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The Lesson of the Cinderella Story

Women, particularly American women, seem to grow up with a Cinderella fantasy; that there is a prince out there waiting to take care of them if they can only find him. Lost in most tellings of the story is an even more important fact: The Prince courted (and married) Cinderella because she met HIS needs.

The story starts with Cinderella as the handmaiden to her evil step mother and step sisters (from the older woman's first marriage). This bit of misfortune is actually character building; Cinderella is the best worker of the bunch. Not surprisingly, she is also the best dancer of the group, and in the whole kingdom as well.

The Prince, who has come of age, naturally wants to marry, and is giving a ball to find the right girl. Naturally the two step sisters are eager to try their luck, but no, Cinderella won't be allowed to attend, because she'll just make a laughing stock of them.

But Cinderella goes anyway" "where there's a will, there's a way." This is thanks to the fairy godmother, who represented a well-meaning relative with actually limited power; yes, I can make a carriage out of a pumpkin and coachmen out of mice for you--but only until midnight. After that, you're on your own. The lesson is: "Fake it till you make it." And the clock is ticking.

Cinderella impresses the Prince with her dancing, and probably also with her humble demeanor. Princes tend not to like women who are "high maintenance." (Her stepsisters, who don't recognize her in her new finery, make the opposite impression.) That's until the clock strikes twelve, and she has to run away, or be exposed as a fraud.

Having lost all track of Cinderella, except a telltale slipper that she left behind, the Prince searches the kingdom until he finds the foot that will fit into the "signature" slipper. That's a smart Prince by the way, who knows what he wants, how to get it, and is likely to keep his kingdom. When he finds the right match, he proposes, she accepts, and both, presumably, live happily ever after with each other.

This story actually has a moral for business. All of us would like high-paying, not overly demanding, clients and bosses. But they are few and far between. The best one can hope for is a good relationship of high mutual benefit.

Yes, the Cinderella story proves that it is possible, in America at least, to get to the top by impressing the boss. But the part of the story that is often missing is that you have to impress the boss first before s/he will do anything for YOU.