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“Dorothy lived in the middle of the vast prairies of Kansas, with her Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and her Aunt Em, his wife.” The first sentence of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by the American writer, Lyman Frank Baum , seems simple, although in reality it is not. It speaks of an ordinary world — the book was first published in 1900 — of an ordinary girl, her farm uncles, and a place as mundane as Kansas City.
She talks about the everyday, although from the beginning she subtly reveals the immense hole in the little girl’s life: her parents are not even mentioned. Dorothy is an orphan, accompanied in her misery only by Toto, her faithful dog. She lives hoping to find her way out of a world inhabited by adults, saturated with rules, scolding and hostile people who reprimand her day and night.
This is where we identify with Dorothy’s story.
Because who has not felt trapped and burdened by the rules of their ordinary world? Who does not have enormous deficiencies, even if he is not an orphan? Who does not daydream? Who does not whisper to his dog his desire to escape from the routine, to dare to live differently, to undertake?
On August 25, it will be 82 years since the premiere of the movie The Wizard of Oz . Based on the novel by Frank Baum and directed by Victor Fleming, the film has become a true cult object that has captivated generations and generations of viewers and inspired creators to tell stories based on Dorothy’s journey (to name just a few: Elton John, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, David Lynch, Salman Rushdie, and brothers Ethan and Joel Coen).
Over the years, various interpretations have been made of the meaning of The Wizard of Oz and the film’s eightieth anniversary serves as a pretext to appreciate it from a new perspective: as an allegory of entrepreneurship .
THE SCRIPTURE, THE OZ OF FRANK BAUM
Although the term had not even been invented in 1900, Lyman Frank Baum was a true entrepreneur . After being forced to abandon his studies at a military academy due to a weak and sickly heart condition, the young man turned his strength to writing stories to later print them in a simple printing press that his father had given him. From home and with the help of his brother Harry Clay, Frank produced several newspapers in which he sold advertising and distributed discount coupons. Before considering himself a writer, the young man tried his hand at working in the family’s oil company, raising poultry and marketing products in his own store. But for Frank none of that was out of the ordinary. What he was really passionate about was writing and putting on plays in a theater built by his wealthy father. He dreamed that these would be successful and become a business that allowed him to dedicate himself body and soul to his passion. But success did not come and Frank always ended up in debt and forced to find some other source of income.
In 1888 he founded his own newspaper, but after another failure he was forced to work in the commercial area of the Chicago Evening Post. In 1897, thinking of entertaining his children, Frank Baum wrote his first children’s story: Mother Goose in Prose and later Father Goose, His Book . But it would be the story that he would publish with the arrival of the new century that would change his life: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz . The story of little Dorothy Gale was critically acclaimed and became the best-selling children’s book for two years in a row.
From that moment on, Frank’s existence would revolve around Oz. He turned his story into a theatrical version (simply titled The Wizard of Oz ) that hit Broadway and toured the entire American Union extensively. In addition, in total he published 14 books located in the magical world of Oz.
Lyman Frank Baum passed away on May 6, 1919 without being able to imagine that 20 years later Dorothy would star in one of the most important films in the history of cinema.
THE TORNADO, THE HARTAZGO OR THE LIQUIDATION
Our essence is the same as Dorothy’s. Like her, we can become confused, scared and helpless. Suddenly it may seem that nothing makes sense: we exist in a place where we do not belong. We wake up routinely, without passion and when we speak no one listens to us. It happens to Dorothy with her uncles eternally busy with the work of a farm located in a field of cloudy and threatening skies. It can happen to us at home, at school, or in a workplace where we feel trapped, invisible, or deeply unmotivated. And just like the girl does, we wish that somewhere on the other side of the rainbow, there could be a better place for us.
Sometimes we arm ourselves with courage and out of our own conviction, we go out to find the path that can lead us back to ourselves. At other times we need a tornado of disaster to shake us up and throw us into a place where the rules are different.
In either case and irremediably, we will be put to the test.
THE WISDOM OF A SPANTABIR
It is one thing to want to walk the paths of the fantastic world of entrepreneurship and quite another to be forced to do so. I suppose Dorothy would say the same: discussed, the world of Oz seems wonderful, but seen up close it is terrifying. A place inhabited by little Munchkins, dragons and winged monkeys. By witches who rule the various cardinal points and by a mysterious and powerful wizard who promises to have the answer to all the questions in the universe.
