We all have those calls we fear. The type I fear the most are those from entrepreneurs – those that proudly explain there is an article on them in the newspaper or that they have given an interview on the radio or television. Or that they have won a prize of entrepreneurship and that they are going for a week to Silicon Valley (and win one month’s accommodation free in an incubator, accelerator, fast path or other such meaningless business term).

I can give my opinions on prizes and incubators another day but today let’s speak about something else – vanity.

AL PACINO, OVIDIO AND NARCISSUS

Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate, says,

‘Vanity is my favourite sin’.

Vanity is an old sin (like all sins). Ovid, the Roman poet, in the third chapter of ‘The Metamorphosis’ tells a beautiful story about Narcissus, which I will summarize.

Narcissus was an extraordinarily beautiful young man that felt that his beauty was above that of any other. Eco, a nymph that appears in Greek myths, was in love with Narcissus, but she had been punished by the goddess Hera to repeat the last word everything that is said. That had lowered her self-esteem: she wasn’t a girl of fluent conversation…. But destiny made it easy: a day that Narcissus walked along in the forest exclaimed “anyone here?”, to which Echo, who was there, replied “here, here!” (poor girl, she could not answer anything else because of Hera). The situation was that Narcissus saw her, rejected her because he considered her unworthy of his beauty and entombed the poor nymph in a cave where nothing more remained of her than her voice (an echo!).

It does not end up here. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learned what had happened and punished Narcissus: she made him fall in love with himself when reflected in the water of a fountain. He was so handsome that he could look at nothing other than his reflection, and the attraction was so strong that he ended up throwing himself into the waters and dying.

WHY?

The entrepreneurial spirit who has received the call is happy, he thinks to be the ‘chosen’. Character more than person. And he or she forgets that what is really important is not the self but the project.

HOW COULD IT BE AVOIDED?

Antidotes for vanity? Only one, Ulysses’ solution. Ulysses plugged the ears of the boat’s crew with wax so that they avoided listening to the song of the Sirens and only allowed himself to listen to it but binding himself to the mast of the boat.

The entrepreneur should focus on the team first – to add sustainable value while trying to avoid the occasional appearance of vanity.

Ulysses wanted to hear the beauty of the song of the Siren, whilst not forgetting that his only goal was to reach Ithaca.

AND NOW ONE QUESTION..

Sirens or Ithaca? Can you share personal experiences?