Once upon a time there was a king who witnessed the travails of his people and wanted to do something to help them.
He reasoned that if he taught them how to be successful, their constant striving would yield more and look less like teenagers trying to run up a rain-slicked grass slope.
To this end, he enjoined his advisors: "Teach me how to be successful, so that I may teach the people!"
"But sire, you are already successful. You are the King!"
"Yes, but I cannot teach others how to be born to my mother and father!"
The bravest advisor then spoke: "The people must act today! For now is the only moment that matters." The king answered, "yes, of course, but how do they balance the concerns of today with the concerns of tomorrow? Sometimes it is better to pay a penny today to avoid paying a pound tomorrow, and yet sometimes that is penny-wise and pound-foolish."
Then the next bravest advisor spoke: "They must study those who are successful, and discern what they do."
The king replied, "this sounds interesting, tell me more."
"Well, I personally have not done this, but here is a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Non-Kings."
Skimming the book, the king said, "But this just says what the other advisor said, `act now', while adding in `practice makes perfect' and `works well with others'.
Then the approximately but not quite almost bravest advisor spoke up: "There is a wise man who lives in the
valley to the north. I will ride there and ask him!"
"That's nice, but I rather fancy a rustic valley visit myself after talking with you all."
The king headed north and soon arrived at the farmhouse of the wise man. After the king introduced himself and the reason for the visit, the wise man beckoned for the king to follow him outside. The wise man went out to his workhouse and picked up an anvil, then walked over to the barn, and up into the loft. There the king saw the view of the valley, and said, "ah, so you mean that we should work hard but take time to smell the roses?"
"No." said the wise man as he dropped the anvil from the loft window. A too quickly curtailed squawk was heard from below. As the king peered out to see a flattened duck, the wise man went back down stairs, picked up the anvil again and brought it back into the loft. At the window, the king watched as the wise man took aim and launched the anvil at another duck.
Having warily watched the old anvil-carrying man, the duck squawked and skipped to the side as the anvil crashed down to the ground, missing the duck.
"Which duck do you wish to be?" asked the wise man.
"The second, of course."
"And how do you know that you are the second, and not the first?"
The king paused, smiled, and said thank you. Returning to his advisors, he taught them as the wise man had taught him, and bid them to teach the people. For many generations, the people heeded the wise man's advice and prospered above all other nations. Until there came a time when people took the advice for granted, and the nation began to falter.
That however, is a story for another time.