The Persistent Baker

There once was a man who dreamt of being a baker. After many years of patiently saving and planning, he quit his job and resolved to open a new bakery - the best the world had ever seen.

He spent hours in his kitchen, creating the perfect pie. When it was done, he was dismayed to realize that no one knew what he was capable of doing, and that all his work was for naught.

To remedy this issue, the Baker decided to become famous. With much effort, he was able to attract the attention of the local news media, who agreed to conduct a comprehensive interview about his perfect pie. After the story became public, people came from miles around to get a glimpse of the Baker’s work.

“How much for one of your pies?" they asked.

“What a silly question," he replied. “My pies are works of art - perfect in every respect. I do not wish to tarnish them with commerce, nor ruin them by sharing with those who can’t appreciate their subtleties."

Disappointed, the crowds left. What good was a “perfect" pie that could not be tasted?

The months wore on, and the Baker’s savings and spirits dwindled. There was little joy in being well-known as a miserly artisan, and the next rent payment was looming.

With some trepidation, the Baker decided to start selling his pies. He drew “$1" on a small chalk board, set it on top of his counter, and waited.

Word began to spread that the Baker was selling his pies. Curious townsfolk visited his shop, and when they entered, the Baker began to talk with them. He told them what ingredients he used, his special preparation methods, and the secrets of the art of baking. Visitors to his shop were gladdened by his change of demeanor and impressed by his knowledge and skill. Pies began to sell, word spread, and customers happily lined his pocketbook in exchange for a piece of heavenly pie. The Baker realized he enjoyed sharing his gift with others, and resolved to figure out how to serve even more customers.

A bit of experimentation taught the Baker that providing small samples of his pies to curious customers almost undoubtedly resulted in a quick and enthusiastic sale. Before long, he had so many customers each day that he couldn’t keep up - there were too many people to serve, and he couldn’t attend to their needs. People began to grumble, “I came here for pie, not a two-hour wait."

There was more work to be done.

The Baker found some trustworthy associates among the townsfolk, and set about teaching them how to bake his pies. Before long, his busy kitchen was well equipped and staffed, and he was able to deliver as many pies as his customers wanted.

All was not well, however. Hiring employees and purchasing kitchen equipment required money, and the Baker was alarmed to realize he was spending far more than his revenue would support. If something wasn’t done, his workers would leave and his bakery would close.

One evening, the Baker finally put down his kitchen utensils and found a notepad. He calculated how much the bakery was spending, how much money was coming in, and how much revenue he would need to keep the bakery open and running.

After considering several different options, the Baker walked over to his chalk board, erased the “$1" that had been displayed for so long, and replaced it with “$5". Then, with significant anxiety, he went home to sleep.

The next day, customers once again filed into the shop to buy a piece of pie. Few noticed the new “$5" sign, and those that did remarked as they paid: “This pie is worth every penny."

At long last, the Baker found success.

What do you think this story means?

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Published: December 9, 2009Last updated: December 9, 2009

Books by Josh Kaufman