Geese and Golden Eggs
Shockingly, I only just got round to reading the productivity classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People this week.
And what stuck me most was this retelling of the fable of The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs:
This fable is the story of a poor farmer, who one day discovers, in the nest of his pet goose, a glittering golden egg […] Much to his surprise, the egg is pure gold!
The farmer can’t believe his good fortune, and he becomes even more incredulous the following day when the experience is repeated. Day after day he awakens, to rush to the nest and find another golden egg. But with his increasing wealth comes greed and impatience. Unable to wait day after day for the golden eggs, the farmer decides he will KILL the goose and get them all at once.
But when he opens his goose, he finds it empty. There are no golden eggs. And now there is no way to get anymore. The farmer has destroyed the goose that produced them.
I remember this story from years ago, when my mum would read me Aesop’s Fables. But I have a new perspective on it now, as an adult, thanks to reading 7 Habits.
It’s all about effectiveness.
Most people focus on ‘golden eggs’ when thinking about effectiveness. Producing impressive short-term outcomes (money, social prestige, or enjoying life to the max). But as the fable shows, and as Stephen Covey writes about in the book, true effectiveness is a function of two things: what’s produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset / capacity to produce (the goose).
If you adopt a pattern of life that focuses on golden eggs but neglects the goose, you’ll soon lose the asset that produces those golden eggs for you.
I find myself doing this way too often with my physical body.
I think: ‘work is fun, let me just do some more work, as I’m on a roll. I don’t need to go for a run today, or go to the gym, or eat something healthy. Who cares if I skip a workout? I’ll just do it tomorrow… ’
The problem here is that I’m optimising for producing more golden eggs in the short term (writing, videos, etc). But I’m neglecting my production capacity – in other words, the physical goose that makes all that possible. Use a machine all the time but never maintain it, and it’ll eventually break. You need basic maintenance to get good long-term results.
Side note – Obviously, I’m not implying that the only benefit of a healthy body is that it helps drive economic production. Just that even if you’re optimising for economic production (the eggs), it still makes a lot of sense to take care of the goose.
This applies to a lot of other areas in life:
Our most important financial asset is our own capacity to earn. If we don’t continually invest in improving our own production capacity, we massively restrict how many golden eggs we can produce in future.
I’m pretty good at this one (staying curious, learning new skills, taking courses). But I know plenty of people who aren’t.
In a romantic relationship, golden eggs are the good times you have with your partner. The goose is the health of the relationship. Maintaining that healthy relationship takes communication, compromise, commitment.
Same thing goes for friendships. You can’t have those fun hangout sessions and crazy times without putting in work to maintain the friendship, keeping in touch, etc. You have to spend time taking care of the goose.
There is a caveat though. If you only take care of the goose with no aim toward the golden eggs, you’ll soon be unable to feed that goose (ie make a decent living). Effectiveness lies in the balance: getting the desired results in a sustainable way.
Have a great week!
☕️ A newsletter I genuinely read every day
There’s a reason over 4 million people read Morning Brew – the free daily newsletter that covers the latest from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Unlike traditional news, Morning Brew knows how to keep you informed and entertained.
It’s delivered to your inbox first thing in the morning, and only takes 5 minutes to read. Subscribe for free using this link.
Thanks to Morning Brew for sponsoring this issue of Sunday Snippets 🙏
♥️ My Favourite Things
🎙️ Deep Dive Podcast – Timo Armoo: From Council Estate To Selling A Global Business For Millions At 27. We talked about Timo’s entrepreneurial drive, and how he executed on this at a ridiculously young age despite facing challenges along the way. This episode has a tonne of actionable advice if you’re interested in starting a business.
📚 Book – Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Another classic book that I only just got round to listening to on Audible this week. It’s genuinely amazing – a brief history of humankind. I always used to think “history is boring” but recently, I’ve realised that that’s a childish way of looking at it. Yes, history’s boring at school when we’re forced to memorise names and dates. But it’s super interesting in terms of the rise and falls of civilisation, and how it’s shaped everything we know in our world today. I can feel myself becoming smarter and more ‘cultured’ with every chapter of Sapiens I get through 😀
📝 Article – The Mental Model Fallacy by Cedric Chin. Firstly, I love Cedric’s blog – it’s one of my favourite places on the internet. Secondly, his basic argument in this piece is that we should be suspicious of people who write about the mental models of real practitioners but have no experience themselves. Eg: a book about Elon Musk’s mindset by someone who’s never run a business. “Read from the source material of master practitioners, copy their actions, climb their skill trees, and reflect through trial and error. Don’t read third-party accounts of technê.” As a self-help hack myself, this critique was quite interesting 😛
📝 Another Article – I enjoyed Paul Millerd’s piece about his12-Hour Walk. It’s inspired me to give it a go at some point. If you’re reading this and you try it out, do please tag me on Twitter and let me know how it goes 😊
🎸 Guitar – I’ve been re-inspired to take the guitar seriously since being in Bali. A couple of guys were playing guitar in a bar near the beach, and invited audience members to join them and sing. I went up and sang a few songs, and I was blown away by how good they were at singing and guitar and improvising with me on the fly. I’ve also now moved my guitar in my room closer to my desk so that when I feel like procrastinating, I’m more likely to pick it up 😃
🎬 My New Videos
😎 The Most Undervalued Skill in 2022 – One of the most important skills you can develop in life is camera confidence. This video is about are 5 things that helped me go from being a shy teenager to someone who’s not afraid to put myself out there. I also have a full Camera Confidence course if you really want to level up your skills for Zoom meetings/YouTube/public speaking.
✍️ Quote of the Week
A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.
From Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Resurfaced using Readwise.