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Texas ISD School Guide
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Short Stories for Teachers

The Worst Possible Moment Often Provides the Greatest Opportunity

When everything is lost is the best time to try the impossible. History contains many examples of individuals taking bold action and turning around desperate situations. You have more resources than you think. There are more possibilities around than it is apparent to the eye.

Take the case of Venice in the year 1314, with interest rates at 20% that made almost impossible for anyone to borrow money. Since the King of France had forbidden Flemish merchants to take part in the Fairs of Champagne, imports of cloth into Venice had stopped altogether. Without Flemish cloth, Venetian dyers had been forced to fire hundreds of workers, pushing the economy into a deep recession.

Pietro Alvise, the son of a Venetian merchant, did not allow the situation to bring him down. Instead, he made a bold proposal to his father, Luigi Alvise. "What you are proposing is impossible, Pietro," admonished the old man, shaking his head. "Many have tried it before and no one has succeeded. It's better if we wait until the market recovers."

Pietro Alvise looked at his father and took in a deep breath. It was imperative that he found the right words. If he could not convince his own family, how would he be able to convince anyone else? "That's the point, father," he emphasized. "The market is not going to recover. Don't you see the rising interest rates? Aren't our friends going bankrupt one after the other?"

Undecided, the old Alvise stared at his son. Who could deny that the economic situation was catastrophic? "I know that it can be done, father," insisted Pietro. "We don't need the Fairs of Champagne. We can build larger ships, galleys able to sail around Spain and France. We will take leather, spices, and glassware to Bruges and return with a full cargo of cloth."

During the next weeks, Luigi and Pietro Alvise called relentlessly on other merchants in Venice until they managed to line up 100 investors ready to fund the construction of a double-deck galley. The new ship had two masts and weighed 500 tons, something unheard of at that time. Traditional Venetian galleys possessed only one deck and rarely exceeded 200 tons.

Pietro Alvise's double-deck galley was financed, designed, and built in the middle of the worst economic recession that Venice had ever experienced. In June of 1314, the ship sailed away from the Venetian lagoon, arriving two months later in Bruges. The trade expedition was a resounding success, turned around the economy of the area, and served as a basis for Venetian domination of world commerce during the following decades.

JOHN VESPASIAN writes about rational living and is the author of the novel "When Everything Fails, Try This." He has resided in New York, Madrid, Paris and Munich. His stories reflect the values of entrepreneurship, tolerance and self-reliance. See John Vespasian's blog about rational living.


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