Why the Humble Win the Real Prize
Very few stories end right when the hero gets the treasure. If they do, then it usually comes with a pretty dark surprise… and if we’re talking some kick-ass film noir from Hollywood’s golden age, more of a knife twist.
To our point, and with a good old fashioned spoiler warning… the final scene of the Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece. It’s also a textbook example of the coveted reward not being what it looks like.
After a deep dive into the sleazy world of black market relic hunting, detective Sam Spade—played to perfection by a bone dry Humphrey Bogart—baits some dangerous rivals with an obsidian-black statue rumored to be worth millions.
But turns out, the thing’s a fake. When the gang realizes it, all hell breaks loose… and a shifty, femme fatale who had Sam’s partner murdered throws herself at him to save her skin. When she’s led away in handcuffs, and when a clueless policeman asks him what the discarded statue thingy is, Sam can only sigh.
He picks it up, eyes the gorgeous woman he’s just put behind bars, and murmurs:
“Oh, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”
And on that unforgettable line, the music rises and the credits start to roll.
If that doesn’t cut, we’re not sure what does.
And while we’re not in the business of butchering classic movie endings… if Dare Capital Film Productions were cranking out a remake, we might change that last killer line to something like:
“It’s the stuff dreams are made of… for those who go at them blindly, selfishly, and with no desire to let the journey humble them along the way.”
What do you think? Should we call our agent?
On Treasure Finding
Whatever the Macguffin—and whether it’s a bird statue, an oil strike, a research diary, a Nazi enigma machine and code book, or a cool half million in white label funding—movies plots handle them carefully… in about the way you’d want to handle a take-home box of nitroglycerin.
Using the Hero’s Journey, which charts the hero’s treasure finding only after a lonely, life or death tussle, and only after a series of tests validate a kind of spiritual rebirth, we can unpack the reasons why actually finding the Ultimate Boon is just as dangerous as seeking it.
Reason one: Treasure and success lie on top of the summit.
It’s mighty slippery up there. And like anyone who’s won the lottery will tell you, it sure ain’t what it looks like.
It’s also true that treasure can distract us. One misstep, or one misjudgment of our surroundings, and it’s a long way down.
Reason two: We’re slippery.
That is, our nature’s such that getting exactly what we want—and especially without the requisite humility that long, hard effort and a few setbacks tend to build), can easily break us. As the old King Midas fable points out, if everything we touch turns to gold… what the hell are we gonna eat?
Even if success is a good thing—and take it from us, an asset-based lending company that’s seen ups and downs over many years in the biz, it is a good thing — there’s a reason why it often comes right before a fall. From Fortune 500 companies that bite the dust to housing market implosions to the worst inflation in forty years, the common thread is that when everything’s going incredibly well it’s easy to assume it’ll keep going that way… regardless of what we say or do.
In other words, and to hash out a finer point of the Hero’s Journey, the same elixir that brings life can just as easily bring death to the unprepared or the unready.
Reason three: Success, like treasure, thins out the herd.
Those who can’t handle it, or who hoard it foolishly for their own selfish ends don’t make it very far… and they rarely stick around to see success do what it does best—power growth and opportunity, inspire others, and make the world better for everyone else.
Where the Hero’s Journey shows us that the Ultimate Boon should be brought out, handled with care, and eventually used for the betterment of everyone in the village, it crosses over into practical advice for every success seeker. Every relic hunter. Every start-up, dreamer, Gold-medal athlete, and every entrepreneur who scales her company to that eye-popping IPO.
Be careful what you wish for… and if by some miracle, you get it, know your place in the story and what the treasure’s really for.
Success Should Build Humility
We’re not saying that philanthropy’s a hard and fast requirement, or that it’s the only way to share success… and if helping anti-police violence activists buy another L.A. mansion is what philanthropy amounts to, count us out.
For most entrepreneurs, success and what to do with it might not even be on the radar… not in the same way that competition, recession signs, another lawsuit, or how will I keep my cash flow going is on the radar.
