Have you ever found yourself entranced by the video game, Angry Birds? You might have thought that the stock of the company, Rovio, that started with the launch of that strangely addictive activity would be soaring as high as its colorful avian projectiles. Not so; in fact it never came up with any subsequent games even remotely as popular.
“That Thing You Do” was a moderately successful 1996 movie about a teen-age band in a small Pennsylvania town that achieves stardom with their eponymous hit song. It was their first and last hit. It was pretty much also the first and last directorial of well-liked actor, Tom Hanks.
You know those hideous rubber shoes that come in fluorescent colors? Well, the company that innovated that particular fashion accessory once enjoyed a stock price of about $70 but for years it has hovered around $10. Those shoes apparently were the company’s only achievement. Since then profits have plummeted.
There was a time when over 4 million people had a television watching device called a Tivo, made by a company of the same name. At its peak the company stock sold for about $60, but for quite a while it’s been down around $10. The brains who came up with that innovative TV accessory have not come up with anything else and meanwhile viewers have fled Tivo for newer alternatives.
Let’s not even look at Cabbage Patch Kids, Rubik’s Cubes or Pet Rocks. We’ve seen any number of one hit wonders that come out of nowhere, capture everyone’s attention, then just as quickly turn into attic clutter. It even happens to people.
Meg Whitman took the reins at eBay in 1998, where she soon took it public and made it one of the most valuable companies on the Internet. After ten great years at eBay she ran for governor of California, losing to career politician, Jerry Brown, in November 2010. Hewlett Packard then picked her to head the giant computer company. Things haven’t gone well. HP stock is way down. Bloomberg LP dubbed Meg Whitman the most underachieving CEO. Another one hit wonder?
Ron Johnson was hired by Steve Jobs to create those sleek gadget-filled Apple stores. Opening 300 stores with incredibly high average sales per square foot, Ron made Apple Stores the top American retailer. Johnson seemed a miracle merchandiser but he was really a one hit wonder. He next signed up as CEO of J.C.Penney. Seventeen months later, the giant retailer was in ruins and Ron Johnson was fired.
In general, it seems a far better plan to build a company on an ethos of constant improvement and innovation than basing strategy upon one individual or product with early stupendous success. It is certainly better to consistently provide attention and create good memories with children rather than providing one spectacular vacation week a year.
Where in ancient Jewish wisdom is this principle taught? It’s time to revisit I Kings 18 & 19.
The wicked king and queen, Ahab and Jezebel led Israel into idolatry, worshipping the Baal. God’s prophet, Elijah, challenged four hundred and fifty false prophets to have their god bring fire down to their sacrifice. They failed while God brought fire which consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. This signaled a colossal defeat for Ahab and Jezebel which was compounded when Elijah brought a rainfall, ending a devastating drought. This was the end of the false prophets and Israel returned to the Lord. This has to have been the triumphant high point of Elijah’s life.
Then two astonishing things happen. First, Jezebel sends a message to Elijah promising to kill him on the next day. Second, Elijah falls into utter dejection. He flees into the desert and prays for God to take his soul.
If Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah why didn’t she just do it today? Why telegraph her intentions of killing him tomorrow? Furthermore, with his stunning success over the Baal and bringing Israel back to God, why was Elijah so depressed?
The clue is the verse that directly follows the queen’s threat.
And he [Elijah] saw and he arose and went towards his soul…
(I Kings 19:3)
The words are not, “and he heard,” the threats of the queen and he fled “for” his life. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Elijah “saw” as we today say, “Oh, I see…,” meaning I understand. Elijah understood what the queen was saying.
He correctly understood her message to mean, “Elijah, I can’t kill you today because today you won. You produced an incomparable miracle. You’re a big hero. Today. However, if you think the effect will last, you’re terribly mistaken. Tomorrow the people will forget what you did. They will return to idolatry and then I will kill you.”
After a lifetime dedicated to keeping Israel attached to God, Elijah felt defeated. He feared that Jezebel was correct and that the effects of his work would be short-lived. He didn’t flee for his life; she wasn’t about to kill him. He went towards his soul, convinced that his work in this world was done and ready to die.
One massive miracle that demonstrated God’s power would have no lasting impact. Indeed, one fantastic and flamboyant triumph seldom has lasting value. But Elijah was nonetheless wrong. His life was not just one pyrotechnic extravaganza. It was the accumulated collection of a long list of accomplishments growing in significance. As a result, his effectiveness lasts forever. He never actually died.
…and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
(II Kings 2:11)
When hiring an associate we can use this wisdom by seeking a candidate with a record of steadily increasing responsibilities and achievements rather than someone with an early meteoric rise. When building a business enterprise we can plan for an airborne future rather than a flamboyant takeoff followed by a flameout. When raising a child we must provide a consistent environment of attention rather than occasional extravagant treats amidst benign neglect. Avoid being a one hit wonder.
Many permanent principles like this one govern our relationship to money; making it, spending it, saving it and growing it. Fortunately over the past twenty years I gathered those many timeless truths from the Torah and now condensed them into two books, Thou Shall Prosper and Business Secrets from the Bible.
Make a change and enhance your 2015 finances by making this set a part of your strategies. It could also bring about significant change in the financial fortunes of someone you love. I am sure your gift would be well appreciated.