all you homeowners out there, Jason recommends that instead of leaving the lights on, install security cameras (even if they’re fake) and leave a large water bowl by your door (even if you don’t have a dog).
Travel With a Survival Mindset
According to Jason, too few Americans realize the risk of traveling to popular destinations like Mexico, with kidnapping attempts a frequent occurrence. In fact, he has had multiple clients deter would-be assailants in recent years.
Jason’s advice? Don’t make yourself look like an easy victim. Stay alert, and walk with confidence. No matter where you go, familiarize yourself with the local culture when traveling abroad. Do your best to blend in, and never bury your face in your smartphone.
Resist the urge to skimp on a nice hotel when traveling overseas, Jason says. Nicer places tend to be less risky than cheaper ones, but even in a fancy hotel, remember that criminals target rooms on the first two floors — especially the ones near emergency exits. Choose a room between the third and sixth floors. Go higher, and you risk getting trapped in an emergency.
Don’t Try to Be the Hero
Perhaps the most striking thing about Jason is his humility. Here’s a man who has made a career of facing down danger. He knows he can survive just about any situation, yet there’s nothing arrogant about him.
In a physical confrontation and in business, Jason’s first rule of survival is to never be a hero. When your ego is in charge, you make bad decisions. Never be afraid to swallow your pride and walk away.
Being an entrepreneur may not be as exciting as being a spy, but a lot of the rules are the same. If you want to survive, you have to be willing to adapt, embrace a survivor mindset, and take ego out of the equation.
This post was originally published on Forbes.