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The Bountiful King Transcript

Once Upon A Business – Episode 78

The Bountiful King

Lisa Bloom: One day, an old wise woman came to the king and queen and proclaimed that a child could be theirs if the king would perform one task. “Your majesty, use your army to dispose of all the human waste that creates sickness in the land. Dig canals so that the waste may go to one place, and the water for drinking and cooking to another.” And soon, the pestilence that had afflicted the people for many years was gone. But, as no child was conceived, the King summoned the old woman to the throne room.

Hi, I’m Lisa Bloom, the Story Coach, and you’re listening to Once Upon a Business. In each episode, we explore a story, a fairy tale, folk tale, or traditional story, so that we can discover the amazing lessons relevant for business and for entrepreneurs. The old wise woman told the king, “Oh king, now parcel out the land to the serfs and peasants, and allow each family enough for a bountiful life.” “Why should I give what is mine?” asked the king.

But the promise of a child of his own spurred him to give every peasant and serf his own land. Still, no child was conceived, and in his wrath, the king condemned the old woman to death. “Your Majesty, you may kill me, but one last requirement will bring fruit. Of this, I am sure. The last thing you must do is dismantle your army. For decades, our kingdom has fought war after war. Make good treaties with your neighbors.”

The King longed for a child so desperately that against his better judgment, he did as he was asked. And so for the first time in memory, there were no armed guards. Children danced safely at the borders. But after a year, when, again, no child had been conceived, the king summoned the old woman to the scaffold to die. But she spoke quietly to him. “You have given your people health. You have given them wealth and the security of peace. Your name always will be spoken with honor through the generations. You will be remembered by all the children of this land.”

And the king took her hand as he gazed at the bounteous landscape he had created and knew that what she said was true. Because of her, his actions had given birth to a greater life than he had ever dreamed possible.

This was an old Jewish tale from the book Body Eloquence by Nancy Mellon and Ashley Ramsden. I think this is such an interesting story. Even the first sentence is fascinating. A king who ruled a troubled realm longed bitterly for a child.

What happens when we are distracted, like the king, by longing that penetrates us? I wonder, could the realm be troubled because of the king’s bitter longing? Maybe his eye was off the ball. He couldn’t focus on keeping the kingdom healthy and prosperous. He was lost in the depth of his bitter longing. It speaks to the business lesson that sometimes we’re so focused on our desires, that we can become disconnected from what is currently present and maybe miss opportunities that are right in front of us.

Desire is a distracting thing. Sometimes it drives us to neglect our surroundings and forget what we already have. And the word bitterly is interesting. Longing is often described as wistful or even painful, but not always bitter. Bitterness can lead us to anger and resentment, to be mean or neglectful, which clearly is what happens to this king. His realm, therefore, is troubled.

Enter the old wise woman, such a powerful archetype in these stories, who essentially sends him on this journey to improve the kingdom. She does so by promising him a child. His longing is so strong that he will do anything, even though it goes against his nature. Interestingly, the Queen is entirely absent in this story. She is mentioned but doesn’t appear at all.

The old wise woman asks him to improve the health of the kingdom, then the wealth of each person, and finally to end war with their neighbors. This order is important. It tells us that in our lives, as a business owner or entrepreneur, too, first we must tend to our physical and mental well-being. Without this, we have nothing. Then our financial security is important. So no matter how much you believe in your idea or your plan, you need to have a strong financial foundation in order to make it happen. And finally, no war. How can we create work and businesses that contribute to the well-being of others?

For most of the entrepreneurs and business owners that I know, this is very clear. We do what we do because we believe in it. It brings us joy and well-being. It makes us money, and we’re doing good in the world by helping others. There’s another message here, that our personal well-being and financial success is not enough. We’re connected to others. We can only thrive when we have positive impact and connection to community.

Recently, I met a woman who had moved from her place of origin to a new country. Of course, this is a familiar journey to mine. I asked her, have you found your people? Are you connected to this new place you’ve lived in for the last 15 years? I was thinking about a faith community or a specific group of friends, but ultimately, she told me that it was through her business that she felt that community. By learning and working with other entrepreneurs that are building their businesses too, she finally feels at home.

The story makes me think about balance. So we have health, wealth, and peace, and of course, we all want all of the above, right? And so, we set out to attain them all. Isn’t that the case? Well, not really. I think the Western culture leans towards wealth more than anything else. Since when is it okay to work 14 hours a day and have 10 days of vacation in an entire year? And yet we’ve all done this. Somehow, we’ve created societies where it’s accepted that the pursuit of wealth is more important than anything else. And so we have an epidemic of burnout and mental health challenges, and that’s without diving into the scourge of addiction that’s so common.

And in business, we often consider competition as more important than collaboration. We’ve been told that we need to win the race to be the best, not to share the winnings and support others on the path. And so we feed the concept of war, that we must rule over and have power, not empower or be at peace. We’re left with this conundrum. How do we find balance between health, wealth and peace?

For me, it’s a life journey. As the years go by, I think we become more aware of the importance of physical and mental health, perhaps because our bodies and minds remind us of how vulnerable we truly are. So we need to focus more on our personal health and well-being. Thankfully, there are whole industries that do that for us and with us. There are so many resources available to stay healthy and fit, to remind us to focus on our well-being.

As one of my early mentors told me, nobody sits in the rocking chair at the end of their life celebrating the business deal that they made. And yet at times, I found it hard to make the right choices about balancing my work and personal life. And so I actively work on this with clear intention and the grace and self-forgiveness that sometimes I get it wrong.

And then there’s peace. For years, I thought of it as an abstract concept. Like the beauty queen who envisions world peace as their personal goal, it seems ridiculous and mostly unattainable. But that changed for me the first time I spoke to my old wise woman. She looked at me with those penetrating, beautiful eyes and said, “Oh Lisa, I see you and I are together on this path to peace.” It felt like a dagger to my stomach, the impact of those words.

I realized this truth about myself and my work. And this whole new world she was describing in that one sentence, together on this path to peace, the power of community, the importance of connection, the path rather than the destination, and the nearness of peace, the attainability. It’s in reach because it’s not about world peace, it’s about inner peace, and always striving and moving towards it. And most importantly, it reminded me that this is the path to peace, inner and outer. These stories are the path to peace. My work is the path to peace.

And you, dear listener, are a big part of this. You are on the path, too. And so I continue this journey to balance health, wealth, and peace, as I believe you do, too.

I’m Lisa Bloom, and you’ve been listening to Once Upon a Business. You can find out more about me at story-coach. com. That’s Once Upon a Business is part of the Mirasee FM podcast network, which also includes such shows as Making It and To Lead is Human. To catch the great episodes that are coming up on Once Upon a Business, please like, and follow us on Mirasee FM’s YouTube channel or your favorite podcast player.

And if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a comment or a starred review. It’s the best way to help us get these ideas to more people. Thank you. We’ll see you next time.