Once upon a time, the great and powerful Lord Idoe, in an uncharacteristic (some say scary!) burst of generosity, gave two of his serfs 1,000 acres of land. He told them, Farmer Oofy and Farmer Laden, that they were to plant them with the seeds he provided. Furthermore, the farmer who produced the best crop at the end of the growing season would obtain additional riches, while the other farmer would lose everything. Lord Idoe made it clear that he would periodically check the fields, and that the farmers had better show progress each time, or there would be consequences to pay. When Farmer Oofy and Farmer Laden showed great courage and asked what Lord Idoe would expect to see and what the consequences may be, Lord Idoe proclaimed that only he would know when that time came.
Now, both farmers were good, ethical men who were known to be hard workers. However, Farmer Laden knew that his work would be the hardest when Lord Idoe proceeded to grant Farmer Oofy fertile ground on the north side of his kingdom, while Farmer Laden was given his acreage to the west, an area known for historically unproductive trouble spots. Farmer Laden considered this, and decided that he could overcome the problems and produce an excellent crop, too, if he just worked harder and educated himself in the ways of farming in a less –than-perfect environment. He vowed to himself to have the better end product of the two.
The time came for Lord Idoe to distribute seed to the two farmers. Farmer Oofy received a very large bag of seeds that had been carefully selected and tended. He also received a small bag of untried imported seeds, and, much to his surprise, a few raggedy plants that he was instructed to transplant. Up to the task at hand, Farmer Oofy took his seeds and plants to his north side fields and began the work of planting.
Farmer Laden looked on and was excited to get his seeds and plants and begin his work. He blanched when Lord Idoe handed him a much smaller bag of well-tended seed, that Farmer Laden recognized as the type of seed that generally flourished in a stable farming environment. He nearly fainted when Lord Idoe made up the difference in quantity with many smaller bags of imported seed, knowing that these seeds would require many, many different growing skills, if he could indeed make them grow at all. He was dismayed when he noticed the instructions for these seeds were printed on the bags…in more languages than Farmer Laden even knew existed. Adding to Farmer Laden’s growing anxiety, Lord Idoe then presented him with truckloads of wilting plants of all sizes and instructed Farmer Laden to plant them in his fields with the admonishment that all plants in the crop grown would be judged equally.
Farmer Laden surveyed the seeds and plants given to him, drew upon courage he didn’t know he had, and faced Lord Idoe. He said, “Your Lordship, I am blessed with opportunity that you have given to me and I thank you. However, as you can see, my job will be much harder, though I promise you a good crop. Because of the seed and plants that have been given to me, I respectfully request some additional resources to help them grow.”
Lord Idoe was furious! “I know nothing of what you say! YOU are the farmer; I do not know your job! Make this work and STOP your whining!” Then Farmer Laden learned how the rules would come about as Lord Idoe stuck his hand in the bag of well-tended seed and withdrew a hefty amount. Lord Idoe proclaimed, “Because you have whined with no reason, I will give these seeds and 100 acres of your land to a wealthy friend of mine. He will have a far better crop than you will. You are now competing with two other farmers to either win your land or lose it all!”
Dismayed, but determined, Farmer Laden surveyed his seeds, plants, and rock-strewn fields, and said aloud, “I WILL have the best crop!” Bending down he tenderly touched the wilting leaves of the transplants and said, “I WILL do all that I can to help you grow!” As he pushed his hands into the many bags of imported seeds, letting them sift through his fingers, he promised, “I WILL create the best environment for you, that you may acclimate to my land and grow!” Farmer Laden then stood up and gazed upon his fields and promised, “I start with you. I WILL make you fertile ground again. You WILL sustain the best crop!” And, off to work he went.
After three months of nonstop labor, Farmer Laden looked up one day and saw Lord Idoe and his entourage approaching. After much pomp and pageantry, Lord Idoe stepped from his elaborate coach and looked upon Farmer Laden’s fields. “Hurrump!” he barked, “Your fields are a mess! Why, Farmer Oofy’s fields are orderly. Almost all of his plants are the same height! They are growing in an orderly fashion and are right on schedule! Your field is a mess!”
