"I like the dreams of the future better than the history
of the past"
~ Thomas Jefferson
"I can’t wait to take you to the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel", my host excitedly told me, "it’s the place where the Singapore Sling was invented and is very famous".
A few hours later we were seated in a darkly lit bar that reminded me of a typical dark wood lobby bar in many high-end resort hotels scattered across the world.
The floors were made of mosaic tiles, with the debris of peanut shells scattered about (patrons are encouraged to discard the used shells on the floors to perhaps add to the ambiance and lore of the establishment).
Although the bar was air-conditioned, the room felt a bit stuffy as the outside doors remained open allowing the humid air of typical Singapore spring evenings to enter and linger among the guests.
The bar’s customers were predominately western with just a few locals mingled in, seemingly acting as hosts to their international clientele who didn’t want to leave Singapore without sampling its most famous locale.
As I sat there drinking my $23 Singapore Sling, I couldn’t help but think that this infamous watering hole must have been the brainchild of some marketing guru of the last century... perhaps romanced by newspapermen and authors who had nothing better to do than to waste their days and nights away drinking in a dark bar.
After some time and several stories, the Long Bar has become the "can’t miss" attraction of Singapore... although there are probably thousands of other bars around the world that are indistinguishable from this particular place... especially after a few drinks... well... perhaps I suppose other than the discarded peanut shells on the floor.
I have had similar experiences with other can’t miss attractions around the world.
While visiting the Louvre museum in Paris a few years ago, there was a queue several hundred meters long in order to get a brief glimpse of the Mona Lisa while other spectacular masterpieces went virtually unnoticed by the general public.
Waiting to ride on the famous cable cars in San Francisco will cost you several hours of your life although there are many faster and less expensive alternative transportation to take you to Fisherman’s Wharf.
The Empire State Building in New York City is no longer the tallest structure in the world... and in fact... is not even the tallest structure in New York... yet there are millions of visitors each year who pay the equivalent of the annual wage of a worker in Ghana to ride the elevator to the top.
These landmarks attractions are able to charge the public steep prices due to the incredible demand by the public.
So what is the reason for this demand?
Well... for openers... there is a great history associated with these attractions... they have been around for decades... if not centuries. The passage of time has subsequently allowed more visitors to actually experience these sites, who will in turn tell their friends what they have seen and encourage them to also visit these sites if and when they are able.
Can you imagine visiting San Francisco for the first time and not riding the Cable Cars or going to Paris and visiting the Louvre and not seeing the Mona Lisa?
If you didn’t do these things, then what would you tell your friends after all... that you actually went exploring on your own and found some incredible things to do and to look at beyond those things found in every tourist book ever written?
The things that are well known aren’t necessarily the best things... they just happen to be the best known things... the safe things... the place where the average person wants to exist... average things for average people... (and yes... I do consider myself average since I have now had a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, to the top of the Empire State Building, ridden the cable cars in San Francisco and have stood in line to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris).
The phenomenon of group think is not limited to tourist attractions, art, and libations at some old bar. This same idea applies to technology, IPOs, and Christmas toys... as well as hundreds of items and services.
Is it strange to you as it is to me as to why people line up for days to purchase the newest Apple product?... even though there are several competing products in the market that actually have better specifications and performance...
How many people bought shares of Facebook during its IPO just because they are addicted to posting every thought that they ever had on their Facebook update page?
Which toy will become the rage of Christmas this year... selling out quickly... while creating a secondary gray-market in order to buy your children the one toy that they can’t be without... if only because everyone else in their class is getting one?
Business models based on hype are generally unsustainable... although... I don’t believe that the Mona Lisa will lose any its sex appeal in the next century or two...
For the rest of us... it is highly unlikely that our businesses will go viral any time soon (if your sole business model is getting plugged by Oprah or winning the lottery... there is a very slim possibility that your business will actually succeed).
There are those who will strike it rich... being in the right place at the right time... with the right product... at the right price... just out of sheer luck...
Why the Mona Lisa or Google?... why not Domenico Ghirlandaio (a Leonardo De Vinci contemporary and classmate - with perhaps a better artistic skill set according to certain art scholars) or Webcrawler (one of the first and maybe best search engine of the Internet at the time)?
Why were they the lucky ones?... and can it happen to the rest of us?
Growing our businesses are usually the result of years of hard work and dedication... building it one customer at a time... doing the mundane... but doing it slightly better than everyone else... day in and day out... year after year...
Even with all the hard work and effort... we can still fail through no fault of our own... as markets turn and new technologies make our products and/or services obsolete...
...but we need to keep going in spite of the odds because the only sure way to fail is to give up trying...
For every company, artist, writer, idea that becomes an overnight success worth billions of dollars... there are thousands of others whose names we hardly recognize... working hard to forge their own place in history... creating a name that someone will talk about for years to come...
Maybe that next name is yours...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where 30 years from now we hope to be an overnight success...
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