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THE GOOSE WHO LAID A GOLDEN EGGthe-goose-and-the-golden-egg

There was once a Countryman who possessed the most wonderful Goose you can imagine, for every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg.

The Countryman took the eggs to market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the Goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day. He was not getting rich fast enough.

Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the Goose and cutting it open. But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find, and his precious Goose was dead.


This story is commonly used to illustrate that greed can leave us with nothing. In financial advisement terms, it alludes to the degree to which short-term focus can destroy the viability of an asset. Let’s carry it a step further and view ourselves as the asset, capable of laying the golden eggs. Stephen Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” used the fable to discuss his concepts of Production (the golden eggs) and Production Capability (the asset capable of producing).

Let’s view ourselves as the asset, having production capability. Just as the goose, we are bound by some physical laws of nature. Specifically, our production is limited by our physical health, our energy, and our emotional stability. I have repeatedly watched people ignore the finite boundaries of all of these categories and expect the goose will somehow keep producing. It is an area of concern for high achieving personalities who have difficulty giving themselves the breaks and the balance their body needs. When people ignore the boundaries of energy, they compromise the asset both physically and emotionally. In the physical category, the cost to the asset is compromised musculoskeletal strength and decreased cardiovascular fitness. Exacerbated body pains (i.e. backaches) and chronic pain conditions (i.e. fibromyalgia) decreases the quality and quantity of performance. In the emotional category, the cost to the asset is increased anxiety symptoms (headaches, digestive issues or sleep disruption) and low grade depression, which reduces motivation and energy.  High stress can lead to all of the above symptoms as well as compromised adrenals and increased cortisol levels (which increases stomach fat). The breakdown to the goose is gradual, and thus often ignored until the symptoms are bad.

Like other areas of peak performance, delayed gratification is necessary. Practice sacrificing the short-term comfort of “plowing through” for the long term payoff of continued optimal functioning.


1.  If you just read the above story, and thought “I’ll take are of myself later,” practice self-restraint in other areas of your life. If you love jelly beans, practice having them in the room without eating them. Self-restraint is necessary before you can start protecting the goose. Self-restraint requires the ability to turn off the computer when you want to keep working, to step away from the problem to take a walk, to restrain yourself from going after 100% when 80% will be sufficient.

2.  Practice short-term “detox” after particularly stressful periods to help your body recuperate. We become neurologically conditioned to activity patterns, and so the first day or two of rest will actually feel uncomfortable. When you are no longer hanging onto your chair by your fingernails to keep from going to the office or cleaning the house, you’ll know that your brain has begun to get the message that it is okay for your body to relax. If you really struggle with this, train yourself to sit with a magazine or fictional book for 15 minutes at a time. (Note: A fictional book is specified because your brain needs to relax as well). Once you can do 15 minutes, build up from there.

3.  Bring some non-negotiable behaviors into your life. Even if the goose gets run over, trampled, and kicked across the farmyard, you want to try to ensure her basic health. First, non-negotiable means that “I don’t have time” is not an excuse. Excuses can be deaths, fires or other true emergencies. Exceptions apart from those will cycle you right back into your normal habit pattern. Some non-negotiables you may want to consider is identifying the minimum amount of exercise you’ll give the goose, the minimum amount of sleep, and the margins that are necessary for emotionally recharging.

4.  Identify and schedule the physical and emotional refueling time.

Unless you see yourself as an asset and plan accordingly, you jeopardize your production capability.

–Dr. Tricia

Protecting the Goose is your most difficult challenge. In order to succeed, continue to focus on your desire to produce golden eggs for a very long time. Think about the people you will be able to serve, the family with whom you can play, and the ongoing capacity you’ll have to live well and make the world a better place.

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