Who doesn’t love a good ol’ rags-to-riches story? Who doesn’t want all the annoyance, all the malarkey of everyday living to be waved away by a magical wand and replaced with the worry-free promise of living “happily ever after”? Who cares that concentrating on the end of the story is quite the disservice to the hero/heroine?
In sports, an athlete or team no one was paying any attention, or that usually does poorly, but — suddenly — catapults itself into public view by achieving an unprecedented level of excellence, is referred to as “A Cinderella Story.” The question on everyone’s minds then being: Will they turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight? More important than the confused use of imagery is how the sports industry is better able to recognize and celebrate a “Cinderella” than anyone else.
Outside of sports, a Cinderella is someone who after being treated like crap for years is rewarded for all their predominantly-silent suffering by some outside figure coming in and just handing them what they’ve always wanted. Sounds nice, but it isn’t any good. It just skims the surface details of a perfectly good story in order to jam the sugary-sweet ending down our throats.
Rewards of Virtue
What a lovely world this would be if goodness and kindness and patience were so clearly and consistently rewarded as the cartoon fairy tales and made-for-TV movies like to show. Then all the things we tell ourselves about keeping our heads down and paying our dues would be perfectly acceptable because the result would be so easy to quantify. Instead, we look around and find so many good and decent people getting screwed over again and again.
We get so focused on the happy ending that we skim the surface details and miss out on the true virtues that lay below. A Cinderella-team did not magically become amazing overnight, it only seems that way because of the time between games and the happy accident of opportunity after a long journey of hard work. The team wouldn’t be playing to begin with were it not for the fact that every team member showed up and did their work at practice, and then showed up and did that work for all to see at game time.
In the Grimms’ version, called ‘Aschenputtel,’ our girl Ashen (my site, my nickname) goes from being provided for by her father to working as a servant in her own home. Try to look at it as her father taking care of her till she got out of school and then she went into business for herself out of a home office. The work is hard with long days; it always seems like people in her industry have it much easier, these are the stepsisters as fellow entrepreneurs whose full story she — and therefore we — are not privy to; and, it always feels like time is conspiring against her in the form of her stepmother giving her ridiculous tasks with impossible deadlines (the equivalent of doing freelance work for a less-than-ideal client).
Check It Out
Ashen is boss. She chooses this life of seeming drudgery because she knows that whatever she learns along the way will lead to the life and success she wants. We know this because magic is on her side and rather than use it as a cheat to escape, she uses it as a resource as she iterates away from the client work she hates to launching a new product (or re-launching an old one) and pulling a world of opportunity back into that little home office.
Also, I’ve been talking the Grimm version this whole time because the most important part of Ashen being baller without a ballgown is that only she fit the golden slipper. She goes to the festival/ball, thereby launching the latest iteration of her business, and leaves behind a shoe that only she can fit and only her target audience will think to use. Her golden slipper is her call to action is how her ideal customer knows how to chase after her.
The stepsisters, on the other hand, can’t fit in the shoe because it’s not their niche. Trying to fit into a niche that isn’t yours can cost dearly (a toe and a heel for the stepsisters, your business being crippled if you try too hard to be someone else), and trying to ride the trend of someone else’s tipping-point popularity can blind you from pursuing your own niche markets. For those who don’t know this part of the Grimm version: the stepsisters’ eyes were pecked out by birds at Aschenputtel’s wedding.
Doing The Work
So Ashen got a huge payout because she knew how to use her niche positioning to sell what needed selling to her ideal client. This was not on accident or a stroke of luck. This was hard work, opportunity, and a little help.
After some years of “paying dues,” being kind and getting by, Ashen sees an opportunity for growth requiring a great deal of specialized work in a short amount of time. So, she takes inventory of resources at her disposal, and delegates/hires those who can get the job done at the quality level required in the given time crunch (she gets a flock of birds to peck lentils out of the fireplace ashes). The reason she was not quite ready to launch was because to ensure everything went to plan, she had to stick with the contract workers she brought in and act as supervisor (here you get to remember that she was always good and kind, and must have therefore been a joy for the birds to work under).
When the specialized contract work was done, Ashen then had to reassess that all the pieces were in place for her to attract her ideal client. It’s then that she knows she has to be in place, that she has to position herself in view of prospective clients and this is where we get to see the fairy godmother/giving tree at play. This is where the marketing happens, by taking out a small loan for a little advertising and or having her guest blog post get published, or even just engaging her email list or social media following, she’s just getting fancy-free and out-in-view.
We know her launch is successful, she put in the work and was smart about her time and effort. There’s only one thing my “translation” has yet to account for: our girl Ashen does a lot of crying, and that’s usually where people get the idea of her just waiting around and that’s where they always get their translation wrong. Our girl Ashen always checks in with and takes care of herself first.
Every time negative emotions of fear and doubt and hopelessness and impatience arise, Ashen feels them. She gives herself permission to be upset, but she does not wallow. She takes a moment to be upset and then she assesses and adjusts her plan to keep up her hopes and see her dream through to end.
While Ashen was kind to everyone, she was kind to herself first and it is in this often overlooked detail that she wins at life and business. By always being open and forgiving to herself about her emotions, she never let her emotions cause a full stop to her progress and was always able to keep moving forward and be friggin’ baller. How many of us manage to do that every single day in pursuit of our own dreams?