Professional Vitamin C

Jim Blasingame

For centuries, one of the maladies associated with prolonged service at sea was a condition called scurvy. Sailors afflicted with scurvy bruised easily, had joint pain, gum disease, tooth loss ... well, you get the picture.

In the mid-18th century, researchers discovered that sailors given citrus fruit like lemons and limes did not get scurvy. We now know the active ingredient in this remedy was vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Ascorbic actually means, no scurvy.

By 1795, responding to the research, and in an attempt to improve crew health and performance, the British Navy required all sea-going vessels to provide lime juice for every sailor. Thus the nickname "limey" was forever stuck to British sailors.

Professional Scurvy
One of the maladies often found in business owners is a condition I call professional scurvy, but not because it causes your teeth to fall out. Symptoms of professional scurvy include high levels of negative energy, low levels of performance, and an easily bruised ego, all of which manifest in a dangerous and sometimes professionally fatal failure-to-success ratio.

The reason scurvy was chosen to identify this professional malady is because, like the seagoing scurvy, it can be cured with vitamin C -- actually four kinds of Professional Vitamin C.

Vitamin Courage
To paraphrase Webster, courage is facing up to anything dangerous or painful. But that's also Webster's definition of bravery. The Unabridged Blasingame Dictionary says bravery is when you face up to danger or pain in the moment, but courage is when you do all this after you've had time to think about it.

If an apple is sectioned and left exposed, it will turn brown in minutes. But introduce the sliced apple to lemon juice and it's able to withstand the exposure much longer.

Most business challenges allow us time to think about them; if not for days or weeks, at least minutes or hours. Challenges left exposed, without professional ascorbic acid, turn into ugly problems that can take a business down. But facing up to challenges with courage actually gives them more time to morph into opportunities.

A business owner with Vitamin Courage is like a 19th century sailor with a sack of limes: Strong, able and productive.

Vitamin Confidence
Didn't Thomas Edison say failure is successfully identifying what doesn't work? Pure success builds ego, which in high concentration can be professionally dangerous. But success alloyed with failure builds confidence, which is more than beneficial; it's an essential element for long-term performance.

Confidence in business is nothing more than faith in your ability to manage present and future challenges with the skills and experience you've acquired. A business owner with plenty of Vitamin Confidence is like a boatload of sailors setting sail knowing they have enough limes, even if the voyage lasts longer and becomes more difficult than planned.

Vitamin Character
Discipline at sea is essential to a successful voyage and the safety of all hands. The law of the sea demands that orders given by the captain be carried out without question. But a successful captain must be worthy of such complete obedience.

Contracts are the transactional laws of the marketplace, but in actuality, like the captain and crew of a sailing ship, it's the character of the contractual parties that ultimately make a market economy work, not the words or signatures on a piece of paper.

A 19th century captain who was known to exercise his power with reason and fairness wouldn't have had difficulty enlisting a crew. A business owner who demonstrates high levels of Vitamin Character by dealing in good faith, which is to say, doing the right thing even if the contract doesn't require it, won't have difficulty enlisting customers or business partners.

Vitamin Credential
There were many things that determined a successful voyage at sea during the wind-powered era. Certainly the sea-worthiness of the wooden vessel was critical, as was the skill of captain and crew, plus the ability of all of these elements to meet the demands of the mission ahead.

In business, courage without skill could be the definition of fool-hardy. Confidence without ability is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle. And character without knowledge is a well-intentioned commitment that probably can't be kept.

If there is one word that is ubiquitous in all aspects of the marketplace it's delivery. Can you deliver the goods, whether it's yourself, your product, your service, or your word? And all the best intentions and energy won't make it happen if you haven't acquired an adequate level of Vitamin Credential -- education, skill, experience, and resources -- that can back up your business plan and commitment to deliver.

Write this on a rock... Scurvy at sea was once a condition without a cure. We now know it's easily prevented with the application of life-sustaining vitamin C. Preventing professional scurvy is a little more complicated, but like sea-going scurvy since the 18th century, prevention is not a mystery. All it takes is liberal applications of the four kinds of Professional Vitamin C.

Jim Blasingame
Small Business Expert and host of The Small Business Advocate Show
©2008 All Rights Reserved

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