Friday, April 29, 2011

Aesop knew what he was talking about

As a child, I remember hearing countless stories, including the fables attributed to Aesop, the ancient Greek writer. In his tales, Aesop used animals to represent various human traits. He'd then end each story with a simple moral -- a life lesson meant to inform and instruct.

One such fable, often credited to Aesop, told the story of an elderly lion, too frail to go hunting anymore. Shrewdly, the lion lured passersby into his den by claiming to be too sick to come out and greet them. When they entered to pay their respects, the lion ate them. One day, a fox happened by, but refused to enter the den. When the lion asked him why, the fox replied, "Because I can only see the tracks going in, but none coming out."

For children, fables like this provide simple illustrations that serve as cautionary tales. In this story, for example, the child might learn to be wary of strangers or of situations that seem too good to be true.

But fables aren't applicable only to kids. We, as businesspeople, can still learn a lot from a well-written fable. Again, looking at the fable retold here, we learn the value of prudence in our dealings with potential vendors, business partners, investors, and more. Careful observation of the warning signs others miss can save us (or our companies) from dangers we might not otherwise recognize.

So as you go about looking for ways to improve your business, don't overlook the power of fables. They're not just "children's stories" after all.

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