Dissecting the goose with the golden egg

Yes, this is about dissecting the goose with the golden egg (pun intended)

Here are a couple of my earlier rants about stories with flawed logic.

The goose and the golden egg is a popular story that will lead to conclusions like:

a. Greed is not good

b. Focusing only on short-term can lead to problems in the long-term

Here is the story for those who missed it

There was once a countryman who possessed a goose that laid golden eggs. Every morning he would find one glittering golden egg. The countryman tooke the egg to the market, sell it and bring back the money. Soon he was rich. Very rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the goose because she gave him only ONE golden egg everyday. At this rate, he thought he can’t get rich fast enough. He was basically becoming more greedy.

Then one day he got a (brilliant) idea. He thought if he cut open the goose, he can get all the golden eggs at one shot and he could become VERY rich. So, he went ahead and cut open the goose. He not only did not find a single golden egg inside but he also lost the goose that would have given him one golden egg everyday for a long time.

OK that was the story and motivational speakers use this story to draw conclusions stated above.

Before you scroll down and read the rest of this article, I wanted you to stop and think if you see any issues with what has been said. ANY issues?

Here is ONE perspective to this whole thing. I think this story and the way conclusions are drawn are so flawed that I don’t even know where to start. So here it goes:

1. Think about the way the story ends and the conclusions drawn. It almost makes you feel that the Countryman did a mistake by cutting open the goose that laid the golden egg. If that was a mistake, it gives you an impression that NOT cutting open the goose was the RIGHT thing to do – meaning the Countryman should have continued to expect one golden egg everyday as long as the goose was alive. Question: Is that greed or what?

2. The reason for which the Countryman killed the goose was wrong. Being an entrepreneur I have to think in terms of business. I would say it was the RIGHT thing to do. When you build a business, sometimes you have a good thing going and it appears like a goose with a golden egg. You become complacent and assume that there is an implicit guarantee (like the Countryman expecting ONE golden egg everyday) but in reality there is none. Some new startup somewhere can obliterate the business model in record time. So in essence, you have to be willing to kill your darlings before others do. In that sense, the Countryman actually did the RIGHT thing. Now he has no option but to go and earn real money.

3. The reason for drawing the second conclusion is also flawed. The second conclusion is that by focusing solely on short-term, we may have problems in the long-term. I like the conclusion but the basis for that conclusion should not be this story. It seems like if he had NOT killed the goose everything would have been fine. Think about it – if he didn’t kill the goose, he is making a couple of assumptions

a. the goose will continue to lay golden eggs

b. the goose won’t die of other causes

If he had not killed the goose, he would have taken care of his long-term needs? How? I think he would have become a vegetable by becoming more complacent day by day. In essence, he really woke up by killing the goose.

4. Last but not the least – if this story really happened, we know that the Countryman was VERY lucky. What are the chances that this kind of thing repeating? Same as winning big money in gambling I suppose. Are we saying that if you get lucky once (get ONE golden egg) we now have the RIGHT to CONTINUE to get lucky (expect golden eggs everyday)???

Parting thought:

I am sure you have your own perspectives on this. When I discussed this with select groups, there was a huge resistance from some people who I think were REALLY in love with the story and were DEFENDING it to the core. I have nothing against this or any other story (remember, my first four books were novels.) My only point is that we have to be very critical of the way the conclusions are drawn from a story or a discussion or an article or anything. If you miss that in a story what is the guarantee that you won’t miss that in your NEXT big deal?

Update: Here is one more perspective on the story. I try to rip apart the logic in the story and PicoBusiness rips apart the logic in my logic. We can continue the argument but the idea is not to win or prove anything. Take a simple story and see how many ways you can slice it. Enjoy 🙂