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Do What You Do.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom announces at race

The Farmer wants to be the Pilot. The Pilot wants to be the Astronaut. The Astronaut wants to be the President. The President wishes he were the Farmer.

Everybody wants to be or have something they're not. This is the U.S.A. By God, and bigger and more is always better. If you're not moving forward you're moving back. Lead, follow or get out of the way. Those are the rules we live by in the U.S.A., or at least sometimes it seems that way. And for God's sake never be happy with what you've got- that's downright un-American.

Today Cannondale Bicycles files for Bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11. They will reorganize and probably never miss a beat. They already have the funding from the enormous Pegasus Financial Group. Don't freak out if you own a Cannondale. Everything is OK. Your warranty is still good, the company is still there. They are still making bikes. They will still make bikes.

This isn't Enron, K-Mart or Martha Stewart. This is just a case of the Farmer wanting to be the Pilot. And a case of stupidity, where ambition overcame loyalty and humility and common sense. There may have been some pride in there too, and like the Arabs are fond of saying: "Pride goes out on horseback, and comes back on foot."

Cannondale tried to make motorcycles. They are not a motorcycle company. Honda is, Suzuki is, Kawasaki is. Cannondale is not. But they thought they could be. And after losing tens of millions of dollars they now know what most people knew before they started: It won't work.

Now herein lies the above lesson. As athletes we know that reaching for the stars and stretching your limits are admirable stuff. It's the stuff dreams are made of. But nightmares are dreams too and ambition and agendas are a double-edged sword. Cannondale got on the wrong side of the sword and now they suffer an amputation. Thankfully the cancerous limb that is being amputated is that darn motorcycle division.

Ambition has its place. Say, for instance, at the start of your next workout or race. It even has its place in measured doses in the workplace. But before ambition comes responsibility to your roots and what you already have.

In the Taoist "bible" the "Tao de Ching" instructs practitioners of Taoism to "Let go of that and hold fast to this." It means cherish what you have that is near and dear to your heart. Do not squander it in pursuit of gain. Have the humility to look at what you do and what you have and accept it. Then strive to be the best at that. Are you a bike guy? Be a bike guy- the best you can. Are you a ditch digger? Be a ditch digger- the very best. But don't try to be an Astronaut if you're not. Better to be the best ditch digger than the worst Astronaut.

Cannondale did realize this, much to their credit. They preemptively filed for reorganization and quickly secured quality financing. So they realized what they had before they lost everything. That in and of itself is a rare quality and why I believe Cannondale will survive. Ten years from now some of the old-timers at Cannondale will laugh across the lunchroom table about the time they "Tried that motorcycle thing". They will also talk about how the motorcycles and ATVs were "Pretty cool". Maybe they will even have secreted one away to look upon with reflection on how close they came to loosing everything. Then they will go back to making bikes, arguably the finest aluminum bikes made in the world.

Cannondale hasn't done anything you or I haven't done in their personal lives: They got greedy and forgot what mattered most. They realized it in time and the likelihood (from my perspective and from what I've been reading in the press) is that they will survive. I think they may even prosper eventually. Perhaps sooner than latter. The fact that they realized it in time makes them different.

Few people, let alone companies, have the wisdom and humility to realize that.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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