My friends – today’s Wednesday Wisdom is a long one – but I’d encourage you to read it! This is one of my favorite parables (summary at the very bottom). (Origin: Quora – an answer to the question “How do I build up a disciplined lifestyle?”

One bright sunny day, three young men were walking together in the woods.

These men were great friends, and all of them had high aspirations in life. Their names were Felix, Rufus, and Maximus.

As the friends were chatting about their goals, talking about pretty girls, and cracking jokes, Rufus suddenly fell into the Earth with a yelp!

Felix and Maximus ran over to the hole where Rufus fell.

Felix yelled, “Oh my gosh Rufus! Are you okay?

Rufus replied weakly, “Yeah, I think so… can you guys help me get out of here?

Maximus and Felix grabbed Rufus and pulled him up.

Thanks, guys, I thought I was a goner for a second there. What is this hole?

Maximus pulled out a pocket flashlight and shined the light down the hole.

I think it’s a well, you guys!” said Maximus.

Felix muttered, “Well jeez, I wish there was a warning sign or something telling you that there was a well smack dab in the middle of the forest path.

Suddenly, a sign appeared in front of the three friends that read, “DANGER! Magical Well Ahead. Watch your step!

Maximus, Felix, and Rufus were flabbergasted. They could not believe their eyes.

Rufus exclaimed, “No way! This has got to be a dream. So basically this is a real-life wishing well? I thought this stuff only happened in the movies.

The other two friends murmured in agreement.

Maximus decided to take a chance of looking like a fool and wished for an apple.

Suddenly, an apple appeared in front of them.

The other two friends, catching on, also made their wishes.

Felix wishes for a new bicycle, while Rufus wishes for a beautiful lady that he could take out on a date.

Just like that, a shiny yellow mountain bike and a stunning young woman appeared before them.

As Felix rode around in circles on his new bike while Rufus sparked a flirtatious conversation with his new girlfriend, Maximus observed silently. He could see that something was off.

His father had always told him that if something seemed too good to be true, it probably was.

Nobody gets something for nothing by wishing in a well. Maximus thought that there had to be a catch.

Just as that thought bubbled up in his mind, Felix yelled as he crashed into the bushes.

The bike had disappeared out from underneath him! Rufus’ new lady friend also disappeared into thin air, which left him disappointed as things were coming along quite well for him up until that moment.

What the heck happened? My new bike vanished!” exclaimed Felix.

Maximus checked his watch.

Guys, it’s been exactly 30 minutes since you made your wishes. I think you should try again and see if it happens again in another 30 minutes.

Felix and Rufus made their same respective wishes again. This time, nothing happened.

Maybe we can’t make the same wish twice or something? I wish for a sports car!” said Felix.

Almost instantly, a shiny red Ferrari appeared before him.

Sweet!” said Felix.

Feeling depressed about losing his new girlfriend, Rufus wished for his favorite junk food, sat down, and started eating.

Again, Maximus wished for nothing more, wanting to see what would happen again after 30 minutes.

Lo-and-behold, in another 30 minutes Felix fell to the ground and gained a few scratches and bruises.

Luckily, the Ferrari was parked when the 30 minutes were up! Felix had just been sitting inside.

After making sure his friend was okay, Maximus turned to Rufus and asked, “Rufus, does your stomach feel any lighter?

Rufus had long finished his meal, and so replied, “No, I can still feel the food in my stomach. I guess if you eat what you wish for before the 30 minutes are up, it’s yours to keep!

Over the next few weeks, the three friends would return to the well together.

Rufus and Felix wished for more and more things that they’ve always wanted but didn’t feel they could get without the magic of the well.

Maximus did end up making a few wishes and had some fun, but quickly grew dissatisfied.

He accompanied the other two friends less frequently as time passed.

Maximus observed that his friends stopped talking about their goals and plans for the future as much as they had in the past.

Now, all they could think about was what they were going to wish for next from the magical well.

As time went on, Maximus grew more distant from Rufus and Felix.

Noticing this Rufus and Felix confronted Maximus and asked him why he was spending less time with them.

Maximus explained to them, “You guys think this well is an incredible treasure, but all I see is fool’s gold. None of the things that we wish for here last for very long, and I think you guys are starting to become addicted. Plus, when you don’t work for what you have, you don’t appreciate it as much, and you don’t give yourself healthy breaks from the constant indulgence.

Rufus, who had gained some weight from all the food he had wished for, replied “Fine then. Suit yourself, Max. We don’t need you and your stuffy principles anyway, as long as we have this magic well right here.

Felix agreed. “Yeah, we have everything we need. Sure it doesn’t last too long, but we can keep wishing for stuff over and over again, and we never have to feel the stress of working hard. Why work hard if you don’t have to?

