“The Three Little Pigs” is a fable included in “The Nursery Rhymes of England” by James Halliwell-Phillipps, in 1886 and in “English Fairy Tales” by Joseph Jacobs, in 1890.
The fable is about three pigs who build three houses of different materials. A Big Bad Wolf blows down the first two pigs’ houses, made of straw and sticks, but is unable to destroy the third pig’s house, made of bricks. It is at that point the wolf climbs down the chimney and the pigs are saved because of a pot of boiling water that discouraged further intrusion.
The general accepted moral of the story is that hard work, taking the time to build your house out of brick, paid off in detouring a carnivorous animal attack.
This is fable is also about failure and the rest of the story is one of learning, if a follow up fable were written today to express our modern ecosystem of interdependent systems, people, and tools that drive an information economy.
Here are a few insights:
If pig #1 and #2 rebuilt their houses of the same material did they learn? What if they moved their houses closer to the brick house?
The next time, did the Wolf wait until the pigs were not in their houses to attack?
Did the hard work of building a brick dwelling solve the complete problem of wolf attacks?
Wasn’t is just luck rather than hard work that prevented the final assault on the three little swine’s?
In his book, “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure,” Tim Harford outlines the wrong way to react to failure, we hope these pigs followed that advice.
“As soon as things start going wrong, our defense mechanisms kick in, tempting us to do what we can to save face. Yet, these very normal reactions — denial, chasing your losses, and hedonic editing — wreak havoc on our ability to adapt.”
“It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit we’ve made a mistake and try to put it right. It requires you to challenge a status quo of your own making.”
In this fable some of the pigs could have decided that a non-brick house wore the Wolf out and gave them time to escape. And to the builder of brick house he could have declared that a brick house prevents all wolf attacks and we all can live safely from now on.
Chasing your losses
“We’re so anxious not to ‘draw a line under a decision we regret’ that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it. For example, poker players who’ve just lost some money are primed to make riskier bets than they’d normally take, in a hasty attempt to win the lost money back and ‘erase’ the mistake.”
Maybe pig one and two can now say that the Wolf is wounded and we can build our houses out of hay and sticks and our decision was the right one to begin with and a brick house is not necessary.
“When we engage in ‘hedonic editing,’ we try to convince ourselves that the mistake doesn’t matter, bundling our losses with our gains or finding some way to reinterpret our failures as successes.
Frankly, most of us find comfort in our denial. We can rationalize that life is just difficult and other people and companies seem to have all of the luck.”
All pigs involved could now say that the wolf attack was not really that bad, we found our pig brother easily and went to the safety of his house. A house made of brick or straw or sticks is all the same to avoid the Wolf.
Reactions to problems and crisis’s is necessary and reveals our gifts for cooping, leading, and surviving.
Learning from a problem breaks the cycle of repeated failures and can help you chart a new better life course.
For example, I hope that our brick house making pig entered into a corporation that builds Wolf-prove dwellings for all the pigs in the land. Leaving this little pig to live high on the hog of his accomplishments.
To learn more about learning from failure visit my site: Learning Frames