Zebras and Cheetahs: 50 Lessons from Micheal Burt

micheal burt

Zebras and Cheetahs is an  entrepreneurial show presented by Micheal Burt. He is the CEO and Founder of Micheal Burt Enterprises LLT. He is also a Coachepreneur whose speciality is to turn managers into coaches, entrepreneurs into people of interest, sales people into superstars, and leaders into legacy thinkers. His company’s goal is to solve problems, such as customer acquisition, obscurity, engagement and business growth. Micheal Burt runs several programs: The Legacy Selling System, Person of Interest, Zebras and Cheetahs and Turn your Managers into Coaches. He was a former championship women’s basketball coach, host of ”Change your Life Radio” and book author of several books. This ‘Ain’t No Practice Life’, ‘SWAG’ and ‘Zeebras and Cheetahs’ are just a few of them. You can follow Micheal Burt on Twitter @MichealBurt or visit his website at http://www.CoachBurt.com

Zebras and Cheetahs: 30 Lessons from Micheal Burt


I love watching entrepreneurial TV shows and when I discovered Zebras and Cheetahs, it caught my immediate attention. When I heard Micheal Burt saying “I’m sick of SAMENESS” it put a smile on my face because in my personal as well as professional life I often felt and still feel the same. In my late 20s I started having this desire of making ordinary things differently, thinking more creatively, creating WOW and special moments. The corporate world has still too many cases of NO WOW factor, NO distinction, NO difference, NO innovation.

Now let me tell you the 5 things that I loved the most about Micheal Burt’s show Zebras and Cheetahs:

– The fact that each episode presented 5 professionals of different age and gender with different backgrounds and motivations.
– I found it highly insightful to see how other professionals tackled several challenges. It might give you some ideas on how you can also apply some of the strategies for your own professional career. It motivated me to think “How would I have done it? What would I have said instead?”
– The variety of tasks in which participants where challenged, mentally as well as physically.
– The coach, Micheal Burt, who was truly inspirational, energetic, down-to-earth, approachable and did not hold back in expressing his personal opinion (as a coach telling you what you might not want to hear, but which in the end will help you to improve!). He sounds very convincing and passionate in the messages he tries to convey. His messages stick and make a difference in peoples’ lives!
– The feedback given by several judges (other high-calibre professionals) from different industries.

Now let’s focus on the main lessons we can learn from this highly interesting TV series called “Zebras and Cheetahs”. A must show for everyone who thinks s/he needs some guidance and inspiration to be more successful.

book# 1 – A zebra is unique, it stands out in the animal world. A cheetah on the other hand, is the fastest animal of all. Micheal Burt’s motto is “Stand out. Be fast. Be agile.”
# 2 – The 4 ingredients that you need in order to succeed are:
a) KNOWLEDGE for your mind
b) SKILL for your body
c) DESIRE for your motivation
d) CONFIDENCE for the spirit
# 3 – If you possess more, you can give away more. If you change a person’s life, you will not just make an impact on that person’s life, but at the same time also change multiple lives. Turn your ambition into MEANING.
# 4 – If you need to raise money, be resourceful. Call people up, find and meet people face to face. How you promote your cause does matter. Telling people the story behind those disadvantaged people will help you to put your message across more effectively and achieve your goal of raising money quicker.
# 5 – In order to make a difference you need to know what you want and what holds you back.
# 6 – Where there is no profit, there is no mission. You can’t fulfil the mission, if there is no profit.
# 7 – It’s good to be reserved, but if you want to get the attention of the market, you need to speak up louder!
# 8 – The moment you grow is when you are out of your comfort zone. The more often you feel uncomfortable the more and the quicker you will learn. Challenge yourself every day and you will become a master!
# 9 – Be fully aware of what makes you SPECIAL, how to package your SPECIAL and how to sell your SPECIAL.
# 10 – If you deliver a pitch don’t focus too much on the “I”, focus instead on the “YOU”. For example, don’t say “I am passionate” say instead “If you hire me, YOU will get a professional who passion is ……”
# 11 – Telling stories of how you overcame obstacles in your life and how you turned a situation around and became successful, always grabs peoples’ attention and makes you more interesting, investable and employable.
# 12 – Stop worrying about other peoples’ opinion about you. You don’t need other peoples’ opinion in order to feel validated!

