“The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
–Hunter S. Thompson
If there is one individual who exemplifies going over the edge (other than Gonzo himself), it would be Robert Craig Knievel Jr. Doesn’t ring a bell? Well let’s see if this picture jogs your end-of-year memory.
GonzoBankers, this week I am paying tribute to the only man brave enough to actually wear a red, white and blue cape in real life – Evel Knievel!
Sadly, the American motorcycle daredevil died November 30 at the age of 69. Most, if not all of you are thinking, “What the hell does Evel have to do with banking?”
To be honest, friends, 2007 was a pretty boring year for our industry. Granted, the newly appointed chief risk officers were having a field day, and I.T. security gurus seemed to be running (or I should say killing?) most projects. But seriously, just how exciting can Sarbanes Oxley deadlines, Bank Secrecy Act compliance, and overall security initiatives be? So when I learned that Evel had passed away I immediately thought, “That’s what our banking world is lacking; a little daredevilness.”
“New Year’s Day 1967, some crazy son of a bitch from Butte, Montana jumped his motorcycle 151 feet over the fountains of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.” –EK Web site
What I admired about Evel was he wasn’t afraid to take risks. Now that doesn’t mean he showed up somewhere, unloaded his motorcycle, built a ramp, and away he went. Then again maybe he did do that. But my point is he knew the risks involved. He calculated the danger, said a quick prayer, and then jumped. Unfortunately, we bankers have a tendency to calculate the risks, and then calculate some more and some more. We then spend eons reviewing the calculations in committee meetings and eventually end up talking ourselves out of jumping.
Keep On Trying
“They started out watching me bust my ass, and I became part of their lives. People wanted to associate with a winner, not a loser. They wanted to associate with someone who kept trying to be a winner.” –EK
The subprime meltdown is probably a fair comparison to Evel’s Caesars Palace crash. But did Evel stop taking risks? No sireee!
September 8, 1974. Evel jumped on his X-1 Skycycle and attempted to jump across Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho. Initially he wanted to jump across the Grand Canyon but the United States government said it would never allow it (go figure). So to keep his fans interested he chose the next best place. Once again the jump was a miserable failure. However, his fan base grew stronger and stronger.
Folks, too many of us are afraid to try new things; whether it’s for our internal benefit or for our customers. And if we do try something and it fails, we dwell on that failure for many years. I have heard my fair share of bank executives say, “Yep, we tried this or that four years ago and we are never going to attempt that again.” This attitude may actually explain the lack of innovation and excitement in our industry at the moment. While we sit and ponder our past mistakes, the 7-Elevens, PayPals, Zopas, eBays and Amazons of the world are eating away at our customer base.
It is time for us to bring back that innovating, daredevil mind set. To get those juices flowing here are a couple of ideas and/or challenges for 2008.
Take a deep breath; the end of the year is just around the corner. But I say to you don’t view it as the end of the year; look at it as the beginning of a new one. 2008 is the year to get creative, Gonzos! Unleash that pent up innovation! Who knows, some of you may even feel compelled to strap on a red, white and blue cape to evoke your inner daredevil. Just remember – what made Evel an American hero was the fact that after all the analysis was complete and the risks were calculated, he actually jumped.
God’s speed, Evel.
Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel, Jr.
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