Monday, January 10, 2011

Secret to Growth: The Power of No, Part 2

Last week, we told the sad tale of Stone Soup: The Sequel, where Hok failed to exercise the power of no in decision making.  This week, we have our second tale about the constraining power of no....

The Tale of Cinderedna
Once upon a time in 16th century France, there were two cousins, Ella and Edna.  Now as tended to happen back then, a terrible plague ravaged the land.  Ella's mother and both Edna's parents died.  In Ella's case, her father remarried and her story has since become well known.

In Edna's case, being an orphan, she was shuttled from relative to relative until she eventually found a home with a distant uncle, a wealthy merchant.  The merchant and his wife had a daughter about Edna's age named Prosperia.

But the upbringing of the two girls could not have been more different.  While Prosperia lacked for nothing, Edna had little but the clothes upon her back.  But being a resourceful girl, she learned how to do things for others in exchange for things she needed.  She would make deliveries for the local tailor, who in turn, taught her how to sew and provided her with leftover cloth from his workshop.  Where others saw scraps, she saw opportunities.

Whereas Prosperia lived in a beautiful, spacious room, Edna lived in a windowless, converted pantry.  But Edna, being a creative girl, did laundry for a local painter who in turn provided her with pigments and lessons.  Soon her tiny room was brightened up by beautiful murals and designs.

While Prosperia ate only the best and as much of anything she wanted, Edna had to make due with leftovers from the family meal, usually vegetables that Prosperia wouldn't eat in favor of the cakes, pastries, and meats she preferred.  Combined with the fact that Edna worked very hard doing most of the family's cleaning, laundry, and other chores, as Edna got older, she grew into a slender, healthy young woman.

Her cousin, on the other hand, grew fat and soft, catching frequent colds that caused her to miss school often.  (Edna, of course, was not allowed to go to school.)  To compensate, Edna was forced to fetch Prosperia's books and assignments from school and help her cousin with her studies.  Thus Edna taught herself to read and gained an education.

Prosperia had plenty of idle time with which to amuse herself.  And she frittered most of it away on frivolous play. Easily bored, Prosperia tended to drop things when they became difficult, preferring to flit to the next amusement.  Edna, with little free time, learned to set goals, plan ahead, and use her time effectively.  She learned how to persevere when things became difficult, and thus became quite skilled in many things.

Eventually, the two girls grew up.  Edna left home and became a successful dressmaker.  Her designs became legendary and eventually caught the attention of the King of France, who invited her to court.  There she captivated the heart of one of the king's younger sons and eventually married him.  And after a long and happy life, she died at the ripe old age of 96.

Prosperia, on the other hand, never left home.  In spite of the efforts of her parents to introduce her to court, having never cultivated any but the most superficial education, no skills, and only the most trivial interests, her rather dull personality failed to attract any suitors.  Because of her sickly constitution, she eventually caught pneumonia and died at the rather young age of 32.

Constraints force efficiencies and remove potential distractions.  Constraints force decisions to be made.  By forcing choices, constraints foster focus and an understanding of what is core to success.  Constraints are the external no's by which creativity is unleashed in a startup.

Related Posts:
The Power of Yes
Secret to Growth:  The Power of No, Part 1

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