Dragged by a tornado and torn from her home, Dorothy has no choice but to find a way to return home armed with red slippers that she receives upon reaching the magical land. Once she understands her situation, she assumes it and makes a decision: to set out on a strange yellow path that should take her to the Emerald City, where the powerful wizard lives, the only being in all of Oz who could help her. Upon reaching a fork, the girl bumps into a Scarecrow who confesses that he is incapable of making decisions. Without a brain to think, the strange being lives condemned to eternal doubt and, inadvertently, warns Dorothy of the risks of indecision.
When we start a business we will inevitably find multiple forks in the road. Every day we will have to make decisions and knowing how to do it is crucial. Sometimes, faced with the novelty of a process, we could feel like the scarecrow: without the necessary knowledge to choose the best option. In reality, Dorothy has no information other than the Scarecrow on which path to take, but her conviction to find her destination is stronger than the noise that burdens her head. Confident in her instincts, the girl makes a decision and, without looking back, continues on her way accompanied by a new friend.
THE HEART OF AN ENTREPRENEUR
The second character Dorothy meets on her way is a battered and rusty Tin Man. The girl oils his mouth so that he can tell her his story: more than a year ago he was cutting down a tree when it started to rain. Trapped by his own monotony, the Tin Man continued with his task without realizing that he was slowly rusting away. By freeing him from his paralysis, the metallic being reveals to the girl her true misfortune: whoever built it forgot to give her a heart. Without a heart, there is also no passion. And without passion it is impossible to travel in its entirety a path that could stretch for miles and miles before taking us to our true destination.
Following the path of entrepreneurship implies a great effort. To go through it completely, in order not to falter, you will need each of your heartbeats. To keep moving with passion, even if it rains, even if you feel absolutely lost or stagnant. In the days of darkness, it will be the echo of your own heartbeat that guides you, the one that saves you, the one that helps you not to give up.
THE COURAGE TO BE ABLE TO GO FORWARD
Even if you manage to gather wisdom and heart, there is a crucial and necessary element in the long path of entrepreneurship: courage. The one that the great Lion that Dorothy encounters on the road lacks. Because inevitably you will run into challenges, problems, disagreements and evil witches whose only objective seems to be to tear down everything you have built. It will not be enough that, just as the Lion does when he meets the little girl, you simply show yourself arrogant. No. You will have to be really brave. Keep moving forward, even if there is pain, falls, crises, devaluations or huge losses. It won’t be easy at all and there will be times when you yearn and yearn to be able to go back to a place as ordinary as Kansas or your old job. But the day will also come when, looking back, you can appreciate the path traveled. The pain, the effort and the sleepless nights will have had their reason for being, although you will not understand that until you can discover what is at the end of that yellow path.
THE MEETING WITH THE MAGICIAN. THE ENCOUNTER WITH YOURSELF
After overcoming challenges and dangers, Dorothy and her friends manage to reach the Emerald City. The promised land, full of answers, full of truth. There they meet the great Wizard of Oz, who tells them that in order to grant their wishes (a brain, a heart, courage and a ticket back to Kansas) they must bring him proof that they have defeated the Wicked Witch of the West.
After an arduous battle, Dorothy and her friends return to the wizard with the witch’s broom as an irrefutable proof of their victory, only to discover his great secret: he is nothing more than a human being. An inventor who came to Oz accidentally and there forged his own destiny. The magician gives them material objects as a reward: a diploma for the Scarecrow, a heart-shaped pendant for the Tin Man, and a medal of valor for the Lion. Dorothy offers to take her home in a hot air balloon. The wizard has nothing more to offer them and after a clumsy accident he ends up traveling alone in the balloon, condemning Dorothy to stay forever in the land of Oz.
The effort has been in vain.
It was no use defeating the witch or walking the yellow road. Despair seizes the girl and when all seems lost, Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, appears before her with a revelation: the power to return home has been at Dorothy’s feet all along. I just hit his red shoes a couple of times to get back to Kansas. In reality, the little girl has always been the owner of her destiny, although the only way she could find out was by walking the yellow road.
The same thing happens to every entrepreneur. We have a difficult journey to take that will help us develop brains, hearts and courage. We are like Dorothy and her conviction to walk that path of any color, of any kind. And only when we reach the end can we understand that the truth has always been within ourselves