If you liked my rewrite of the old “Mexican Fisherman” parable, (The Mexican Fisherman has Filed for Bankruptcy) you’ll like this rewrite. It has 5 crucial life lessons that could save, or make you millions. Here it is:
A grandmother congratulated her granddaughter on graduating college. She told her, “I want to give you a graduation present. It is an old painting we’ve had in the family for years. It is yours, but before you decide what to do with it, I want you to understand what it is worth.”
The granddaughter examined the picture, which was slightly larger than a paper notepad and featured a portrait of a Victorian woman. Its frame was golden and gaudy, certainly not something she’d hang in her apartment.
Her grandmother continued, handing her daughter a list, “Here are four locations that will help you find its value. The first option is the estate sale I’m holding next week. You’ll be on your own for the last three places. Don’t make a decision on what to do with the picture until you’ve visited all four places.”
The following week, the grandmother had her estate sale, the first item on the list. As instructed, the granddaughter used the opportunity to offer the picture for sale. A bold sign declared below the picture, “Make offer.”
After three days, the top offer was $250.
The following week, the granddaughter took the painting to a local pawn shop, the second item on her grandmother’s list. After some haggling, the pawn shop offered her $500.
Afterward, the granddaughter felt a bit jaded. She hoped her graduation gift from her grandmother would be an iPhone, not a portrait of some old woman who had been dead for centuries.
She proceeded to the next stop on her list, an art gallery in the city.
She walked into the shop and showed the curator the portrait. The curator’s eyes widened, and she quickly grabbed her loupe to examine the picture closer. The curator studied every inch of the picture, her eyeballs glued to the magnifying glass as if reviewing a fine diamond. The granddaughter was getting impatient and was bored out of her mind.
After 20 minutes of thorough examination, the curator finally spoke, “May I ask where you got this?” The granddaughter replied nonplussed, “It was gift from my grandmother. It’s been in the family for a while.”
“I see,” the curated paused and then smiled. “I can offer you $10,000 for this.”
The granddaughter’s eyes gaped like saucers. “$10,000?”
“Yes,” the curator said, “Would you like me to write you a check?”
The granddaughter thought about all the great things she could buy with $10,000. A new iPhone. A down payment on that new Audi she had her eye on. She was about to accept the offer when she remembered her grandmother’s instructions. “Don’t make a decision until you’ve visited all four places.”
The granddaughter thanked the curator for the offer and walked out, saying she would be in touch.
The granddaughter reviewed the last location on her grandmother’s list the next day. It required a 5-hour drive to New York City, and she arrived late. The establishment’s name sounded familiar when she glanced at it initially, but it wasn’t until she stood outside the building that she realized what it was. It was Sotheby’s, the international auction house.
She walked in and promptly explained that she wanted an appraisal. When she showed the small picture to the receptionist, her face froze. She quickly picked up the phone and mumbled something to someone on the other end.
“Hi I’m Damien, President of Acquisitions,” said a well-suited man minutes later in a thick French accent. After exchanging pleasantries, Damien asked, “Now let’s see what you got here.”
Like the curator did the day before, Damien examined the picture, eye to canvas, with his loupe in excruciating detail accompanied by a series of verbal “oohs” and “ahhs.”
Finished, Damien finally said, “This is a portrait by Edgar Degas, a renowned French impressionist painter. It is a highly sought piece in the art community. We sold his “Les Choristes” painting for $37 million in 2019. If you consign this to us here at Sotheby’s, the minimum starting bid would be $1,000,000.”
Damien smiled and continued, “in our current robust market, this should fetch a tidy sum, much more than that.” He paused. “Shall I draw up the contract?”
The granddaughter left without a contract and visited her grandmother, shell-shocked and giddy at the discovery.
“Did you know how much this is worth?” the granddaughter asserted.
The grandmother replied calmly, “I know how much you’re worth. I wanted you to understand that your value, like this picture, depends on you being in the right place. If you don’t feel valued in your job, by your boyfriend, or by your friends, don’t get upset, it just means you might be in the wrong place. Don’t sell out any part of your life just because the offer before you is convenient and tolerable.“
The parable has several takeaways, and here they are if you missed them:
1) Context and Environment Matter
Your value and the value of your offer depends on the environment and context in which you place it. Selling cold water in Phoenix, Arizona, differs from selling it in Anchorage, Alaska. Most marketing campaigns fail not because of poor messaging but because of poor context and environment. You could create the best beef jerky in the world, but attempting to sell it at a plant-based convention is like taking an Edgar Degas masterpiece to a pawn shop. Are you, or your offer, in the right place?
2) The Curse of Ignorance Causes Poor Decisions
Lack of knowledge can be costly. The best decision-making is done when you have thoroughly researched a topic or a decision and have all the information. What decisions should you not make until more information is obtained?
3) Value is Subjective and Indifferent to Your Personal Tastes
A topic discussed in The Great Rat Race Escape: Not everyone loves coffee. Just because you think coffee is the best drink in the world, doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with you. Just because you think a piece of artwork is atrociously ugly doesn’t mean a billionaire in Austria hates it too. What personal tastes do you hold that might be distorting your view of the market?
4) Don’t Fear Bigger Numbers: The Leap of Zeroes
What seems like a lot of money to you ($10,000) might be nothing to someone else. A limited view of money will limit your ability to attract what you’re worth. $10,000 to the granddaughter felt like a life-changing amount. To the auctioneer who deals with billionaires, it’s petty cash. Twenty five years ago $10K was a lot of money to me. Now, it feels like nothing. Is your limited view of money distorting your true value, or the value of what you can bring to the table?
5) Going the Extra-Mile Might Deliver a Light-Year Result
Decades ago, when I sold my first company, the first offer was $250,000. I was patient and went the extra mile and sought more suitors. The final proposal was nearly 5X more. Patience and diligence yielded a $1M return in less than three months. Where can going extra mile yield a 5X return in your life?