Peter Diamandis is a force in the high-tech world.
Throughout his many ventures, he’s never forgotten a simple but profound European fable he heard in college. The lesson from his interpretation of the “stone soup” tale is “so critically important” if you’re an entrepreneur, he tells author Tim Ferriss in an episode of Ferriss’ podcast, whether you’re in college and building your first company or 60 years old and building your 20th.
In his new book “Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World,” cowritten with Steven Kotler, a journalist and cofounder of the Flow Genome Project, Diamandis and Kotler tell their version of the allegory, as adapted from a children’s book by Marcia Brown.
Here’s how the story goes:
In a medieval village, a farmer notices three starving soldiers approaching town and warns his neighbours to hide their food, for fear of losing all of it. The soldiers go door to door, denied food by everyone they ask. Suddenly, one of the soldiers gets an idea.
He knocks on a door, asking the villager if he and his friends could use her cauldron and firewood to make stone soup. The idea of soup made from stones is so strange and interesting that she lets the men into her home. One of the soldiers fetches some water from a well, along with some regular stones.
As the water begins to boil around the rocks, news spreads throughout the town that the soldiers they saw earlier were making soup made from stones. A group of intrigued villagers arrives at the woman’s home to watch the soup bubble. After some time passes, an impatient onlooker asks the soldiers if he can help.
Some potatoes might actually add some flavour, a soldier suggests, and the villager goes to retrieve some potatoes. Not wanting to be left out, another villager asks if she can add something. A couple of carrots could work, a soldier says.
This continues, and soon the soup also contains poultry, barley, garlic, and leeks. One of the soldiers finally announces that the soup is done and shares the soup with everyone gathered.
The villagers are delighted at how delicious the soup tastes — who would have guessed that soup made from stones could come out so good?
Diamandis explains why the story provides a valuable lesson for entrepreneurs.
The stones are, of course, your big ideas; the contributions of the villagers represent the capital, resources, and intellectual support offered by investors and strategic partners. Everyone who adds a small amount to your stone soup is in fact helping to make your dreams come true.
What makes stone soup work is passion. People love passion. People love to contribute to passion. And you can’t fake it.
So if you have a vision for a tremendously successful company, there’s no way you’ll be able to build it on your own. But your passion will attract those who can make even the grandest of ideas (soup made from stones) a reality.
The best type of passion, writes John Hagel III, cofounder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, is from “people who see a domain, but not the path. The fact that the path is not clearly defined is what excites them and motivates them,” he writes. “It also makes them alert to a variety of inputs that can help them to better understand the domain and discover more promising paths.”