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Kill the Goat

 Nov 21, 2013  |   Filed under: Business  |   Tags: Challenge, Change, Entrepreneurship, Learning, Philosophy

Yesterday I was at the regional finals of EY Entrepreneur of the Year to support my long time friend and partner in business Deniz Yildirim. Deniz managed to snag the “Male Rising Star of the Year” award and moved on to the national finals in Stockholm.

Someone else who moved on to the finals was Hossein Sadr of Carpetvista. Hossein, who won the “International Growth of the Year” award, told an interesting story which has it’s roots in an old persian tale while being interviewed by the conferencier.

It is a story of a master and his apprentice who get lost in the dessert. Dusk slowly settles and the air is getting colder. Just as the men start accepting that the chilly breaths they are taking might be their last a light emerges in the distance.

The men move towards the light and see the contours of a tent emerging. When they reach the tent they are greeted by a woman and her four sons who show them great hospitality and invite them in. They own very little and get by mostly on bread and goats milk, milked from a single lone goat tied up in front of the tent. The woman offers the men some bread, milk and a place to spend the night.

In the morning she points the men towards the nearest city. The men, happy to have survived the night, continue their journey. While they walk through the dessert the apprentice looks to his master and says:

“Master, this woman saved our lives. What can we do to help her?”

The master ponders the question and then looks to the apprentice and says:

“If you really want to help her; kill the goat.”

The apprentice was confused by the answer. The family had so little and the goat was one of the few things keeping them alive. But the master was seldom wrong and the apprentice knew better than to question his judgment.

A few days later, in the middle of the night, the apprentice returned to the tent. He slit the goats throat and hid the body. He returned to the city still very much in doubt wether he had done the right thing.

Time passed and several years later while the apprentice was visiting another town he saw four prosperous traders and a woman living in a nice house. The apprentice immediately recognized them from the dessert tent but non of the family recognized the apprentice. He asked the woman how come she and her sons had gotten so prosperous and she told him that they once lived in the dessert off of goats milk and bread, they were content with their life and could have stayed forever. But one night the goat mysteriously disappeared. This forced them to leave the dessert and seek out new ventures. They moved to a new town and started a trading business which was now doing very well. The disappearance of the goat was the best thing to ever happened to the family.

What is your goat?