A $400 Million Unknown

We read today that Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because he “didn’t understand the script.” The impact of this decision is impressive:

In return for playing the role, New Line Cinema offered the Scottish actor up to 15 percent of worldwide box office receipts, which would have earned Connery more than any actor had ever been paid for a single role—as much as $400 million.

Not understanding something is a scary thing. Conservative practitioners trumpet the idiom “look before you leap” as a measure of their solidity. This lack of total understanding puts off the leaping until it appears that risk has been mitigated (whether they are correct in viewing that mitigation is often debatable).

Notwithstanding my tepid recommendation for Godin’s Tribes yesterday, I rather enjoyed his section on “Not Now, Not Yet”—

The largest enemy of change and leadership isn’t a “no.” It’s a “not yet.” “Not yet” is the safest, easiest way to forestall change. “Not yet” gives the status quo a chance to regroup and put off the inevitable for just a little while longer.

Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.

I’m not quite sold that the first mover advantage is the best strategy (in the glaring light of the legion case studies, I know, but there are many contrarian examples as well). Nevertheless, I am convinced some of the greatest pathways to sucess comes much more from doing rather than completely knowing.

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