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The Flight Of Icarus And The Entrepreneur

November 23, 2009

Looking back on the early days of what developed into a successful career, an independent businessman reflected, “if it hadn’t been for my wife’s income, we probably wouldn’t have made it. My experience is that what ever endeavor you choose, it’s hard to get started.”

He continued, “Success never comes easy. The key is to choose something that you enjoy, so that you will be prepared to make the sacrifices and commitment necessary to see it through.”

“Despite the obstacles, there are ample opportunities to be successful. My experience is that truly superior service and professional competence remain the exceptions rather than the rule. Work hard to supply them and you will be well received.”

These reflections on the origins of a successful career suggest an uncomplicated formula. Choose an endeavor that you will enjoy. Be prepared to meet the early obstacles because they’ll be there for sure. Have the persistence to do things right and your competence will eventually be rewarded. Success, it has been said, is more perspiration than it is inspiration.

To be successful in overcoming the early obstacles in any independent endeavor, you need to have an optimistic outlook. “Is the glass half empty or half full?” In the beginning, the glass is rarely even half full. Despite the obstacles, you must remain confident that you will eventually be able to win based on your own efforts and abilities.

Optimism and confidence in one’s own abilities, should not be confused with a tendency towards unreasonable risk. Successful business people are not gamblers. They seek moderate risk, large enough to be rewarding, but reasonable enough to be manageable.

The world is full of dreamers that never quite figure out way they weren’t as lucky as the other guy. Dreamers are always willing to gamble for success, but never quite ready to consistently make the daily sacrifices needed to achieve it. Objectives that are set unattainably high form a ready excuse for failure.

Prosperity is a destination that is achieved when diligent effort is applied in the pursuit of progressively challenging, but attainable objectives. While lofty objectives are often thought to be a sign of initiative, too lofty an ambition can be a prescription for failure when attempted at once.

If one goes back to the dim beginnings of time, Greek mythology was designed to explain the phenomenon that men couldn’t understand. Modern man might find meaning in the story of Daedalus and his son Icarus, who suffered the consequences of attempting to soar too high, too soon.

Daedalus was a skilled mechanic and ingenious inventor, a forefather perhaps, of today’s technically oriented entrepreneur. After having fallen into disfavor with the ruler of Crete, Daedalus and his son where imprisoned. That’s the modern day equivalent to being stuck in a job that you don’t like.

Unwilling to accept his fate, Daedalus set about to find a means to escape. Displaying his entrepreneurial skills, he designed a pair of wings for both himself and Icarus. The wings were made of feathers and would be fastened to their shoulders with wax.

Daedalus’s invention was a success. As he and Icarus soared over the oceans while fleeing their captivity on the island of Crete, they approached their destination on the mainland. Successfully escaping on the wings of Daedalus’s invention was not enough for Icarus however. He had to fly higher.

Despite the warnings from his father, Icarus soared higher and higher, needlessly close to the warmth of the sun. At last he flew so high that the warmth of the sun melted the wax that held his wings together.

Icarus’s wings failed and he plunged into the sea, short of his destination. Daedalus, flying at a more moderate altitude, successfully completed the ambitious journey. Unlike his father, the successful but cautious entrepreneur, Icarus was not content with moderate risk. He choose to risk flying unnecessarily close to the sun and got burnt.

Entrepreneurs who take unreasonable chances and set their sights too high too soon will be doomed to repeat the failed flight of Icarus. They will repeatedly soar too high only to crash back to earth, short of what would otherwise may have been ambitious, but attainable objectives.

As you build your business, meet the early obstacles with persistence, confidence, and optimism. Avoid unreasonable risks because if you soar unnecessarily high, you may well repeat the flight of Icarus and get burnt by the sun while taking a bath in the sea.

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