Delusion is a bad advisor, hardly better than ignorance or convenience. We all love to hear words of praise and encouragement, although the truth would serve us much better. If we face reality with courage, we can spare ourselves countless trouble in the present and costs in the future. A wise man does not place his trust on agreeable lies.
Look before you jump
thinking has the capability of short-circuiting logic; beliefs that
appeal to vanity should be examined with suspicion. Never accept at face
value any idea pleasing to the ear, since it might contain more sugar
than substance. Such is the case of the exaggerated qualities that many
people attribute to enthusiasm.
Never allow self-reliance to
render you blind to facts. When we start a new venture, ambition
motivates us to move forward and overcome obstacles. Experienced
entrepreneurs know how important it is to pursue opportunities with
conviction, but they are also aware of the dangers of ignoring market
Growing consumer demand is a key element of success in
any commercial undertaking. If your products or services aim at willing
buyers, your business should do well. In contrast, if your efforts are
met with indifference, you should consider the possibility that your
strategy is mistaken.
Feeling enthusiastic about your venture may
help you close some sales, but cannot sustain a company in the
long-term. If the demand for your products or services does not exist,
your activities will be short-lived.
Practicality and utility
Markets are constructed in a
such a way that practicality and utility weigh heavier than exuberance.
In the end, people buy only what they like. No amount of cheerful
advertisements can change the fundamental views of consumers.
time that a company has tried to sell what people dislike, it has
resulted in financial losses. Enthusiastic projects that are not aimed
at the public are dead-end propositions. Before you make commitments to
an appealing cause, take a moment to examine if it is sustainable.
The life of musician Antonio Vivaldi
(1678-1741) provides a forceful illustration of this principle. When
Antonio was a child, his father, Giovanni Vivaldi, taught him to play
the violin and took him around to perform in parties and ceremonies in
Those early contacts with the commercial market for music
encouraged Antonio Vivaldi to develop his skills further. By the time he
was 20 years old, he had become proficient at several string and wind
instruments; from all of them, it was the violin that he played best.
after his 25th birthday, he obtained an appointment as music teacher at
a municipal orphanage in Venice. The job involved teaching children to
play the violin, training them to sing in the orphanage choir, and
writing compositions for religious ceremonies.
employees, Vivaldi soon realized that his position was not going to make
him rich. Nevertheless, it provided him a stable income, a growing
reputation as composer and performer, and contacts in the commercial
music market that could prove profitable down the road.
career exemplifies the dark side of exuberant optimism. While other
musicians aimed at prologuing their appointments, he took
disproportionate risks. His wrong assessment of the market led him to
mistakes that wasted the assets that he had accumulated.
Vivaldi was in his thirties, the orphanage promoted him to musical
director in recognition of his excellent performance as teacher and
composer. The new position brought him a higher salary and the
possibility to devote more energies to commercial music ventures.
Patience wins over recklessness
neglecting his job at the orphanage, Vivaldi branched out in the field
of opera, which at that time constituted the most remunerative genre for
composers. Venice possessed several theatres which competed with each
other for audience and novelty.
Opera was a commercial market in
which each new production could lead to large profits or financial
losses. Vivaldi composed several dozen operas with varying success. A
few of his pieces earned him substantial profits, while others quickly
fell into oblivion. In parallel, his position at the orphanage continued
to generate him a regular income.
If Vivaldi had maintained his
strategy, he would have become wealthy with limited risk. His double
role of musical director and opera entrepreneur enabled him to get the
best of both worlds. By devoting his days to sacred music and his
evenings to the theatre, he benefited from two complementary incomes and
enhanced his reputation.
Unfortunately, he became overenthusiastic and
abandoned his well-structured life. Instead of maintaining a balance
between his two occupations, he began to devote more efforts to the
commercial market and seek commissions outside Venice.
forties and fifties, Vivaldi travelled frequently in pursuit of better
appointments. He performed in Mantua, Milan, Rome, Trieste, Prague, and
Vienna. His life became exciting and exhausting, leaving him little time
for teaching. Although the commissions were quite lucrative, the money
seemed to hardly cover expenditures.
Travelling was uncomfortable and
expensive. The continuous effort of chasing appointments in distant
cities must have made Vivaldi regret his orderly life in Venice. While
he was in Vienna trying to secure a new commission, he died in 1741,
when he was 64 years old.
Rational personal development
Vivaldi's excessive enthusiasm made him
overrate the size and possibilities of the commercial music market. If
he had been more realistic, he would have stayed in Venice and built on
his assets. With less work and risk, he could have led a comfortable
A wise man does his best to avoid the delusion of
exuberance. Appealing ventures in restricted markets frequently end in
disaster. Never entrust fundamental decisions to your emotions. Growing
consumer demand provides an open door to success, while projects
sustained only by enthusiasm tend to have a dead-end.
Image by Javier Volcan under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us
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