“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
– Albert Einstein
My mentor at Microsoft used to share this Chinese proverb occasionally as a reminder that things are not always as they appear to be… more to follow after you read the proverb.
One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So, he left his horse loose to go to the mountains and live out the rest of its life.
Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Maybe so? Maybe not”.
Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.
Word got out in the village of the old farmer’s good fortune and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck. “How fortunate you are!”, they exclaimed. You must be very happy!” Again, the farmer softly said, “Maybe so? Maybe not.”
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer’s son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one, villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune. “Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself; how will you survive? You must be very sad”, they said. Calmly going about his usual business, the farmer answered, “Maybe so? Maybe not.”
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor’s army. As it happened the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. “What very good fortune you have!”, the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Maybe so, maybe not!”, replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.
As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again, the neighbors came to pay their condolences. “Oh, what bad luck. Too bad for you!” But the old farmer simply replied; “Maybe so? Maybe not.”
As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able-bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy”, to which the old farmer replied, “Maybe so? Maybe not!”
Tahzoo will be seven years old later this month. It has been an unbelievable experience for me and many of you. We’ve focused on a core set of values and have been consistent in wanting to improve the quality of the customer experience. Good and bad things happen, but the consistency of our values and approach have carried us through. Earlier this week I had an important customer meeting cancel at the last moment; I was disappointed at first, but then reminded myself of the proverb. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes the real value is just obscured to me at that time.
All of us get bogged down evaluating the moment. When things do not go according to plan, it’s easy to let disappointment or negative emotions take hold. For me, the moral of the story is to take the long view, enjoy the journey, and live your life by a core set of values.
Tahzoo was started with values in mind. We have an aspirational goal of improving the quality of the customer experience. We are in a good place these days – the company is making great strides and I am pleased with our progress this year. Let’s try not to get too excited or too disappointed at the moment but focus on continuing to do the hard work to make Tahzoo great.
Let’s go be great,