the stone in the shoe

Once there was a farmer with a beautiful daughter. Men came from miles around to ask her father for her hand in marriage, but he was the old-fashioned type, and wanted to make sure his daughter would be well looked after.

So finally he settled on three likely young men, and told them he would ask them a question to decide which one could woo his daughter.
The three young men nervously waited while he prepared his pipe. Finally, he asked all three of them a single question: “If you are working in the fields and find there’s a stone in your shoe, how long can you work?”

The first young man sprung to his feet. “I can work all day long! I can ignore the stone in my shoe until the sun sets! I am tough and I will endure the pain.”

The farmer nodded and turned to the second young man. “I can do the same, but I’ll even whistle to show I’m not bothered one bit by the stone! I can completely ignore the pain.”

The farmer settled his corn cob pipe and turned to the third young man, who declared, “I can’t work one minute with a stone in my shoe.” The other two young men laughed and congratulated themselves, declaring loudly that one of them would surely be chosen. The third man finished as they laughed, saying “I’ll stop and take the stone out of my shoe and keep on working like I always would. And at the end of the day, my wife won’t have to wash a bloody sock.”

The third young man and the farmer’s daughter were married the next spring.


The moral of the story is that it’s not always about being the toughest or the most driven – sometimes it’s about being smart. This applies almost every day in your work life and in your personal life. Don’t just keep hammering away at a problem to prove you can stick to a task. Know when to quit, reevaluate and begin fresh. And if you don’t know, stop, take a break and start again. The answer will come to you.

(photo by emstrur)

8 Replies to “the stone in the shoe”

  1. Awesome story. Sometimes pride gets in the way especially with passionate people. I’ve been known for that sometimes when a startup business doesn’t go as planned. I think this story applies to a lot of people who purchased real estate during the past 2 years as an investment. A lot of people are upside down on their loans and still having to pay up every month. Maybe its time to re-evaluate and figure out what to do with that stone.

  2. Great parable, and a good deduction of the moral.

    I think it could also be summarized as “Think Outside the Shoe”, though I may have played one too many rounds of Buzzword Bingo lately at the office.

  3. That story made me laugh. The poor young men who didn’t see taking it out as an option. Of course, they probably would in real life, but they’re not creative thinkers. 🙂

  4. @Danny, you’re right, real estate would be a great example of this in real life.

    @Mrs. Micah, er, sure, because people in real life are so rational and always take the most sensible option…? Er…. 🙂

    @Fecundity: Think Outside the Shoe … good one! 🙂

    @Guinness416: Everything I need to know I learned from A-Rod. Hard to argue with someone whose value to the world is more than 650 times the average American family of four’s income and yet practically hasn’t done anything ever in the postseason. Argh.

  5. Good story, Brip Blap. Figure what the problem is and fix it instead of dealing with a workaround that hinders performance. I like it! 🙂

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