The following short story is one of the great secrets for entrepreneurial success.
I tell it in my upcoming book BOLD (Feb 3rd, 2015), but wanted to share it with you now.
It originally came in the form of a children’s book.
Here’s the summary of the story, with my interpretation…
A long time ago, in a tiny medieval village, a farmer spotted three soldiers on the edge of town.
Knowing what would likely happen next, he ran into the marketplace shouting a warning: “Quick, close the doors, lock the windows! There are hungry soldiers coming and they’ll take away all our food.”
The soldiers were in fact hungry.
When they enter the village, they start knocking on doors, asking for something to eat.
The first villager told them that his cupboards were bare. At the next, the second villager tells them the same. The next door doesn’t even open.
Finally one of the starving soldiers says, “I have an idea—let’s make stone soup.”
With that he knocks on yet another door. “Excuse me,” he says to the villager, “do you have a cauldron and some firewood? We would like to make some stone soup.”
The villager, thinking there’s no risk, says, “Soup from stones? This I’ve got to see. Sure, I’ll help.” So she gives them a cauldron and some firewood while another soldier gets some water.
They bring the water to a boil and place three large stones in the pot.
News spreads around the town and the villagers begin to gather. “Soup from stones,” they say. “This we have to see. I had no idea you can make soup from stones,” says one villager.
“Sure can,” reply the soldiers.
Eventually, tired of standing around, another villager asks, “Can I help?”
“Perhaps,” says a soldier, “if you had a few potatoes to spare, that would make the stone soup even better.”
The villager quickly fetches some potatoes and adds them to the pot of simmering stones.
Another asks, “How can I help?”
“Well, a dozen carrots would sure make the soup even better.” The villager fetches some carrots. Soon others are adding poultry, barley, garlic, and leeks.
After a while one of the soldiers calls out, “It’s done,” and shares the soup with everyone to taste and enjoy.
The villagers are heard saying, “Soup from stones! It tastes fantastic. I had no idea.”
Why this is such a good metaphor
I’ve come to believe that making stone soup is the only way an entrepreneur can succeed at the big and bold.
The stones are, of course, your passion, your labor and your big bold idea; the contributions of the villagers are the capital, resources, and intellectual support offered by investors and strategic partners.
Everyone who adds a small amount to your stone soup is in fact helping to make your dream come true.
Most important in making stone soup work is your passion. People love passion. People love to contribute to passion. And you can’t fake it.
The human BS detector is great at spotting the inauthentic player: the used car salesman, the carnival barker, and the disingenuous politician always rub us the wrong way.
Passion is a trickier subject than most assume.
So what kind of passion works well? John Hagel, co-founder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, calls it the passion of the true believer.
“In Silicon Valley we have many examples of the true believer,” says Hagel. “These are great entrepreneurs [who] are truly passionate about a very specific path and are notoriously not open to alternative views or approaches. Their passion is enduring and it does focus, but it can also be blind—leading the entrepreneur to reject critical input that does not match their preconceived views.”
Passionate people are deeply creative in seeking out and pulling in the resources they need to pursue their passion, but it goes farther than that.
“People who pursue their passions inevitably create beacons that attract others who share their vision,” says Hagel. “Few of these beacons are consciously created; they are byproducts of pursuing one’s passion. Passionate people share their creations widely, leaving tracks for others to find them.”
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