Today I received this interesting story and it got me thinking about the Timeless Wisdom at Work™ practice called “Purpose First” where our client is invited to explore what s/he stands for. What difference s/he wants to make in this world.

After you read this piece I invite you to just sit quietly for 10 minutes and simply remember. Will ya?

“What is the one thing that most gets in the way of freedom?” the teacher asked the small group of devotees.

“The mind,” somebody suggested. “The ego,” said another. He shook his head dismissively.

“Concepts,” said somebody else. “Beliefs.” This game went one for maybe half an hour. Finally, he told them this story.


A long time ago in a faraway land, there was a king who had no heir. Now I am sorry to say that this is not a perfectly politically correct story, as in this ancient land it was a king who would inherit the kingdom, not a queen.

Because he had no male offspring, he sent his squires out to all the villages around, announcing that the next king would be selected not by bloodline, but by an interview. So all of the people from round about were invited to come for an interview with the king.
When the appointed day came, they all arrived.

Of course, they lived in the villages, so they had matted hair, they were dressed in rags, many had long beards and many had just bare feet. Before they could be invited for an interview with the king, first they had to go to the royal bathhouse, where each one was scrubbed. Their beards were trimmed or shaved, and they each got a good haircut. When the bathing was over, they were anointed with beautiful oils and scents. Then they were taken to the royal dressing rooms where they got new clothes, made out of silk or velvet or satin.

Then they went to the royal banquet chambers, where they could eat anything they wanted. There was a buffet that stretched from one end of the hall to the other, with every dish you could imagine from around the world. There were fine wines too, of every possible variety. They dined in a style they had never dreamed possible before, they drank and they drank and then out came the musicians and the dancers. There was dancing, and drinking, and singing, and all kinds of revelry.

Finally, it came to nine o’clock, and the guards came to ask everyone to leave. These poor people from the villages tried to wrap up a leg of mutton in the beautiful clothes made of silk or satin. But “No,” they were told, “you cannot take anything away from here. You can only take what you came with.” And so they staggered away from the palace, singing and swaying with their arms around each other.

The king called the prime minister. “What happened?” he asked. “I requested you to send out a message to all of my people so that the next king could be selected by an interview. I’ve been waiting here the whole day but nobody came.”

The prime minister hung his head in embarrassment. “I’m sorry my Lord,” he said, “but they got too distracted with all of the things you provided. They got so distracted by the dancing girls, and music, and food, and drink, that no one remembered to come for the interview.”

The king looked at the prime minister in astonishment. “I can’t believe this,” he said. If only one of them, one single person, had remembered why he had come, he would have inherited the whole kingdom. Then all of this would have been his, every day, for the rest of his life. But each and every one forgot why he came.”

When you hear this story, does it remind you at all about anything in your own life? Do you sometimes wonder if you have also forgotten why you came? What is your purpose?

When a young couple is going to have a child, they have such a pure vision about how the child will be raised. They think of the perfect environment for their son or daughter to grow and prosper, to learn and to become their best. But years later, parents get overwhelmed and stressed, from driving kids to soccer practice, and dentist appointments, and dealing with missed homework, and they forget why they had the child.

When someone has the vision to start a new business, they raise the capital, they write out their vision statement and their values. But years later, they may find themselves cutting corners to save money, laying off employees, or making deals that are no longer in alignment with their original vision.

People forget why they came.

And of course, this is true in a much bigger way as well. Here we are, with a few decades to live on the planet. We have gifts to give; maybe we have a message to share. Deep down we have values that are important to us, but so many people forget why they came.

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