The Three Pillars of Successdom

from The Magic Pond and other fables

On the uppermost floor of an opulent hotel at the centre of a prosperous city a man walked into an elevator. But he was no ordinary man.

The elevator descended. On the next floor down a second man entered, and a conversation between the two men ensued.

“Good Morning stranger,” said the first man. “And would you be good enough to tell me how you come to be entering this lift on the next floor down?”

“Well . . . ” said the second man, “if you’re interested, I am taking a short vacation. I have five days holiday from work to use up – so I bought one of these city breaks. I’ve booked a discounted room – couldn’t quite stretch to the top floor. It’s very nice here, isn’t it? Do you happen to know where the museum is?”

“Perhaps,” said the first man, “but let me first tell you that I am J. Orville Wankburger, the world’s most successful person, and author of ‘The Three Pillars of Successdom’ – in which I reveal the immovable principles that have made me who I am.”

He produced a copy of his book. “The book retails at thirty dollars – but I’m gonna give you one of those pillars for free . . .

“Never rest. In taking a break you didn’t really need, simply in order to use up days, you have squandered valuable time, money and energy. Worse still, in the matter of room allocation you have settled for second-best. If you’ll settle for second best, is it really time to rest? Can you afford not to buy this book?”

But before the second man could reply to this – somewhat aphoristic – advice, the elevator stopped at another floor. And this time a very smartly-dressed woman walked in.

“Good Morning Ma’am,” said the world’s most successful person. “Are you on your holidays as well?”

“I wish,” said the woman. “Far from it. For I am attending a conference here at the hotel – a medical conference where many pressing and serious matters are being discussed. As a Nobel-Prize winning chemist who has discovered the cures to many diseases, I have been invited to give an address . . .

“The entire conference and all of our work is funded, of course, by charitable donations. The use of the conference suite, and the delegates’ rooms, have been donated. I am, of course, not paid for speaking – but my room and my ticket have been provided.”

“All very fascinating,” said the man. “You will be interested to know that I am J. Orville Wankburger, the world’s most successful person, and author of ‘The Three Pillars of Successdom’. It retails at thirty dollars – but I’m going to offer you one of those pillars in advance . . .

“Never take handouts. In accepting tickets, inferior hotel accommodation, and the gift of conference facilities, you have marked yourself out as a loser. Your work is funded? Your greatest achievement was a prize?

“Somebody somewhere is making money out of you, yet you are reduced to scavenging. If it’s free, it’s not for me. The book is thirty dollars. You already owe me ten.”

Before the woman could answer these – perhaps debatable – points, the elevator stopped again and a man in white coveralls joined them.

“Now what have we here?” said the world’s most successful person. “Are you a medic, or perhaps some kind of activity holidaymaker?”

“Work here,” said the man. “This good country. Leave my home. Farm. Very bad war. Cross desert. Find boat. Many days. Very hungry. People dying. Come here. Get hotel job. No English.”

“Sir – ” answered his inquisitor – “this is your lucky day, for I am J. Orville Wankburger, author of ‘The Three Pillars of Successdom’ and I’m gonna sell you all three of those pillars right now . . .

“Never give up. Never ever give up. In walking away from that perfectly serviceable farm at the first sign of trouble you have begun an inevitable one-way descent into oblivion. A disorganised exit. Poor transportation. Compromised health – and a job I wouldn’t give to my worst enemy. Big quitters ain’t big hitters. That’s the third pillar. Thirty dollars please.”

“Three pillars?” said the man. “No, two pillars. Big bed four pillars. One sheet, one quilt. Changing everyday.”

Before the four passengers could engage in further discussion, and attempt, perhaps, to deconstruct some of the contentious issues which had been raised, the elevator came to rest in the hotel lobby.

Interestingly, it transpired that there had been a revolution that morning, and a number of people were waiting to see Mr Wankburger – who, it turned out, was nothing like as successful as he thought he was.

Moral: “Full of advice about how to succeed? – Why not go and fuck yourself?”

© Adam Acidophilus 2014