Tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are. We’ve heard it before; it is one of the biggest popular sayings ever. Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are. This one is attributed to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a notable French politician from the late 18th century. He is considered the father of the low-carbohydrate diet. He cared about what he put into his body, he wanted to be healthy. He is buried at the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. This is the same place where Jim Morrison lays. He ended there earlier than supposed to, because of what he put into his body.

As an entrepreneur, who are you hanging with? What are you putting into your body?

Streptomyces erythreus is the bacterium that produces Erythromycin. It is a living organism, like us. As I learned in Biochemistry, it is alive because it has and can reproduce its DNA. Anything that can do that is alive. Since its discovery in the middle of the 20th century, Erythromycin has become a widely used antibiotic. We, humans, control its production because we control the living organism that produces it. We can direct it; we can control its metabolism.

You can take a test tube with a colony of this bacterium, empty it into a one liter flask, give it some food (called media), and its individuals will multiply based on how much food there is until there is no more food and they are all cramped together. This would take a few days in a lab. Since you can run lab tests that tell you are reaching capacity, before they all die, you can then take this one liter flask, and empty it into a 6,000 liter tank, with more food in it. In 48 hours, the population will grow vigorously, and it will get really cramped and short of food again. At this time, you can empty that tank into a 100,000 liter tank, with the same food in it again, and the cycle will repeat. You could continue to do this forever, and they will multiply like rabbits, but to a power equivalent a number probably in the same league as Avogadro’s (look this up). I haven’t done the calculations, I could be exaggerating here, but I hope you get my point.

Well, we don’t do this forever. What we actually do is take the population after it has landed in the 100,000 liter tank, and feed it the same food, but only for a bit over one day and a half. Then you make a slight change it its food. You supplement it with a steady feed of a particular organic oil. It changes the bacteria metabolism, and instead of multiplying, they each become little Erythromycin factories. They metabolize this oil into the valuable product you want. You can do this for about an additional 6 days, and by that time, it gets cramped again. The big difference is that a lot of the cramped space is taken up by the antibiotic and the rest by the working organisms. At this time you stop the action, harvest the tank, and separate the antibiotic from the mix. Voilà, this is how humans control and direct otherwise dynamic, complex, biochemical natural processes to get a lifesaving, valuable product.

We, at the top of the food chain, have the capacity to learn how to direct and control all the lower species in amazing ways, such as the one above. History has shown that some people have been able to control others. But there is a big general difference between us at the top and the rest of creation’s living organisms. We can control ourselves.

We are not bacteria, all mixed in a lump, undistinguishable from each other. Physically we may end up in the same place, like Brillat-Savarin and Morrison, but what each one of us achieves to move the ball forward for the rest of the crowd is a product of what we feed our minds and our souls. We owe our continually increasing standard of living to the innovators and entrepreneurs who make the right choices and shift their metabolism into a value producing one. In many ways it depends on who you are hanging with, and what you are consuming. As an entrepreneur, make sure you make solid choices.

Our View from the Top – November 20, 2018