Keeping your perspective that your venture is but one part of a larger, more complex market is essential to success. Understanding your company’s position and value in the supply chain allows you to make the correct decisions about what power you have in a negotiation, how to craft a win-win deal that keeps the other players supportive of your company’s interests, and keeps you a sincere participant in the larger network of companies that create your market sphere. And this perspective maintains your reputation in your industry, whether you grow your company for decades or move to a new venture in a few years.
There are serious consequences to losing this perspective, which is easy to do, especially when our passion for our vision of our business becomes so embedded in our identity that the whole world seems (or seems not to) reflect our own focus. But the world is not reflecting our passion. Our obsession is clouding our vision of the larger scheme of things.
I once read that addiction is the condition of narrowing one’s world view and focus to the getting and using of the addictive substance, such that all other activities become nothing more than a part of this quest. The obsession with our success in our own business is a kind of addiction.
Notice the power of this sequence:
- our passionate vision becomes linked to our identity;
- our success is the outward reflection of that passion;
- our success becomes our identity;
- our obsession to protect and project our identity begins to narrow our world to a single focus on this success;
- our identity becomes dependent at its source on everything that contributes to or interferes with that success;
- our interpretation of other aspects of our life and the larger world become no more than parts of our quest.
- our focus remains turned inward to our obsession, and we begin to lose perspective on the larger world that doesn’t know us or care about us and on our immediate world of friends and family and community that does care about us.
This loss of perspective shows up in many forms.
- We are home with our family, but we aren’t paying attention.
- Our children speak to us but we aren’t listening.
- Our minds are never focused except on the business, shutting out even our community involvement.
- We watch our business partners for signs of disloyalty or lack of full commitment to our vision.
- We expect our staff to be available 24/7, even when they are not even partial owners of the business.
- We mis-read the larger market picture, because our company is not the center of the market.
- We become short-tempered with anyone (especially those closest to us) who is not focused on our company’s success.
- We become boring, as we cannot speak about anything but our business.
- We lose our perspective on our position and value in the supply chain and the larger market.
- We forget that much of the world doesn’t know we exist. And doesn’t care.
- We lose our sense of humor.
- We forget how to relax, enjoy ourselves, and take pleasure in other activities.
- We lose our balance with all the other things in the world.
And this loss of perspective can happen whether the new company is succeeding or failing.
Often when the new company begins to succeed, something worse happens. This happens more often to first-time entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs having their first taste of real success. We are eaten by the power dragon. Once the power dragon has us, our identity loses all semblance of its perspective. We, tasting the first sweet nibble of power, become extreme in our ego and sense of importance. Everything we do is significant. And, consequently, most things other people do becomes insignificant, even annoying.
As this perspective grows stronger and more evident, many folks around us begin to express their doubts about our business and our perspective. We become short-tempered and more suspicious than before.
Once the power dragon has us, it is a difficult (perhaps impossible) challenge to return to our former more rational selves. If we are lucky, the power dragon spits us out, and we have only lost the capital, or the business, or our self-regard. Hopefully we have not lost our family, as many first-time entrepreneurs do, especially the successful ones.
An investor’s worst nightmare is to find their CEO eaten by the power dragon, perspective lost, and bad decisions coming into play. I have watched these first-time successes lose everything just as the success was arriving. Seems there is no way to predict this occurrence.
So, I shall share a code word with you who play with the power dragon: Ozymandius, King of Kings. That’s you, someday, if you cannot regain your balance.
by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.