I was mentioning the other day that my philosophy seemed to be based on a lot of older principles that seemed to have fallen radically out of favor in recent generations. As an example, I offered this Aesop’s fable, which I have always liked a lot.
A Lark, who had Young Ones in a field of corn which was almost ripe, was afraid lest the reapers should come before her young brood were fledged. Every day, therefore, when she flew away to look for food, she charged them to take notice of what they heard in her absence, and to tell her of it when she returned. One day when she was gone, they heard the master of the field say to his son that the corn seemed ripe enough to be cut, and tell him to go early tomorrow and desire their friends and neighbours to come and help to reap it.
When the old Lark came home, the Little Ones fell quivering and chirping around her, and told her what had happened, begging her to remove them as fast as she could. The mother bade them to be easy, “for,” said she, “if he depends upon his friends and his neighbours, I am sure the corn will not be reaped tomorrow.” Next day she went out again, and left the same orders as before. The owner came, and waited. The sun grew hot, but nothing was done, for not a soul came. “You see,” said he to his son, “these friends of ours are not to be depended upon, so run off at once to your uncles and cousins, and say I wish them to come betimes to-morrow morning and help us to reap.” This the Young Ones, in a great fright, reported also to their mother.” Do not be frightened, children,” said she; “kindred and relations are not always very forward in helping one another; but keep your cars open, and let me know what you hear to-morrow.”
The owner came the next day, and, finding his relations as backward as his neighbours, said to his son., “Now, George, listen to me. Get a couple of good sickles ready against to-morrow morning, for it seems we must reap the corn by ourselves.” The Young Ones told this to their mother. “Then, my dears,” said she, “it is time for us to go indeed, for when a man undertakes to do his business himself, it is not so likely that he will be disappointed.” She removed her Young Ones immediately, and the corn was reaped the next day by the old man and his son.
Let’s simplify the birds out of this: A man needs to harvest his crop, so first he sends for his neighbors to help. But they don’t come. So then he sends for his relatives. But they don’t come, either. Finally, he decides that he must do it himself, and he does.
If you do any reading online, you’ll see that there is a lot of people in the first two stages; the government needs to help, society needs to help, I need my friends and family to hold me accountable, or to support me. But until you decide that you’re going to do a thing no matter who helps or doesn’t help then you’re not going to get anywhere.
And that line is weird. It’s invisible, and you can’t usually find it again when you retrace your steps, like when you go through the wardrobe into Narnia. You can find the lightpost, but that’s it. And so when you tell people about it, it just sounds like you found a backbone or some kind of confidence or grit.
But in reality, I think most people are just like the farmer– I can’t wait any longer, this has to be done! Circumstances force the issue more than innate character. And then people turn around and tell you that you are brave, because they didn’t feel the pressure of circumstances, so we tell ourselves this story that it has to do with character. And I suppose partly it does. The farmer could have sat around whining about not getting help while his crop rotted in the field. But I think most people (or at any rate the people who are called to entrepreneurialism) have enough of a sense that they can influence a situation personally to not sit on their hands even when they don’t have help.
“Help,” I find — especially with entrepreneurialism — is a double-edged sword. A lot of people have opinions, and few have expertise. So what help can you get? Well, at best, you’re going to get someone who will assure you that you’re smart and resourceful, and that if you’re wrong at least you’re going to find out and fix it. Or they will help you to do the things that you know are essential, but have trouble doing, like getting proper rest and food. Those are the things that non-business types can help you with. In other words, you can’t expect too much or rely on them too heavily to meet your needs. But mostly, you’re going to have to meet your own needs.
Does this sound awful? Uncomfortable? Unfair? Wrong?
Yeah. Welcome to the jungle. Although you are bound to get help, you cannot rely on it to motivate you or to prompt you. You have to just decide that a thing is going to get done, and it’s going to get done by you.