“The emperor holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates advancing, one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes creep under it, backward and forward, several times, according as the stick is advanced or depressed. Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk… and you see few great persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles.” Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift was satirizing the manner in which court appointments were made in 18th-century England. However, his description could be aptly applied to the process by which some Big Dumb Companies (BDCs) and even Bigger Dumber Government agencies (BDGs) execute their procurement decisions.
Most historians agree that professional baseball player and manager Leo Durocher never uttered the infamous words, “Nice guys finish last.” The closest documentation supporting the quote is a statement Durocher made on July 7, 1946, during his tenure as the New York Giants’ coach. Pointing to the opposing team, he said, "The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place, not in this dugout." It was the accompanying headline of the article that boiled down his thoughts to the oft-repeated phrase. After years of denying the phantom quote, Durocher eventually embraced it, using it as the title of his 1975 autobiography. However, as he mellowed with age, Durocher attempted to rewrite his place in history by claiming that he was not implying that nice guys could not win. Rather, he argued that being “nice” and “winning” simply have no correlation. Most historians do not subscribe to Mr. Durocher’s revisionist history. The hot-tempered, foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking ballplayer earned the nickname “The Lip” because of his caustic tongue. He is not politely pointing out a soup stain on the umpire’s tie in the above photo. Leo “The Lip” was anything but “nice.”
The 15th century French mathematician and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote, “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.” This loosely translates to, “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.” A more literal translation is: “I was too lazy to pull together my thoughts in advance, so you will have to sort through the jumble of ideas I am about to share with you.” As Pascal points out, it usually takes people (even a mathematical genius) longer to gather and organize their thoughts than it does to simply communicate them in a Joycian, stream-of-consciousness manner. Such lack of preparedness requires less effort, but it seldom results in effective communication.
It actually was a “dark and stormy night” on June 17, 1816, when the poet Lord Byron invited each of his houseguests to tell the scariest impromptu ghost story they could think of while sipping cocktails around his fireplace. Lord Byron’s bold challenge, combined with a supportive environment and the significant talent of the participants, resulted in two of Western literature’s most enduring gothic horror creatures. Understanding how you can emulate the cooperative, yet competitive atmosphere created by Lord Bryon will help you foster a team of A+ Players.
Einstein might have been smart, but he was clearly not a fashion genius. The stylish “slippers” he is wearing in the photo are real, not a product of PhotoShop. In 1905, at the age of 27, he published four groundbreaking works, collectively known as the Annus Mirabilis Papers. Over the next seven years, he drafted several additional papers of significance, culminating with his general theory of relativity, which was published when he was 34. Although he went on to author 290 additional scientific papers, none of them were as renowned or as impactful as those he devised during his youth.
The members of the rap group Super Nature were sure they had recorded their first hit record. However, in the pre-iPod days of 1986, the group was required to record a second song to be included on the “B-side” of their single. They spent little time on this perfunctory task, as they assumed the single’s flip-side would receive no radio airplay. In fact, the group thought so little of the B-side, it was not even included on their subsequent first album. Fortunately for the group, radio disk jockey Cameron Paul flipped the single over and began playing Super Nature’s B-side, which eventually become a platinum single. In order to cash in on the B-side’s unexpected success, Super Nature’s record company re-released the group’s initial album, which had sold modestly, adding the previously unheralded B-side. The revamped album sold over 1.3 million copies. It also launched the recently renamed Super Nature’s career. Who was Super Nature and what was the group’s B-side hit? Read on.
James Bond’s archenemy, Auric Goldfinger, was the prototypical evil businessman. He reveled in cheating – in cards, golf and business. His attempt to explode a dirty nuclear bomb within Fort Knox in order to contaminate, and thus devalue, the United States’ gold supply was devilishly akin to real-world, 21st-century terrorist threats. As noted in Time Wounds All Heels, despite Hollywood’s penchant for representing businesspeople as evil rogues, nefarious business tactics seldom lead to long-term success. Although you should shun Goldfinger’s unethical approach, you may be surprised to learn that many entrepreneurs have their own “gold finger.”
It is your chance to break into the “big time” All of your hard work and preparation comes down to a brief performance, the outcome of which could be life-changing. This was the situation faced by the hundreds of comedians who debuted on “The Tonight Show” during Johnny Carson’s 30-year tenure. If they succeeded, Johnny shook their hand at the end of their routine and offered them a seat in his guest chair. This small gesture indicated that he approved of their act and would invite them back for a future performance. The careers of nearly every successful comedian during the 1970s and 1980s, including George Carlin, Flip Wilson, Freddie Prinze, Sr., Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Jay Leno and David Letterman, were launched by a brief monologue on “The Tonight Show.”
Salmon live most of their lives swimming with the current. However, once they reach reproductive maturity, they make an arduous journey upstream, often jumping up waterfalls, in order to reach the spawning grounds of their birth. Salmon do not decide to make their epic trek based upon weather conditions, the flow rate of the streams they must traverse or even how far they happen to be from their destination. Rather, they begin their journey when their biological alarm sounds, irrespective of exogenous conditions. This is the same mindset that would-be entrepreneurs should have when deciding the right time to jump into the startup world.