Thursday, 23 July 2015

Two Hands and Twenty-Four Hours

There was once a herdsman, who traded in goat’s cheese. He took it to a village where the people couldn’t get enough of the delicacy. Every evening, the horde of customers, in front of his shop, was so large that it was impossible to keep up with the demand. Even though he left with a bulging bag of coins as he returned home, he wasn’t a happy man. He was saddened because many customers left unserved, after waiting for hours for just one ounce of cheese. Hard as he tried, he couldn’t make enough of it and on the days that he had a good showing, nightfall still caught him struggling to satisfy the impatient villagers.

The situation was so frustrating that, one day, he decided to seek help. He went to the temple and prayed for two sweat-pouring hours before a medium appeared to him. “Mortal, what do you seek?” she asked. Straight to the point, he replied, “O benevolent one, I wish you could give me more hands so that I can quickly milk the goats, cut the cheese, wrap it in leaves and sell to customers.” The medium, who felt that his request was vague asked, “You mean like the octopus?” Excitedly he replied, “Yes”. The next morning, when he awoke, he had grown three more pairs of hands. He went to the pen and, like lightning, he was milking, boiling, stirring and wrapping at the same time. By noon, his baskets were full and he opened the doors to serve the eager buyers. But, he was met with screams and fainting spells of frenzied villagers. “There’s a monster in the cheese-shop!” they cried, and none ventured near for another week.

Dejected, he returned to the temple and wept till the medium reappeared. “What now, mortal man?” she asked. He dried his face and explained what had befallen him. He begged her to remove the new hands and give him two more hours every day, instead. “You mean 26 hours a day?” she clarified and he nodded. Before she left he added, “I hope this won’t have any downside!” She turned to him and said, “Each hour added to each day shall be taken from your days for no one may cheat Nature.” He thought very hard and decided it was a price worth paying, ‘When I start making profit, I won’t need additional hours’ he said to himself. On getting home, the wall-clock had gotten a thirteenth hour. At dawn and at dusk he got one additional hour and he used the time to make more cheese. But the more he made, the more they came. They trooped in from the surrounding villages that, after three months, an even larger crowd was waiting outside the shop.

He ran to the temple and prayed again, “This is not working”, he complained. “You gave me two hours but increased the customers too.” The medium reappeared and queried, “Is two hours too short?” He shook his head and cried, “Sublime one, tell me, what shall I do?” For the first time, she sat down and pity took over her face as she answered him, “You prayed for more hands and became a monster, when you have more hands than you could ever need. You asked for more time and traded your years, when you have all the time in the world. What you need are eyes so you may see.” The man looked on dumbfounded and she continued, “Look around you. There are idle hands waiting to be used and idle time waiting to be employed.” His tear-stained face creased into a smile as he realized what he had to do. He returned to the shop and wrote on the mud wall, in white chalk, IDLE HANDS NEEDED.

Left to some, they would be the driver, passenger and traffic warden all at the same time. They find it difficult to delegate. Sometimes it’s due to mistrust and at other times it’s just plain pride; but no one goes far if they go it alone. As a startup entrepreneur you can perform many, if not all the roles, needed by your business. But as you grow, the work can become so much that you need help. Find reliable and smart people, train them and supervise them because, unlike the herdsman, two hands and twenty-four hours is all you’ll ever get.

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