Ralph Fink is in his late 50’s. He has thinning hair and deep wrinkles that stretch across his forehead. He wears glasses that have lenses that look more like magnifying glass than readers. He’s mostly blind without them. He probably took a lot of shit in school. In 1991 he opened his business with $10,000 and a busted up van he’d purchased from Hertz. Ralph was in business. It’s was the 90’s. He rode the wave up and felt it collapse all around him…more than once. Now, after all these years, his smile is closer to a grimace than anything else. Yet Fink is one of the most technically gifted men I’ve met in a long time. His passion for motors and electricity and solving the unsolvable has earned him a reputation as something closer to a maestro than a mechanic. His buddies call him their “go to” fella for problems that are out of their depth. Ralph always steers them in the right direction. Yet by now he feels like he should have more to show for his efforts and his sacrifices than a few kind words from friends. More money. A more secure future. A company he can sell. Something that shows the world how he’s turned himself inside out for over twenty years searching for his city of gold. But that’s not the case. His business has grown and shrunk so many times that he’s forgotten what it feels like to have a permanent staff. He’s seen too many fat years followed by too many lean ones. It wears a man out. It breaks most of them. But not The Fantastic Mr. Fink.
Ralph Fink is getting ready to kick FUD’s ass right now.
You know FUD right? Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. It’s old advertising lingo along the lines of “If it bleeds it leads.” It’s a nasty little playground bully who throws his weight around and scares the crap out of the good kids so they’ll cough up their lunch money. FUD also grows up. “Just fall in line,” it blurts, “punch the clock, love your boss, play by the rules (my rules, not your rules you coward), surrender your dreams.” Because if you don’t the earth will crack open and you’ll fall in to lava pit. You’ll die penniless and alone and starving. You’ll be a failure. Convince enough grown-ups to be afraid of enough things and they’ll sacrifice it all in the name of some fantasy called “security.” They’ll peer through their shutters at the neighbors, build big tall fences around their yards, love the jobs they hate, and stop taking any chances They’ll watch t.v. shows called “Doomsday Preppers.” Want institutional conformity? Just scare the hell out of enough people and they’ll all start falling in line. But like a playground bully, FUD needs to be gut-punched just once and it whimpers away–erased forever.
The Fantastic Mr. Fink is done with Fear. Fear about taking new chances with his business. Fear about making a bad hire. Fear about changing the very things that are holding him back. He’s kicking Uncertainty to the curb. Done asking unanswerable questions. What will happen to the economy? What are customers saying about me? When will it get better? And he’s done with Doubt. Done doubting that he can build the business that he wants to build. Done doubting that he’s got what it takes to get where he wants to go. Done listening to the haters, skeptics, and gossips. He’s done with all of it. He is setting himself free from invented limitations and self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead, he’s choosing himself. For the first time in years The Fantastic Mr. Fink is choosing himself over everything else.
The Fantastic Mr. Fink is finally realizing that he is in control and that he is worth far more than what FUD told him was worth. He’s looking inside of himself and realizing there’s still a spark, a fight, an Urge. Ralph Fink is accepting the fact that his actions and thoughts shaped his behaviors. And he’s holding himself accountable for the fact that he’s let FUD hold sway for too long. Now, right now, he is going to be the best version of The Fantastic Mr. Fink possible. It’s already there, inside of him, he just hasn’t been letting it rip.
“You touched a nerve,” he said to me. We were finishing up our work together. He was smiling in a weird way. We both knew what he meant. And we both know what he’s going to do about it. The Fantastic Mr. Fink, my friend, will be fearless.