“But Sir,” said Farmer Laden, “All of my plants ARE growing! Surely you did not expect the transplants and the imported seeds to grow at the same rate as the well-tended seeds that always grow well? They both have taken so much extra effort and care to grow as well as they have. Please let me tell you how I have managed to keep them going and growing. I am quite proud of my work!”
Lord Idoe again looked at Farmer Laden’s plants and growled, “You are proud of this? Why, look at your plants! Some are still quite small, some look like they are barely growing, some are just very odd looking! I can see that you were a bad choice and that you are definitely not up to the job!”
“I have another wealthy friend who has been watching. He has plenty of resources and would like to try his hand at farming. I will give him that 100 acres over there, where the plants seem to be thriving! You now are in competition with three other farmers. I don’t understand in the least what you are doing here, but I don’t like it. ”
With that, Lord Idoe snapped his fingers and was carried to his carriage by his many young servants. Farmer Laden wanted to cry. Not only were his good works left unnoticed and many more of the plants that he had nourished been taken from him, but he also realized that he was never expected to win, no matter how hard he worked. He had just learned the second rule: Nothing was going to make Lord Idoe happy, and having the best crop wasn’t really what he was wanting.
Lord Idoe was to drop in again and again, once after five months, once after eight. Never did he see how Farmer Laden had worked incessantly, using a variety of skills and knowledge, to keep his plants growing. Instead, all he could see in his short-sightedness was the uneven growth, oddly-formed plants, and land that was still not completely cleared of rocks and debris. Each time he came, he took more from Farmer Laden and publicly belittled the work he had done. Each time Lord Idoe left, Farmer Laden was determined to work harder.
Many times, between sunset and dawn, Farmer Laden would go to a hill that over-looked Farmer Oofy’s fields. Even in the low-light, he could make out the long, straight lines of crops, and see that they were all growing in a uniform fashion. He knew that Farmer Oofy was working hard, too. He also knew that Farmer Oofy still had almost all of his 1000 acres.
It happened the same way every nightly visit. Farmer Laden would begin his viewing by wishing: “I wish I had been given better land; I wish I had been given the same seeds and plants; I wish my fields weren’t regularly visited by destructive varmints; I wish that ill-wind had not damaged half my crop; I wish, I wish, I wish.” But, gradually throughout the night, the wishful thinking would turn to resolve, for at some point early on in Farmer Laden’s ordeal, he had understood and taken to heart that the plants, the field, and the challenges were HIS. HIS to do his very best to make grow to THEIR potential. HIS to clear and make fertile. HIS to overcome. He had realized that this was his life’s calling, and no one was going to do it better! He WOULD produce the best crop!
And, in the end, Farmer Laden DID have the best crop. When all the crops, in what had become many different fields with many different owners, were harvested, Farmer Laden’s plants gave forth more produce than any others. Even the raggedy transplants and care-consuming imports had grown to their full glory and fullness.
Lord Idoe was baffled, but unrelenting. He accused Farmer Laden of cheating, letting it be known throughout his kingdom (through his many heralders of skewed information) that “something stinks in Farmer Laden’s fields!” When he was repeatedly proven wrong, he ignored the information, refusing to correct his false statements. He ranted and he raved to his rapidly growing number of underlings. He knew, but would never say, that Farmer Laden had knowledge and skills from which all farmers could profit. He would never admit to this, nor would he admit that Farmer Laden knew more than he did. Lord Idoe was furious that Farmer Laden had put him between the proverbial rock and hard place by bringing more and better results to the end of the contest.
Then Lord Idoe had an idea. He devised new and more complex rules (which of course he didn’t bother to share) and corresponding punishments for non-suspecting rule-breakers like that pesky Farmer Laden. He gave MORE resources to Farmer Oofy to reward him for having uniform and on-schedule growth in his plants during the regularly scheduled inspections. He codified the old rules that he had used with Farmer Oofy and Farmer Laden. He let Farmer Laden know that, even though he had won the competition under the old rules, he wouldn’t be released from the old rules, but would, instead have new rules added to them. Then, he went to the public and announced:
“Look at the wonderful successes I have had with farming! I want to build on my successes and share my vast knowledge with everyone! Every farmer will harvest 100% of his crop and each plant in that crop will be perfect! This can now be done without added resources from me. My friends will quickly become land barons, receiving all the best land as the farmers fail to meet my standards. I, and I alone, understand how farming really works! “