Or even what we see on social media: ‘look what they’ve got going…’ ‘check out how that deal went down…”
Founders, lenders, entrepreneurs—everyone’s human, so everyone compares themselves.
We get that.
But when we argue that success and pursuit should build some kind of humility, we’re not out trippin’ on peyote. Rather, we’re calling it like we’ve seen it… again and again and again.
Building that humility along the way isn’t rocket science, but it might mean taking a hard look at whether that Grail on the chasm ledge is really worth reaching for. Especially when there’s deals that we push and push and push for… and then there’s ones that sharpen and refine, requiring the tested skills of patience, perseverance, reasoning from first principles, and knowing from experience how other people think and feel.
While both deals might line our pockets, which one’s better for us? Which one are we striving for?
“Give me neither poverty, nor riches; only daily bread.”
– The Book of Psalms
If We Can Be So Bold…
Here’s a shortlist.
If you’re feeling like a terrier chasing the van that you might or might not catch… don’t stop now. But before you catch the thing, you might slow down and ask yourself:
–What’s the purpose? What’s behind the curtain with this vision of success? How does this thing working out make those around me and my corner of the world better off?
–Is this in my programming? In other words, am I taking good risks and for the right reasons… with one of them being that I can’t not be doing this?
–Am I all in? Is my skin in the game to the point that it should be?
Or in the choice words of writing guru Steven Pressfield, is my ass where my heart wants to be?
–If I go to war, what are my odds of winning? In other words, am I running the numbers and looking at the truth of what they say?
–Does my strategy and execution play out in a way that’s honest and respectful?
Am I respecting myself and when I can, paying it forward to the other guys out there?
–Am I building a healthy respect for setbacks and conflict?
Am I seeing the hurdles that come up as lessons to learn from?
–Does my journey and my leadership smack of truth, transparency, empathy, and an understanding that relationships should be more lasting than whatever I accomplish?… And on this one, have I faced the reality that everything else teeters on selfish bullshit?
–Are my goals, vision, and energy sustainable? Scalable?
Or even: are they big enough?
–Am I learning lessons that humble me as I go along?
There you go.
Try answering some of those the next time you feel like climbing up a greasy pole.
Hard Knocks, Hard Lessons
There’s an old Russian proverb:
“A laughing bride means a weeping wife… but a weeping bride means a laughing wife.”
Put another way, the universe has a strange way of bringing good, durable things out of shit that really hurts at first. Sting as they might, the hard lessons might just save us in the end… and all the better if we don’t have to learn them the hard way, in a final scene that sees us scoring big but then finding we have nothing of value for anyone else.
Way More than Getting Capital
We’re called Dare for a reason.
For starters, we dare to ask questions that no bank ever will. Questions like ‘what’s the deeper lesson?’ ‘How can we do a better job supporting entrepreneurs,’ and even ‘What does success look like beyond the balance sheet?’
They’re not easy… but if we had all the answers printed up in some Almanac from the future, then we’d be missing out on the journey itself… not to mention the people we’ve taken it with, the heroes who welcomed us to be their trusted guide through thick and thin.
We’re all about the journey, the one that tells us through stories and history that success must be stewarded well, and on behalf of others. When the journey shows us that cheap, dishonest, or ill-gotten gain might turn on a dime and eat us alive… we believe it.
We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again… because believe it or not, the lender’s journey has a lot in common with the journey of the entrepreneur. Both risk, both build relationships, put it all on the line, and trust their allies… but however the cookie crumbles, we rest in the fact that we’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again.
If there’s nothing new under the sun then the next crisis signs shouldn’t rattle us… and as schizophrenic as they are, they’re no excuse for not doing the hard, messy work of stepping up to the plate.
Daring to Guide
What a time to be the guide, the ally who won’t back down when others cut and run.
The one who cares enough about our clients to know that their story doesn’t just stop at success.
If that kind of a relationship sounds good to you, and if your company or business needs some working capital, give us a call.
We’ll talk to you about the Dare experience… and who knows?
We might even get to the subject of Big Money.
Journey on and never stop learning.