Don’t Lose Your Way: A True and Tragic Story

Back in the 1800’s, a photograph required hiring a professional with cumbersome equipment.  But, George Eastman just wanted to take pictures.  That’s him in the photo.  So in 1888, he invented flexible roll film and a camera that came preloaded with that film.  He named his company, Kodak.  Why Kodak?  Apparently George liked the letter “K”.  Other than that, the name is meaningless.

He took his idea and presented it at a technology symposium, kind of like what CES is today.  No one liked it.  They said the pictures were too grainy.  The quality and sharpness wasn’t on par with the professionals. 

But, George didn’t make his camera for professionals; he made it for people.  People who just wanted to take pictures.  Take the pictures, mail the camera to Kodak, and you get the prints.  As the slogan went, “You press the button, we do the rest.”

Built on that, Kodak became one of the most successful companies ever. 

Jump to 1974, when Kodak invented the digital camera.  Yep, it was them, but check this out: When the design engineer presented the digital camera to the board of shareholders, they didn’t like it.  They said, and get this … the pictures were too grainy.  The quality and sharpness wasn’t good enough.  Hmm … sounds familiar.

That was the argument anyway.  The real reason was that Kodak made a lot of money on photo development: film, chemicals, and equipment.  A digital camera would cut into those profits.  However, the shareholders did patent the technology for the digital camera, but decided to sit on it for ten years.

During that time, other manufacturers developed their digital cameras, happy to pay Kodak patent royalties.  But, when the patents ran out, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.  And that was that.

George Eastman’s vision, to put a camera in the hands of the people, reinvented the photograph.  Kodak had the opportunity to do it once again and chose not to, for the sake of profits.  The heart and soul of why Kodak even existed, was forgotten and ignored. 

When we ignore our soul … okay, let me clarify something real quick; when I say “soul”, it’s not a religious or spiritual thing.  It’s who we are.  It is the core of our being; our … “why”.  When we ignore that, we lose.  We might gain financially, but we lose something priceless.

However, we can’t ignore reality.  Our path through life, will twist and turn.  We have to eat and pay the bills after all, but we should never lose our way.  An actor, who happens to be a bartender.  A yoga instructor who works at a bank.  A musician working construction and a writer who’s in sales.  This is navigating the process.  Along the way, our soul should always be with us. 

Kodak lost its way and ignored its soul.  The yoga instructor never became a yogi, because the money at the bank was too good to pass up.  And then the bank closed its doors. 

However challenging, hold onto your values.  Don’t lose your way.  Enjoy the process (okay; sometimes it sucks), but be happy. 

Our soul is priceless.

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