Goodness knows you’ve heard enough of this if you have me on facebook (and if you dont, why not?), but I thought, what better way to say good riddance to my monster, life-sucking sociology paper once and for all than by sending it off with a dedicated blog post!? And with all the capoeira time it stole from me, it might as well give something back. 😄 So without further ado, here is what you as a capoeirista can learn from the biggest and most sensational bankruptcy and business scandal in U.S. history:
Enron was one of the largest and fastest growing energy and trade companies in the U.S., until it very publicly went bust in 2001, taking along all of its investors, stockholders, and employees with it. The company turned out to be a case study in corruption, with accounting fraud, insider trading, conflict of interest issues, the works. The CEO, COO, and CFO were all brilliant men who used their genius for purely personal gain, at the expense of everyone else. In a way, Enron’s executives were kind of like white-collar malandros—except, of course, a real malandro would never have gotten caught. So, what did they do wrong, and how can we profit from their mistakes inside the capoeira roda?
1. Bad Planning / Not Thinking Ahead
Some people say Enron was doomed from the beginning, for two reasons. First, one of their early branches was caught for corporate crime and they didn’t really do anything about it, opening the way to more corruption in the future. Second, part of the reason behind the “creative accounting” was Enron trying to succeed in two contradicting business strategies: one needed them to invest money and suck up a lot of debt, but the other needed them to have good credit (ie. no debt), so obviously, something had to give. Both these cases showed poor planning and a lack of thinking ahead.
When you go into the roda, what are you thinking? Do you buy in with a certain goal in mind, or just jump in ready to wing it? Although you can’t—and shouldn’t—actually buy into rodas determined to roll out entire set sequences no matter what, it can’t hurt to focus your game just a little. Especially if you’re a beginner, a super helpful tip I read that works for me is to think of just one move, like a kick or a certain esquiva that you really want to master, and try to fit that somewhere into the game when you get the chance. As you become more advanced, you can start buying in with things like a specific feint combo or a certain floreio in mind.
By having these one or two tiny goals each time you play a game in capoeira, you practice looking for opportunities and integrating those movements into your game. At the same time, by keeping them simple you are not distracting or restricting yourself from going along with the general flow of the game and being able to work with whatever happens.
2. Digging the Hole Deeper
One of Enron’s schemes involved making up basically fake companies specifically to “do business” with them, so they could record the “profits” and push their debt onto the records of the other companies. When Enron started losing more money, instead of coming clean, they ended up pushing more and more debt onto the fake companies, so that by the end they’d hidden over $1 billion in losses, which of course only made things worse when they were found out anyway.
Does this situation sound familiar? You’re playing someone in the roda, and decide you want to get them with rasteira. You miss the first time, but instead of withdrawing you keep on trying, and get so caught up in giving (bad) rasteira after (sloppy) rasteira that you practically forget about actually playing the game. (And if that didn’t sound familiar to you…ummm…me neither. XD)
If an attempted take-down fails, give yourself time to recover. “Retreat”, let yourself ginga, and continue with the flow of the game; then try again when a good opportunity comes up. By recognizing when something you tried didn’t work and cutting your losses instead of building them upon each other, you give yourself a chance to regroup, which will increase your chances of success overall.
3. Not Taking Advice
One of the more sensational moments in the Enron scandal was when a then-anonymous memo sent to Enron’s CEO came out, telling him about the iffy business going on and advising him to do something about it. Of course, the CEO was already somewhat aware of what was happening, and instead of bringing in outsiders to investigate, as the memo advised, he assigned the investigation to Enron’s own auditors and lawyers—who were in on their schemes to begin with! Then he did nothing else, until it all came crashing down on his head.
This one’s pretty obvious. If someone has something to tell you, listen to them! Whether it’s your teacher, another student during training, or—if you’re lucky enough to understand Portuguese—a mestre singing certain lyrics while you’re playing inside the roda, more often than not you’ll benefit from hearing what they have to say. Conversely, if you ignore or miss out on advice or information, you can easily end up making an ignorant fool of yourself!
4. Bad Timing
Kenneth Lay (Enron’s CEO) and his wife Linda Lay definitely did not show a lot of malicía when it came to insider trading. Kenneth was caught out for sending an email to all of Enron’s employees encouraging them to not sell their stock but to buy more, calling it “an incredible bargain”, while he was selling off all his own shares of the stock at the same time. As for Linda, one day between 10:00-10:20am, she sold off all her foundation’s shares of Enron stock. At 10:30am, Enron released news that basically said the company would soon go into bankruptcy. Coincidence, much?
Even if you won’t be criminally charged for it, having bad timing in the roda never helps. Someone chapas their opponent straight into the chest? Think twice before you buy in. Going in for a take-down? Wait till you’re not right beside the instruments! Whether it’s something as basic as esquiva-ing the right way at the right time or making sure your opponent is actually where you’re kicking, or something requiring more finesse like a feint and last-minute trap, don’t let a few measly seconds or minutes be the cause of your demise.
This also applies to the timing of your overall game and movement—that is, your rhythm. Have you ever seen someone moving a little too quickly and frantically for the berimbau toque that was playing? It looks just as funny when you’re the one doing it (and does nothing for your game, either!). 😛
5. Telling Too Many People
After all was said and done, the Enron fiasco turned out to be an entire ring of corruption: everyone from the Board of Directors, to their accountants, to their bank partners, to credit raters and Wall Street analysts seemed to have been in on it in one way or another. With all these accomplices and potential witnesses, do you think prosecutors had much trouble making their case against Enron?
Similarly, I’m reminded of what I read in Greg Downey’s Learning Capoeira. He said that old mestres were shocked that modern day capoeiristas actually tattooed capoeira images onto themselves, because in the pre-acceptance days, you wanted to announce anything but the fact you were a capoeirista! The fewer the people who knew, the better. Others are more likely to let down their guard if you give them no reason to put one up, and this is related to something on the Capoeira Connection list that Faisca posted: “When you play with a stranger, don’t show all of your game. Save your best hits for the decisive hour, if necessary.”
Even if you’re not playing any strangers, it could be a good idea to draw on some subtlety and/or modesty as you add new moves to your repertoire. Not only does nobody like a braggart, but the element of surprise is always invaluable (and gratifying :P) when you’re playing capoeira in the roda!
Well, now that you’ve learned more than you ever felt you needed to know about Enron Corporation…you know how I’ve felt for the past two weeks! But I hope you got something for capoeira out of the lessons they learned, so that you can avoid being taught them yourself in the roda. Axé!