You Can’t Please ‘Em All

My daughter read me this story last night. She was telling me about her day, and how when she sits with one group of friends at lunch, the other group gets mad at her, and vice versa. She can’t seem to get them to sit together either. I reminded her that she can’t please everyone. She then googled this Aesop fable and shared it with me:

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:

“Please all, and you will please none.”

Alternative tagline that I thought was more to the point: “Try to please everyone and you’ll end up losing your a** in the process!”

It’s especially true of life. We can’t have peace until we stop trying to please others. We can love others, listen to others, share with others, but it must come out of our own desires, not some impossible standard someone else has set for us.

I wonder how that fits within software development? We need to take in user feedback, perform usability testing, listen to the market’s demands, but in the end, we have to produce something our heart tells us is “it.” That “it” factor differentiates the innovators from the status quo.

Source of Fable

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