Early American fur magnate John Jacob Astor was a brilliant opportunist who outsmarted his competitors.
As the best fur trapping grounds moved west into the Rockies, Astor saw the need for a western entrance.
But his chief competitor, the Northwest Co. of Montreal, also sought a western entrance.
While Canadians tried and failed again and again by land, Astor sent a ship around Cape Horn, establishing a fort at the mouth of the Columbia River. Six weeks later, a Canadian expedition showed up … six weeks late.
If Astor had not taken the easier route, Oregon might now be Canadian.
The lesson: Blazing a trail isn’t always the best way to lead.
— Adapted from Masters of Enterprise, H.W. Brands, Free Press.