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Jonathan Chen Kresta/ 2nd period

The Fear Factor


Frequently, people make decisions without thinking ahead to the potential consequences of their judgments. Often times, these choices are made under the influence of fear, one of the most powerful emotions that control the way a human being acts in certain circumstances. As the individuals in Beowulf, The Accidental Billionaires, and the fall of Kodak demonstrated, there is an inherent danger in letting fear lead to jaundiced decision-making. It is no secret that people are generally hesitant about changing from the old to the new; understandably, when the old still works perfectly fine, there is no need to abandon the proven model of success. Thus, when analyzed in retrospect, it is rather easy to understand the sequence of events that culminated in Eastman Kodaks recently declared bankruptcy in late January 2012. Kodak was not the victim of a sudden collapse management failed to exploit the potential of the digital market, instead milking its household name and brand recognition to profit in the incredibly successful multimillion dollar forays that made it the undisputed leader of 20th century photography: disposable film and disposable cameras that anyone could afford. Yet, in the cruelest irony, Kodak was more than ahead of its competitors - it actually invented the digital camera. But by lacking the managerial foresight to diversify and pour extensive resources into the research and development so as to remain at the forefront of the industry, Kodak self-induced a spiraling decline, and the first harbinger of a grim future can be traced back to the day it dropped from the Dow Jones in 2004, after being listed for 74 years. (businessweek.com). The rapid stratification of photography into two major categories, high-quality digital cameras and cell phone cameras only sped up the demise of the Kodak moment, and the release of each new generation of 21st century smartphones increasingly ate away at Kodak's old niche in the photography world. After all, with an iPhone 4S that flaunts a formidable 8 megapixel camera

Jonathan Chen Kresta/ 2nd period

and 1080p HD video recording, there is no need to buy an extra point-and-shoot camera to carry along: the extra unit is an obvious contradiction to the movement toward consolidation for portability. Kodak became irrelevant because it did not transition fast enough. The innovative work Kodak accomplished really brought photography to the masses. Kodak cameras allowed us to take pictures, and Kodak film allowed us to accurately reproduce those pictures - this technology was not trivial. However, with the invention of computers, hard drives, and cloud databases that allow files to be uploaded and stored online, archival for the family was no longer a pressing need, and so the necessity of Kodaks products waned. There is a very real lesson here - to the inefficient, be ready to be thrown out into the street. If Kodak had embraced the digital movement instead of lagging along because it feared ruining its incredibly successful business model at the time, it would assuredly be in fantastic shape today. The cautious route is usually the safer route in the presence of fear, but Kodaks hard fall suggests that the bigger the risk invested in expanding to stay ahead of the changing times, the bigger the ultimate reward. Likewise, the Anglo-Saxons of the Middle Ages offered their own schools of thought about the perils of being influenced by fearful emotions. In the classic Beowulf, the protagonist faced death in several situations, but routinely overcame fear to emerge victorious. Beowulf knew no meaning of fear, as his confident encounters with the sea monsters [crowding] around [him], continually attacking (559-560) demonstrated. Similarly, in his quest to purge Heorot of Grendels pillaging, Beowulf exclaimed, Grendel is no braver, no stronger than I am (677678)! Beowulf approached every situation believing in his abilities, knowing that he would seize the day no matter the opponent. The courageous manor he portrayed is the telltale sign of a genuine hero. By exhibiting the courage and selflessness to risk his life for the greater cause, Beowulf is deservedly the most celebrated hero of Anglo-Saxon times.

Jonathan Chen Kresta/ 2nd period

On the contrary, Beowulfs warriors ran for their lives [and] fled deep in a wood (2598-2599) in trepidation of the dragons flamethrowers. Only Wiglaf harbored the loyalty to come to the aid of his king, [showing] his courage, his strength and skill, and the boldness he was born with (2695-2697). Naturally, he chided the other warriors for [being] cowards, [dropping their] swords as soon as the danger was real (2871-2872). In the context of the Anglo-Saxon culture, heroism was valued perhaps more than anything else, so the warriors brash decision to abandon their king in the face of fear further accentuates the poems theme of not letting emotions dictate hasty actions. Instead of taking advantage of the skills that they had honed for years, the warriors bailed on a prime opportunity to display bravery and courage, qualities of the heroic code. Instead, the dragon inflicted a terminal wound to Beowulf, and the tragic conclusion suggests that the consequences of fear-driven decisions are often hard to escape. Perhaps a better name for Joe Green is the Facebook roommate that is never heard of. He too was a student at Harvard University in 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg urged him to drop out of the Ivy League school to join him in founding his social media website. Green declined, which prompts a debate on what can be considered today as a $400 million mistake. In retrospect, it is easy to sympathize with Greens hesitation. We'd gotten into a little bit of trouble [with Harvard] with Facemash (Mezrich, 51), Green recalls, referring to the "hot-or-not" website that the Harvard students created to allow visitors to judge the looks of people online. Although hacking into the university's online picture library of students got the students into a quagmire, Facemash epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit that would later make the founders famous. Nevertheless, with the salient memory of a project gone wrong and the threat of expulsion still resonating in his conscience, Green had no intention of getting involved in another internet start-

Jonathan Chen Kresta/ 2nd period

up. Another source of conflict that influenced Greens decision was his father, who as a professor was not too happy with the prospect of me getting kicked out of school" (Mezrich, 55), Green recounted. Yet, even though he wasn't one of the original founders of Facebook in full, Green helped Zuckerberg create the website's predecessor before he severed ties. The rest is history. On February 1st, 2012, Facebook filed a $500 million initial public offering, and Zuckerberg is now worth an estimated $17.5 billion (gma.yahoo.com). Perhaps it was a sign that suggests that consequences are often hard to escape? Again, the idea that a big risk holds potential for a big reward is revisited, and the pros and cons of calculated risk are entertained. For the rest of his life, Joe Green will probably live with regret for the $400 million mistake that he made when the fear factor got the best of him. The multitude of choices that Eastman Kodak, Joe Green, and the individuals in Beowulf made collectively exemplify the perils of reacting selfishly in fearful situations, while also showing the unpredictability that is the essence of life. People are confronted with choices all the time how they choose to deal with them is what ultimately matters.

Jonathan Chen Kresta/ 2nd period

Works Cited
Faffel, Burton, trans. Beowulf. 1st ed. Signet Classics, 2008. Print. Kerley, David. "$400M Facebook "Mistake"" Http://gma.yahoo.com/. Yahoo! Good Morning America, 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 02 Feb. 2012. <http://gma.yahoo.com/causes-founders400m-facebook-mistake-082306041--abc-news.html>. Mezrich, Ben. The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal. New York: Anchor, 2010. Print. "Mistakes Made On The Road To Innovation." Businessweek - Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. 27 Nov. 2006. Web. 02 Feb. 2012. <http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_48/b4011421.htm>.