business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There’s a common misconception that there are such things as “born” leaders, winners and otherwise. There are many traits we are born with, but business success isn’t one of them.

There’s probably no better lesson of this than one from the peerless comedian Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield, who died in 2004, was inexplicably the subject of an article - an appreciation, really - in the New York Times. It is must reading for anyone who doubts that hard work and diligence can be essential building blocks of success.

Dangerfield, who at the peak of his career was as popular a comedian as we had in the US, had to overcome a major handicap for his career. That was, he had no natural gifts as a comedian. Let’s remember that comedy is an extremely difficult challenge. As many actors have famously said, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

Dangerfield lacked all the key elements of comedic success and for that reason his career took a long time developing. But he made it and made it big thanks to two things: first, his diligence in understanding and honing his craft and his willingness to endure a long and hard path to success. Once he did that, he became stunningly funny.

(Let’s have a quick aside here for younger members of the MNB audience who have no idea what fossil I’m talking about here. First, read the Times article about Dangerfield. Second, Google Dangerfield’s zany one-liners. And third, check out the movies Caddyshack and Back to School, both of which feature Dangerfield and offer moments of comic genius. Just please don’t try to do a triple Lindy. Please!)

But here’s what Dangerfield’s career can remind you as the Times article lays clear. Diligence and effort can help you overcome tremendous hurdles on the path to success. In Dangerfield’s case, he worked tirelessly to understand the elements of a great joke; reverse engineered that and then built his career by turning that knowledge into a weapon of mass laughter.

It’s a strange yet timely lesson at the moment traditional businesses are struggling with the ridiculous pace and amount of change. We’re all learning new skills as we go. None of us were born with knowing how to employ social media to build customer loyalty, so we have to examine those who do, learn from their successes and failures and then rebuild it to suit ourselves.

It might just be worth respecting Rodney Dangerfield in a brand new way to help us learn that lesson. As the author of the Times piece suggests, there is no “sweeter revenge” after “years of getting no respect than achieving quantifiable perfection.”

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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