# 13 – If you need to sell yourself, make sure you are able to get your message across within 30 seconds (never wear sunglasses when pitching). You need to look into peoples’ eyes and they should be able to do the same!

# 14 – You need to have a prompt answer to the question: How are YOU an asset to the world?

# 15 – Small networks get you nowhere! Contacts equals contracts. Networks equals net-worth!

# 16 – What you say has to be relevant. The more knowledge you have, the more well-travelled you are, the more experienced you are, the more you have to say because you’ve seen more of the world.

# 17 – Delivery does matter! If you can make other people feel a certain way about themselves, they will run through walls for you. It’s not about YOU, it’s about them! Your challenge will be to say it in a way that gets people’s attention!

# 18 – How you package and deliver your intellectual property starts in your mind. Take your time to do it properly.

# 19 – You can’t have a business without people. Go out, connect and network. Having multiplier relationships is crucial.
michburt4# 20 – Don’t be afraid to ASK. Ask your clients “Will you use me to do business with?” and if the answer is NO, make sure you find out why not and try to turn the situation around.
# 21 – When you need to compete on a challenge with others, you need to stand out. In the Karaoke task, contestants had to sing, dance or do something else in order to raise money. The strategies used were: be funny, make it about others and not yourself, involve the audience by bringing someone else onto the stage, tell the story of the disadvantaged person. Raise awareness of your cause and connect with your audience. An effective way of doing it would be “If this would be YOU, what would you do? How would you feel?”. Putting yourself in the disadvantaged person’s shoes and getting a bit emotional in your speech makes you look more human. Furthermore, taking the time to find out more about the people you are trying to raise money for also makes a difference. It shows that you care more than others.
# 22 – Be hungry, humble and teachable. Having intangible assets is often more important than pure intelligence. Turn intangible assets into hard assets.

# 23 – Don’t wait for the opportunity, create your own opportunity!

# 24 – Focus on these 3 things: a) Get the attention. B) Articulate your message properly and fast. C) Close the sale.

# 25 – Customers want speed and convenience. Thus, you need to offer your services quickly and easily. Be a cheetah, not a turtle! Customers are quick in moving on to your competitors if you don’t act fast. Competition is tough!

# 26 – If you want to convince someone of your products, services or a good cause, you need to focus on the benefits, no matter what those benefits are. One contestant even mentioned to someone the benefit of “being on TV”.

# 27 – You don’t need to look at “selling” as an individual task. If you are good in convincing other people (even strangers!) to help you in selling what you have to offer, then congratulations! Getting others to support you in selling and promoting something is the real art!

# 28 – Make it more visual of what you are selling. If you have to sell barbecue food on the street, you will sell more if you let people see and smell what you have to offer! Don’t just talk about it, show it!

# 29 – Create a personal brand by looking at the way you dress, speak, behave and act.

# 30 – When you deliver a pitch make sure you are wearing suitable shoes that don’t make you drip over the floor. In case something happens, take it with grace and smile, as one contestant did.

# 31 – How can you stand out when giving a pitch? One contestant did it very well by using something visual to put his message across more effectively (it was a dinner plate and a chair). You can check it out in the videos.

# 32 – Everyone has a story to tell about their life (often sad and really traumatic ones). Also these participants have gone through tough situations in their lives and showed their courage in talking about it on TV. What we can learn from it? Nobody had or has a perfect life, everyone has their own small or big struggles. It’s how we deal with problems in life that makes a difference and will make us stronger in the future.

# 33 – Be a deal maker and not an order taker. Be a cheetah who spots opportunities quickly! The challenge consists in taking low level of resources to get high level of productivity.

# 34 – Stick to what you preach. If you talk about standing out and being a zebra, you need to dress up like a zebra! Practise what you preach! Just look at Micheal Burt’s fancy jacket, it talks volumes!

