Six Lessons for Success from a Famous Fairy Tale

by Jan 15, 2021

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Fairy tales have important lessons

Six lessons for success in a famous fairy tale are rather subtle but read between the lines and they become apparent. Travelling Companion is a fairy tale and like all fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, there are a few explicit moral lessons for children. Adults also, perhaps more so, need such lessons but that’s another matter.

If you have the patience and inclination to read between the lines, you can find implied general rules for living a life. In Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Travelling Companion,’ there are six important lessons specially for retailers or entrepreneurs:

Lesson 1: Strikeout Boldly in Life. Take risks[spacer height=”20px”]

Strike boldly in life

Johannes, a young orphan boy, packs his small bundle, hides his entire inheritance in his belt and sets out into the world. For him, the world is his oyster where he hopes to find all the wonderful things that life has to offer. He plans to walk further than he had ever been before and explore all that he was unfamiliar with.

Johannes believes in himself and decides not to settle for a limited existence. In the end (spoiler alert if you haven’t read the story and want to read it) Johannes’s bold venture pays off and he ends up marrying a princess and becoming a king. It’s true that not everyone will manage to grab a kingdom. Besides, some people can have much higher aspirations than holding on to absolute power.

But the lesson is: You can always rise above your circumstances; just go for it with open arms. Embrace life.

Lesson 2: Network[spacer height=”20px”]


No. Networking is not about building a contact list that you can manipulate to your advantage. Just like any other relationship among humans, networking demands sincerity. Yes, it is about tapping into connections, but it is also about helping people move ahead, and someone will do the same with you. It is a chain reaction.

In our story, Johannes helps the dead man to get a decent burial- of course, he didn’t know he was networking, he was just being nice. The dead man, in turn, becomes his travelling companion and helps him in every way he can.

You don’t need to do favors for the dead, they probably don’t care. But you can do your bit for the still-alive-mortals. Believe me, the Law of Compensation works.

Lesson 3: Have Smart Managers[spacer height=”20px”]

The old man (Johannes manager in entrepreneurial parlance) is smart. He can think out of the box and come up with new possibilities. He can form and see connections and potentialities where none seemingly exist.

The old man is brilliant at innovation. He uses a pile of faggots to create hail and thunderstorms and sees the possibility of using a dead swan’s feathers. Also, he is able to negotiate very profitable deals with the old woman and the puppeteer. In return for healing the old woman’s leg, he asks for three bundles of faggots which later come in handy when he wants to teach a lesson to the rude princess. With the puppeteer, he strikes another lucrative deal by asking for the sword in return for making the marionettes happy and healthy.

The old man determines the interests of each party and is able to create a win-win outcome for all concerned. A dream manager for every entrepreneur!

Lesson 4: Trust your Instincts [spacer height=”20px”]

trust your instincts

It is wise to listen to your gut feeling, it often turns out to be right. In spite of what everyone tells him Johannes believes that the princess isn’t actually a witch, and this keeps him going and results in the ‘happy ending.’

Here I would digress and inform that Johannes had first met the princes in his dream where she “with a golden crown on her long, lovely hair, held out her hand to him.” Wasn’t it Freud who said: “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious”? And it is the unconscious that plays such a great part in delivering hunches that you should listen to.

So pay heed to your intuitions, your dreams, and who knows in what shape the opportunity holds out her hand.

Lesson 5: Team Diversity is Important [spacer height=”20px”]

If people in a team have different ways of thinking, they can offer different perspectives and this can lead to innovative solutions and ideas.

Consider. Johannes and his companion are from entirely different worlds. Literally so. Johannes is alive and kicking while the old man is actually a dead-man-roaming.

Different as they are, they pool in their respective strengths to create a winning team. Johannes with his optimism, his penchant for risk-taking, and ability to network; and the old man with is innovative thinking, his realism (he is not sentimental and thinks that dead swans wings can be mighty profitable), and his experience of the other world.

Having died once can offer a completely new take on the world of the living… No?

Don’t pair up with the dead if you don’t want to. But let go of your biases about people and things, and make room for diversity.

Lesson 6: Sometimes it is Important to Make Tough Decisions[spacer height=”20px”]

it is important to take touch decisions

When Johannes married the princess she was still a witch and wasn’t even fond of Johannes. Do you think it was easy for Johannes to duck the princess in a bathtub three times? He must have cringed at the thought since he was a gentle person and so in love with the princess. But he had to do it to break the spell, and, as a result, the princess was not only freed from her magic spell but she also suddenly grew ‘so very fond of Johannes.’

Now don’t go about ducking people in a tub of water (the water also had drops from the magical vial as well as swan’s wings which only HCA had), the point is to take tough decisions when you must.

At times life calls for making difficult, or even painful, choices, don’t hide behind denials and procrastination. Go for it.[spacer height=”20px”]

Conclusion [spacer height=”20px”]

Don’t ever think of fairy tales as the stuff woven by brilliant minds only for kids. They contain important insights. And, by the way, if the innate sense of wonder never dies, life is enchanting as a fairy tale.

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