This is part seven of a series on Extreme Ownership. View the previous parts if you haven’t already: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Dragon Ball is a massive media franchise, with millions of fans worldwide and billions of revenue earned across four decades. One aspect that kept me attached to the franchise was the iconic music present in the shows, movies, and games. Composer Kenji Yamamoto was a regular contributor to these soundtracks, having written music for the video games since the early 90s.

In 2009, Toei Animation made a remaster and recut of the show Dragon Ball Z called Dragon Ball Kai. Without the master tracks available, the show’s audio had to be recreated from scratch. Kenji Yamamoto was tasked with creating brand new music for Kai. The soundtrack in this version of the show had a very different feel from the compositions Shunsuke Kikuchi originally wrote for Z. With a new vision and perhaps years of foresight Yamamoto made some moments more impactful than their original counterparts.

Compare this…

…with this…

There was one problem with getting Kenji Yamamoto involved with Dragon Ball Kai: people found that he plagiarised music. He had done this his entire career, but he wasn’t exposed until the public noticed that some songs from Kai sounded like music from then-recent Hollywood films. When Toei Animation discovered the truth, they fired Yamamoto immediately. The studio resorted to reusing Kikuchi’s original score for upcoming episodes; they also went back and replaced the music for all previous episodes of Kai. The DVD and Blu-Ray releases containing Yamamoto’s score were pulled from shelves as well.

Makr had a Kenji Yamamoto moment of its own. In 2016 we were in a dearth of content. We had a great art director in the months after Staples acquired us, but she moved on to other endeavors after the company shifted its focus to creating a new web application. We eventually picked up another amazing talent to fulfill the role, but that wouldn’t be until the following year. Freelancers picked up the slack in the interim.

That spring we had a creative director work for us on a part-time basis. It was graduation season, so we had her create some graduation-themed templates to feature in our iOS app. We also asked her to create templates to appear in Makr’s new web app. For a moment we thought we had a bulk of content lined up for the season.

One day our UI/UX designer browsed Pinterest and found an image that strongly resembled one of the new templates. He performed a reverse image search on Google and found out that all of the new designs were lifted from other sources. Our creative director’s assets were completely usuable. We took a meticulous process as we embarked on damage control:

  1. Fortunately Makr for Web wasn’t released yet, but we had to make sure the offending templates weren’t present when the app was deployed to production. The engineers deleted the templates from all databases that contained them.
  2. The creative director’s working files and deliverables were quarentined into a separate folder on the art server so they couldn’t be reused in future initiatives.
  3. Makr reached out to the Staples legal team, first to see where we stand legally, and then to discuss the terms of our creative director’s termination.
  4. We reached out to our creative director, giving her the news and cutting ties with her.
  5. We still needed new templates, so we hired another designer to provide replacement material.

Prioritize and Execute is a principle outlined in the book Extreme Ownership. When faced with a crisis, leaders can be overwhelmed if they tackle multiple problems at once. To maintain a clear mind, they must take a step back, identify the highest prority item on the list, and focus on addressing that. Once completed, the team moves on to the next highest priority and repeats the process. Priorities may shift and change, so leaders are responsible for picking up on these changes and passing situational awareness to the rest of the team. In the book, Navy SEALs used Prioritize and Execute to escape enemy territory after they found themselves surrounded by gunmen and IEDs.

Hopefully these anecdotes will help you develop a strategy for dealing with high-pressure situations.