Do What You Do.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.
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
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
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.