When My Young Daughter Made Me Fall in Love With An Equation

The formula is simple, Net Value= Value — Cost. The love — here is how.

Image for post
Image for post
Oliver Sjöström’s awesome photo

One night, three years ago, as I begin to read a bedtime story to my then six-year-old daughter, she stops me and says –“Dad, why don’t you tell me a story instead of reading it?”

I set the book aside and my mind is racing to my childhood experiences — the fox and the crow story springs to mind.

I like the idea of a fable, it has a moral. I tuck my daughter in bed, sit beside her and let the thoughts flow.

A crow notices a grandma making tasty doughnuts. [With my hand gestures complementing the narrative in the fading nightlight,] the crow flies to a tree after getting a doughnut from grandma.

Then, a sly fox enters the scene, spots the doughnut in crow’s mouth and comes up with a plan to steal it.

“Hey crow, everybody tells me that you have a beautiful voice, can you sing for me?”

The excited crow opens her mouth to caw. I continue, matching my daughter’s wide eyed gaze. As the crow caws, the doughnut falls and the fox takes off with it. I pause and then add, in a slow, subdued voice — never get swayed by flattery. My daughter dozes off after thanking me for the story- I am thrilled with the personal connection, the animated tale is better received than any read from a book.

As my joy subsides, I think about the parallels between how we “handle” situations in real life — situations like the one in the tale, hidden agendas and crafty conversations.

In that context, the story shares what the crow should not do, but what about the actions the crow could do?

I broached this story again next evening with my daughter and egged her for alternative endings. Initially she said, as expected, calling out the fox.

When I prodded her and said that the crow would still lose the snack. She thought for a moment and said, “I would hold the doughnut on my feet” — I felt like a happy coach.

Then she added, “I would ask the fox if he is hungry and if he says yes, I will give him the doughnut.”

A little perplexed, I asked, what about your share? I will go back to grandma to get another one. With that, she turned around and started to play with her little sister.

I was stumped. Nobody said there was only one doughnut.

You see, [pointing to the formula in the background, net value = value less cost] — the value for the fox is crystal clear. The cost of the doughnut for my daughter was lower than what I had perceived. Her fertile mind was able bring out her essence of giving much better than any of the alternatives I had.

Therein lies the heart of success to soar human potential with positivity.

Wharton Prof. Adam Grant in his seminal research based book, , talks about two types of successful people — least successful and most successful. They have something in common — both of them are givers. When I pored through the book to discover what makes the most successful standout — I smiled.

It mirrors a sage advice on how to live a life from my 10th grade educated mother. Loosely translated from my mother tongue, Tamil — focus on what is of great value to others but less cost to you.

The geek I am, I connected the art of successful giving to an equation I am familiar with. [pointing to the equation in the background]

If you look deeply into the equation, it is about connection — a human connection– a connection between others first and you second. [now it reads: net value = value to others — cost to you.]

That connection is a delicate balance. Value alone for others irrespective of our costs is like a crash diet — may work in the short run, unsustainable in the long run.

Minimizing our cost alone without caring for value to others — takes us nowhere other than being good at greedy heuristics.

When we get the balance right — the awesome multiplier effect needs to be felt to be believed.

Just like my daughter.

Karthik Rajan.

This write-up is part of a TED like talk, I will give one day. What brought this out today? My daughter is now in third grade and I was invited to her class to listen to the kids share their creative writing — poems. They could choose any theme. Some wrote about Houston, some kids eloquently pictured their families, my daughter shared about the world…

The Beautiful Amazing World

[And I clapped and glowed -her positivity shined through. I learn from my daughter - every day]

And thank you for reading all the way about my small cocoon of the world.

Written by

Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store