Once a fox came up with a fail-proof entrepreneurial scheme. Rather than following the usual practice of selling people something they probably didn’t need, the fox hit upon the revolutionary marketing concept of buying something they no longer appeared to have much use for. It offered to purchase their unwanted shame, in bulk. The fox made the following proposition to all who would listen. “Ever want it all? But never had the nerve to go for it? Put those days behind you. I guarantee whatever you desire in fame, fortune, sex, power, or anything else in return for your shame. If shame is all that holds you back from fighting your way to the top and doing whatever it takes to stay there once you’ve made it, then hesitate no longer. Your lucky day has come! If you’re not completely satisfied with this chance of a lifetime to be free of shame once and for all, I promise to return it in full, no questions asked. But wait, there’s more! I’ll even let you name your price! But hurry, this offer ends soon.” That final pitch was the masterstroke of the fox’s strategy. It had grasped the simple truth that once the offer ended, fears of a falling price would cause even the most hesitant seller to panic into unloading any and all shame for whatever it might still fetch. Nobody wanted to be left with shame that was worthless. Sales record after sales record tumbled, to the point that the fox decided to issue an IPO for a startup called “Fruits of Shame.” The name had a golden fullness to it, and the stock became a “top pick” nearly overnight. On television screens and news racks from Wall Street to Main Street, the face of the fox became easily the most recognizable in the land. Despite this stunning success, however, the fox was troubled by a deepening sense of dissatisfaction. It was proving far too easy to convince people to drop their shame for next to nothing. They practically begged the fox to take it, all but throwing whatever they had left at its feet. There simply wasn’t any entrepreneurial challenge left in the enterprise. Alone in newly expanded corporate offices at the end of another quarter’s celebration over beating analysts’ expectations yet again, and this time by triple digits as individuals and institutions vied to cash out their shame first, the fox plucked confetti from its hair, then turned and walked away from the numbers flashing brightly on the market board overhead. “It just shouldn’t be this easy,” it grumbled with a disappointed expression, almost as if it had tasted something sour.
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2006, by Geoffrey Grosshans