Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Do Nothing, Get Nothing

Once in a village there were two friends who spent most of their time resting under a tree and thinking about what they should do with their lives.

One day they noticed that the women in the village had to carry water pots from the river far away.  Regardless of how many rounds they made, the water was never enough for their families’ daily needs.

The friends went to the village and offered to carry water pots back from the river for 25 cents per pot.  Everyone liked the offer, and their business grew fast.  Soon they were making 50 to 100 rounds daily.

After a few years, the friends were the richest men in the village.  Then one of them realized that although they were healthy and young, they wouldn’t stay that way forever.  “What would happen to the families then?” he asked.

But the other said, “Forget it.  We’re doing great, let’s just enjoy this time.”

The first friend wanted to do something more.  One day he saw a potter making pots and noticed one pot had a long narrow neck.  He thought, “What if we make a long clay pipe and brought water to the village?”

The other friend had thousands of reasons why it was never going to work, but the first one decided to try it.

A lot of problems came his way, but six or seven months later, the pipe was in place and the water started to flow to the village.  Now he could offer a thousand pots per day, and he cut the rate to 10 cents per pot.

Income flowed into the first friend’s pocket, but the second was jobless now, because who wants pots for 25 cents if they can have them for 10 cents?

In other words, if you don’t change anything, nothing will change.  Sometimes you have to take some risks and jump at opportunities.

“When you’re through changing, you’re through,” said advertising executive Bruce Barton.

Call it progress.  Call it innovation.  Call it sheer brilliance.  “Because we’ve always done it this way” becomes “I wish I would have thought of that.”

Shopping malls replaced downtowns and on-line shopping may soon spell the demise of malls.  Television replaced radio, and now cable stations and streaming services aplenty offer thousands of shows on demand on devices that we carry in our pocket.  Air travel was once the stuff of science fiction; now civilians can apply for space travel. 

Businesses and individuals should always be looking for new ways to stay competitive.  A business can’t stand still.  Change is inevitable and unavoidable.

At a time when newspapers and magazines have gone out of business or gone fully digital, “National Geographic” remains in print and thrives because it embraced technology.  The “National Geographic” brand has more than 65 million loyal followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, plus branching into TV programming.

Domino’s Pizza realized it had to change when it learned that its promised fast delivery time was hurting its reputation for quality.  The chain orchestrated a massive advertising and social media campaign to get their word out about new recipes and improved quality, and sales skyrocketed.

Netflix fundamentally changed the way TV is consumed.  Netflix started by renting and buying physical DVDs, but a year later started its subscription service.  A huge change came in 2007 when the company focused on streaming content.

Apple has probably done more to reinvent itself than any other company.  From computers to software and lightweight laptops to hand-held devices like the iPod and iPhone, you can now order their latest products and check your exercise goals from your Apple watch.

Embrace change, but not at the expense of forgetting history.  Learning the lessons of the past opens the door to future innovation.  If a stonecutter from ancient Greece came to work today in a stone mason’s yard, the only significant change would be the design he would be asked to carve on the gravestones.  The tools he would use would be fundamentally the same, only now they might be electric.

Throughout history, a craftsman who had learned his trade after five or seven years of apprenticeship would have learned everything he or she would ever need to use during their lifetime.  That would certainly not be so today.  In today’s world, any tradesman or professional will have to acquire new knowledge every four or five years or become obsolete.

Mackay’s Moral:Don’t just leave well enough alone – leave it better!

About the Author Harvey Mackay, Founder & CEO

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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