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Archive for February 10th, 2011

“Fortune Is Not on the Side of the Faint-Hearted”: Sophocles, 5th Century B.C. Greek Philosopher

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

“Fortune Is Not on the Side of the Faint-Hearted”:  Sophocles, 5th Century B.C. Greek Philosopher 

by: Geoff Ficke

What was true when written in Sophocles revered 5th Century B.C. text Phaedra, is ever-more true in the 21st century. Other than the lightning struck few who win a lottery prize, fortune, and success in life is not given easily, and certainly not to the faint hearted. The opportunity to succeed in any endeavor is available to all fortunate enough to live in free societies, but in reality this blessed gift is seized by few. 

We live in an age of unparalleled comfort, prosperity, leisure and freedom. People work less than our forefathers and at far less burdensome, dangerous, life-shortening occupations. We eat better, live longer, and enjoy endless entertainments. The average American living today enjoys a far more comfortable physical lifestyle than the richest man in the world a century ago, John D. Rockefeller. We have unlimited travel options, convenient, affordable foods, central heat and air conditioning, medicines and health care that was but a dream for prior generations. 

And yet, so many seem so sullen. The media constantly trumpets the ills (perceived) of contemporary society. Opportunity is being diminished they state. Times are tough. Jobs are scarce. Retirement is not attainable according to the purveyors of gloom. Balderdash! There has never been a better time to be alive, to pursue dreams and unlimited opportunity and improve one’s fortune. 

My Product Development, Marketing Consulting firm is blessed to be exposed to people who seek and attain the American dream. Every single day we are approached by individuals choosing to plot their own path and make their fortune; financially, personally and professionally, by dint of their own effort and sweat of their brow. They have ideas, drive, goals and the courage to avoid being lumped with the faint-hearted. 

Our area of special expertise is in the Consumer Product realm. From Cosmetics, to Pet Products, to Fashion, to Sporting Goods, to Toys, and beyond to many other consumer product categories, we are fortunate enough to meet people who still are driven to succeed on their own terms by starting enterprises, launching products and being self-reliant. They are not faint-hearted, quite the opposite, they are pioneers. They face numerous obstacles. If good fortune were easily achieved everyone would be successful. They would overcome any and all obstacles that stood between them and success. We know, however, that this is not the way of the world. Most people do not achieve great and good fortune simply because most do not try. 

Good fortune means different things to each of us. For some, it is making money to keep score. For others, it is living a life that is productive and maximizes personal freedom. Still others are driven to produce goods or services that improve the lot of their society. The reasons we seek success, and the definitions of that success take endless forms and are highly personal. 

No matter our personal definition of good fortune, it is true, as stated so elegantly and simply by Sophocles, “Fortune is not on the side of the faint-hearted”. In order to avoid leading a dull, unchallenging life we will have to confront and wrestle with risk. The faint-hearted seek out ways to avoid challenges. This can be fine for them. But, it will not lead to a life of excitement and good fortune.  You have to enter the contest in order to have a chance to win. Life is too short to let it pass without competing.

Fear Is a Key Driver of Success

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Fear Is a Key Driver of Success

by: Geoff Ficke

Ayrton Senna, the great Brazilian Gran Prix driver, once famously was quoted: “To survive Gran Prix racing, you need to be afraid. Fear is an important feeling. It helps you to race longer and live longer”. 

Fear is an element that each of us face in different ways, and at many intervals during the course of our lives. We may suffer fear of physical confrontations, emotional clashes, personal and professional setbacks, declining physical or mental capacities. When undertaking an inventory of our life’s experiences we inevitably underline for emphasis the role fear has played on so many occasions during our journey. 

In the entrepreneurial work my Marketing Consulting firm conducts we see examples of fear manifested in a number of ways. Many prospective entrepreneurs are afraid of success. Others are afraid to fully commit or even to enter the race. A few, and ultimately the most successful, are fearful of failure. They succeed in large part because the stigma of not being successful is something that compels them to gargantuan effort, overcoming all obstacles and full-bore focus on achieving their goals. 

Recently my firm reviewed a golf training product that had been submitted by a young man. He had limited resources, but a wonderful device that had been tested and endorsed by numerous competitive golfers. Golfers are typically passionate. If they perceive that a tool, or aid, can improve their score, they will make that product successful in the marketplace.

The young entrepreneur had designed the training aid with the assistance of his father. They had spent a good deal of time and money in their effort to self-market the product. Nothing had yet worked for them. The product was languishing. While they had passion for their products features and benefits (and they were many), they lacked focus, vision, a strategy and were fearful of fully committing themselves and their full energies to overcoming the normal obstacles that all entrepreneurs confront. 

Fear can be constructive or destructive. In the case of the golf training aid product negative fear is instrumental in imploding a great opportunity. After meeting the young entrepreneur and carefully reviewing the project, I left the meeting convinced that this would end in disappointing fashion. The fear of commitment, and ultimately the opportunity for success, was paralyzing this young man’s will to overcome.

Conversely, we meet entrepreneurs of all stripes that possess positive fear: fear of failure. There is no challenge that they will not meet and conquer. They find a way to succeed. They confront and tame their fear. 

Tragically, the sensational racing World Champion Ayrton Senna was killed while racing in 1994. His exceptional talent and seeming fearlessness as displayed on the race track was nevertheless leavened by his understanding, appreciation and respect for the emotion of fear. He lived life to the fullest and reached the ultimate pinnacle of the international sporting world. He died too young. But, he lived so well.