Once upon a time, there was a young merchant who desired to sell his Turkish delight in the marketplace. On the first morning of his business endeavour, he told himself “I must sell 20 kilos of Turkish delight today”. But he only sold 2 kilos. Somewhat disappointed, he thought to him-self, “perhaps I need to smile more to attract more customers”.
The following day, as he waited for customers he kept thinking “I must smile; I must smile; I must smile”. That day he sold 3 kilos. Now of course, he was disappointed but “it must be working” he thought, and pondered what he should do to make more sales.
On the third day he eagerly returned to the marketplace with a list of things he thought he ought to do and think; but by the end of the day, he was mentally drained, and unhappy. To top off his misery, he only sold 1 kilo of Turkish delight. That evening, he returned home discouraged, “I must be doing something wrong” he thought, “what must I do to be successful?”
Being the persistent and eager lad that he was, he continued to go to the marketplace every-day, but each day grew gradually worse, some days he sold nothing at all.
Then one day a little girl approached him “why are you sad Mister?”
“I’m not sad” lied the young merchant.
“Then why do you look sad?” she inquired.
He looked at his watch, dropped his shoulders and let out an emotional sigh; “it’s been 5 hours, and I haven’t sold anything”.
“Ooh, ooh, can I try” asked the girl excitedly.
“Ah, I guess… ok, why not” he replied, seeing he had nothing to lose.
The little girl was a bundle of joy and few could resist her charm, almost immediately, customers drew near to buy from her. “Fancy that” they thought, admiring the enthusiasm of the little girl, “isn’t she cute; a fine young entrepreneur”.
So the young merchant hired the little girl (with the permission of her parents) and his business prospered. They sold many more than 20 kilos on many an occasion. But as the months went by, sales began to decline once again.
Eventually the little girl’s enthusiasm began to dwindle. “You must sell more” ordered the young merchant, kindly. “You must smile, you must be friendly, you must plan your day; you must, you must…….”
The little girl tried as hard as she could, (repeating his words over and over in her head), but as sales plummeted, the young merchant’s kindness turned to anger.
“You’re fired” he exclaimed.
The little girl returned home devastated, and told her parents what had happened. Her grand-dad (who happened to be there also) overheard.
“No matter” he smiled assuredly, “let me talk to the young man; perhaps I can persuade him to give you another go”.
The little girl agreed.
The following morning, the little girl’s grand-dad approached the young merchant. The merchant looked gloomy and sullen.
“Hello young Sir” chimed her grand-dad cheerfully.
“Can I help you?” asked the merchant sarcastically.
“Oh, I hope so” the grand-dad replied.
“What would you like?” asked the merchant, reaching for the smallest packet of Turkish delight in routine assumption.
“I’d like to help you” replied the grand-dad gleaming.
“Are you good at selling?” the merchant retorted.
“You bet I am” the grand-dad replied.
That afternoon, the grand-dad sold more Turkish delight than the merchant had ever sold in any other day. Although the merchant was very happy that day, he was also very sad.
“Why is it that you sell so well and I don’t.” he asked the grand-dad.
“That’s simple” the grand-dad replied, eyeing the merchant up and down “you look miserable”.
“I know” sighed the merchant, fiddling nervously. “and each day I tell myself that I must not be miserable, but no matter how hard I try, I feel more and more miserable each day, I just can’t seem to sell anything.”
“I see” smiled the grand-dad intriguingly, “and what else do you tell yourself?”
“Well, lots of things” he recounted “I’m very organized, I constantly remind myself of everything I should do each day”.
“And how do you feel, after you tell yourself all these things?” the grand-dad asked warmly.
“Well, I must admit, I do feel a bit stressed!”
“A bit?” joked the grand-dad. An understanding grin emerged, and his eyes sparkled.
“Ok, a lot” agreed the merchant, feeling more at ease.
“Do you want to know a secret” whispered the grand-dad, just loud enough for the merchant to hear.
“Will it make me a better salesman?” asked the merchant.
“It can” the grand-dad replied, “however, it’s going cost you a small favour”.
“What kind of favour” the merchant remarked with intrigue.
“If you apply this secret well and sell more than twice your usual weekly average over the next week, then I’d like you to re-employ my grand-daughter”.
“That’s a deal!” the merchant exclaimed; suddenly realising that this was the grand-dad of his ex-employee “tell me, what is the secret?”
“Join my family and I for dinner tonight; I want to give you something.” The grand-dad implored sincerely.
That night the merchant had dinner with the grand-dad and his’ family (including the little girl). There was much laughter and merrymaking, but the merchant was still very much intrigued as to what this secret could be. Finally, after dessert, the grand-dad presented the merchant with a “can” of preserved fruit.
“The secret is now in your hands,” grinned the grand-dad knowingly, before turning away for another helping of dessert. The young merchant did not understand the riddle, so pressed the grand-dad to tell him the meaning later that evening.
“What does this mean” inquired the merchant curiously.
The grand-dad explained. “The ‘can’ of preserved fruits is an important tool that applies to your thinking. Every day you set goals for yourself, look at that can; it will remind you that you can succeed; not ‘must’ or can’t; not should, but can.”
From that day onward, the merchant took the can with him everywhere and kept it in plain sight, so that he would always remember the valuable lesson he had learnt. He repeated his affirmations daily (as usual) but replaced all the demanding words (like must, should and can’t) with can. From there-on, he felt the warmth of peace in his heart. The little girl was rehired as agreed, they began to smile and laugh (naturally) and best of all, they sold Turkish delight like hotcakes.