# 35 – If you get up in the morning and you don’t know who you are, why you matter and why people should be having a relationship with you, you are out! Be an immediate asset!

# 36 – In every conversation you have you should ask yourself “How can I add unique value?”

# 37 – You need to market yourself differently. Don’t walk into an interview by looking the same as anybody else, going to a sales pitch and saying the same stuff that everyone else mentions too, such as mentioning your experience, relationships, quality, service, etc. You can’t brand yourself until you know you are special!

# 38 – Become attractive! Avoid commoditization, sameness, being boring. Create an unfair advantage! It comes from your unique past, your education and experiences you had, your struggles. Don’t look at it as a disadvantage, instead make it an advantage. Every time you need to give a self-presentation attach something interesting to it. Explain who you are, why you matter and why people should have a relationship with you.

# 39 – If you are supposed to give a pitch in a 95 % dark room, in which you can hardly see the judges’ faces, don’t feel intimidated and stay confident throughout. Look at it by telling yourself “Now I am the STAR” and give your best pitch ever!

# 40 – If you are passionate make sure that people can see, feel and hear it. Don’t keep it to yourself, let it out! Use your body language, have sparkling eyes and an exciting voice!

# 41 – If you give your pitch, try not to read from notes. Be so well prepared that you deliver a great speech which sounds natural, spontaneous and professional.

# 42 – Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Try to package it in a memorable way. One contestant did it very well by making the statement “From welfare to winner!”

# 43 – Think creatively when it comes to selling yourself. Is there an object or something else which can perfectly describe what you are all about and what you stand for? Use it eventually to put your message across more effectively. One lady used the example of a dirty caterpillar who turned into a beautiful butterfly.

# 44 – Whatever you are selling, you need to see a need and try to fill it with your uniqueness.

# 45 – When your task consists in doing something (in the video you will see people performing different types of flash mobs) your mind should always be in CREATIVE MODE. Don’t do it the way everyone else would do it. Do it differently. The winner of that particular task did it very creatively… find out by yourself by watching the video (last episode, number 4).

# 46 – Never admit that you are scared, even if you are. How confident do you think will people perceive you? You need to get people’s attention, so unleash the cheetah in you. Be confident, be the expert!

# 47 – Be aware of what you are. If you have many experiences and many skills you need to think about where your speciality, expertise and passion really lies. Build your brand and be known for what you want to be known!
# 48 – Look differently. Find something that makes you instantly stand out in a visual way that people instantly notice. The show did not make any recommendations in that regard, but I would suggest, depending on whether you are a man or a woman, you could choose one of these:
• A particular mustache (do you remember Joseph Valente from the last Apprentice UK TV series from 2015 with his unique mustache?) or
• Wearing a particular hat or cap (do you remember Formula 1 Racer Nikki Lauda’s red cap – that made him look unique and memorable!)
• Having a highly eye-catching hairstyle or colour.
• Wearing a particular piece of jewelry, e.g. a noticeable brooch for women.
• Having your eyebrows shaped in an unusual way.
• Wearing something creative that says something about your message which makes you instantly stand out.
# 49 – If others get tired, it’s time for you to step in. Exactly the same way as a cheetah would do it.

# 50 – Last but not least, be aware what makes you SPECIAL. If you still don’t know it, do this: Call 10 of your relatives and friends and ask them what makes you UNIQUE. This was also one for the tasks that you will see in one of the videos. Pay attention whether every person tells you the same about you or whether they reveal something very different.

Try to come up with your very own visual attention grabber! And don’t forget as Micheal Burt says “Be different, be fast, be agile!”


The episodes of Zebras and Cheetahs can be found on http://www.YouTube.com or better, straight away here one after another:






What was your biggest takeaway today from the show Zebras and Cheetahs? Which lesson are you most excited to use in your own career? I would appreciate it if you could leave a comment and let me know. If you know anyone who could benefit from this article, make sure you share it. You’ll be helping them out and me too! Thanks!


Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh

Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.

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