Many years ago I was attending a management development program. During the program I came across a story which I would like to share with you.
Once there was a king in a faraway land. One day he summoned 100 of his top scholars and learned people and said to them:
“You have written great books praising me and this kingdom. We will leave these books for our future generations to read. As I am growing older I feel that it is our duty to give to our descendents what we have learned from our ancestors. In addition we should also pass on to them what we have learned from our experience.
“You are all most learned and knowledgeable men of my kingdom. I would like to entrust this holy task to you.
“Please collect all the wisdom we have and put them at one place for everyone to read.”
The scholars and learned men went away and labored hard for many months. After 6 months they went to the king and presented 20 thick volumes they had prepared.
The king glanced through those volumes and said, “I am proud of you. You have truly worked hard to prepare this magnificent work which contains all we know. But I was thinking that not many people will read all those volumes. The great work you have done should benefit the common man. Please reduce the size of what you have written so that the common man will be inclined to read it.”
The learned men again labored for few more months and came out with one volume. The king was pleased to see that volume but felt that it was still too large.
The learned men then put all their knowledge in one chapter. While the king was appreciative of their work, he urged them to reduce it even further. After few weeks the learned men presented one page on which they had summarized their knowledge.
The king read the one page summary and fell into a deep meditation for some time. Then he said, “You have done a great job. But I still cannot see how a common man will read and absorb the great lines of wisdom you have written. The man who is concerned about his day to day living will not care to go through it. And what good is the knowledge which is not useful to everyone?
“I know I am asking too much from you. But please see how you can compress it even more.”
After few days the learned men came out with one-line wisdom. As soon as the king saw that line he jumped and danced with joy and shouted, “You have indeed written what I was looking for. This one line contains all the wisdom we have learned and will guide the people of all ages. No matter how much and in what direction our descendents progress, this piece of wisdom will never fade away. I am glad we will be able to leave behind our discovery of this ageless principle which will be used by all the generations to come.”
And this was the one-line wisdom – there is no free lunch.