Uber, the app everyone loves from the company everyone hates, wasn’t conceived by some bureaucrat at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Google, not General Motors, is bringing self-driving automobiles to our highways and byways, while another Silicon Valley big shot, Starburst Accelerator, is trying to one-up them—like, literally—with flying cars. Netflix wasn’t a Blockbuster baby, nor Amazon a Sears scion. Had they been, they would still be relevant. Both of them.
The history of commercial disruption abounds in such tales, tales of newbies beating oldies to the punch. And then pulverizing their faces into a mush of crimson-colored creamed corn!
Why does this happen, over and over and over? Because, with apologies to the fabled Aesop himself, of this:
Once upon a time there was a frog who lived at the bottom of a very deep well. He had bugs to eat and rainwater to drink. He even had a lily pad to jump on and off. During the day, he could see the sun and the sky, and at night he could see the moon and the stars.
He was very happy.
Then one morning, right at the break of dawn, a baby sparrow perched herself on the edge of the well, and struck up a conversation.
“Mr. Frog,” she called out, “Why do you stay down in that well? Why don’t you climb up and take a look around? It’s so beautiful here.”
“Why do I need to come there?” the frog yelled up the well. “I have bugs to eat and rainwater to drink. I even have a lily pad to jump on and off. During the day, I can see the sun and the sky, and at night I can see the moon and the stars.
“I am very happy.”
The sparrow returned the next day. And the next and the next and the next. She would describe the world she saw in meticulous detail: the trees that stretched their branches up, like they were trying to snatch the clouds from the sky; the mountains that squatted majestically, like a king on his throne; and the deer frolicking, the bears wrestling and the beavers, uh, beavering.
The frog listened but was not impressed.
“Why do I need to come there?” he yelled up the well. “I have bugs to eat and rainwater to drink…
“I am very happy.”
This continued for some time. Each and every morning, just as the sun peeked over the horizon, the sparrow would perch herself on the edge of the well and plead with the frog to join her outside.
But the frog always resisted.
The days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years.
And the years into decades.
Then one morning the frog looked up and saw something looking down at him. It wasn’t the sparrow.
It was an owl.
“Mr. Frog,” the owl called down. “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“What… is… it?” the frog said slowly, each word followed by a labored breath.
“I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the sparrow has died.”
The words descended to the bottom of the well—echoing as they did, as if being spoken by a chorus—and swirled there for a moment. The frog was so shocked by the news that it took him a minute to realize he was crying and another minute before he stopped.
“The funeral is today, and you must come,” the owl said.
The frog raised a webbed hand in defiance. “No, no… I… can’t,” he said in a strained cadence. “I’m far… too old… and… far too sick… to climb out.“
In a flash, the owl swooped down, head first—with the speed and precision of an Olympic platform diver—and snatched the frog in her claws. The frog fought back, but he was trapped. He flailed his arms and kicked his legs and croaked as loudly as his lungs would allow. But despite his spasms of resistance, the bottom of the well was getting farther and farther away, while the blue sky above was getting closer and closer. Before he knew it, the frog was somewhere he had never been before.
The real world.
And oh, how magnificent it was. Sitting on a patch of grass, he looked to his left and his right. He look ahead and behind. He saw, as the sparrow had said, trees that stretched their branches up, like they were trying to snatch the clouds from the sky; the mountains that squatted majestically, like a king on his throne; and the deer frolicking, the bears wrestling and the beavers, uh, beavering.
And then he began to cry again.
“It seems there are two funerals today,” he said to the owl. “One for my friend and one for me.”
“What do you mean?” the owl said, turning her head almost completely around because… you know, just to show off.
“One is for a life that ended,” the frog replied. “And one is for a life that never started. Mine. I just didn’t know that until now. If I had just listened. If I hadn’t been so stubborn, I could have done something about it. But I was stuck, not just in the bottom of that well but in my own way of thinking.
“And I couldn’t escape from either of them. Now it’s too late to do anything about it.”
The owl looked at the frog and searched for words of comfort, but there weren’t any. She just gently picked him up—this time with his resigned compliance—and ascended high into the sky and towards the sounds of mourning.
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