Maximus tried to warn his friends of the hidden dangers of the magic well, but they refused to listen.

At that moment, Maximus bid his lifelong friends farewell, as there was nothing more he could do to convince them.

He began walking away, all alone.

For the next couple of decades, Maximus went to work.

He disciplined himself every day and worked incredibly hard.

He maximized his productivity and built an incredible business.

There were many setbacks and failures along the way, and sometimes Maximus doubted himself.

During the late nights in the office when he had worked himself to near exhaustion, he sat and wondered if he was making the wrong choice by avoiding the magic of the well and cutting his dear friends out of his life.

However, he pressed on.

Maximus began dating in his spare time. He found a beautiful woman who appreciated his ambition and disciplined attitude, and he later married her.

Later on, he would start a family, and he cherished his beautiful children together with his wife.

His business had grown to produce tens of millions of dollars in value per year, and he could afford anything that he possibly wanted.

All of his hard work paid off materially, but more importantly, he was a completely different person than he was as a young man during the time that he was still friends with Rufus and Felix.

His mastery of discipline allowed him to have complete control over himself and his appetites.

Although he was a very successful and influential man who could have nearly anything he wanted, he almost never over-indulged himself.

He enjoyed incredible experiences that came with his wealth, but he did so in moderation, balancing pleasure with the disciplined effort.

One morning, Maximus found himself feeling guilty.

He was in his backyard, overlooking a beautiful blue ocean sea on a sunny day, his glistening white house standing proudly behind him.

As he was gazing into the water, he was thinking about his friends from all those years ago.

He felt that he had abandoned them, and so resolved to visit the woods.

He knew that he might have to wait a long time for them to come around to the magical well, as he had no idea if they still lived near it or even if they visited it frequently as once they did.

Nevertheless, he packed camping supplies and drove to the woods. He parked his red Bentley SUV outside of the forest and carefully walked onto the path.

Once he reached the well, he was shocked to find what appeared to be a tombstone.

On it read, “Here lies Rufus, may he rest in peace” scrawled with what appeared to be a chisel.

The gravestone itself seemed to be a poorly carved up rock. Maximus’ heart dropped, and he began to tear up as he kneeled in front of Rufus’ grave.

Suddenly, an old-looking man with a long beard and dark eye bags under his eyes appeared from the bushes.

He was smelly, extremely skinny, dirty-looking, and seemed to be wearing rags.

M-Maximus?” whimpered Felix.

At Maximus appeared confused, but then his expression quickly changed to one of pure horror. “Oh my god, Felix, is that you?

After a tense conversation with Felix, Maximus discovered that Felix and Rufus had moved into the woods to be closer to the well several decades ago.

They had become complete addicts to everything that its magic produced for them.

The longer they stayed with the well, the more dependent they became on it.

Since everything they wished for disappeared in 30 minutes, they had nothing to show for the years they spent in the woods, which was in complete contrast to Maximus.

Not only that, but since they never had to work for what the well provided, they never learned vital qualities that come from disciplines like temperance, diligence, gratitude, and moderation.

The magic well sent both Rufus and Felix into a downward spiral of self-destruction for many years.

Unfortunately, Felix informed Maximus that Rufus had passed away many years ago from complications caused by all the unhealthy food and drink he addictively wished for.

Felix did not know how to cope with the loss of his friend and felt that he couldn’t integrate himself back into society, so he decided to live out the rest of his life in the woods.

Over the years, Felix had grown tired of wishing for things that only destroyed his body and mind further.

He began to use the well to wish for tools and nature books so he could learn to live off the land naturally and become free from its nightmarish power.

Maximus and Felix spent the rest of the day together catching up, although it wasn’t exactly a joyous reunion.

At the end of the day, Maximus invited Felix to come to stay with him until he could transition back into society, but Felix vehemently refused.

As Maximus turned to leave and return home, Felix called, “You were right you know. All those years ago, you tried to warn us Maximus. Like fools, we tried to take immediate gratification without putting in the discipline to create truly lasting rewards in our lives. I realize it now. If we had listened, maybe Rufus would still be with us.

Maximus froze after hearing Felix’s words. Unsure of what to say, Maximus continued walking towards his car with tears rolling down his face.

The moral of this story is that nothing good in life comes without the mastery of self-discipline.

The “magic well” in our own lives can come in many forms.

For some people, it could manifest as the constant chase for “get-rich-quick” schemes.

For others, it could be an addiction to distractions like TV, video games, and partying.

For others, it could continuously be chasing the opposite sex.

Just like in the story of Maximus, Rufus, and Felix, all of these things can offer immediate gratification, although all of them are short-lived and temporary.

If you want to become truly successful, you need to rid yourself of all the “magic wells” in your life and embrace the development of self-discipline by actually practicing it.

There’s no other way.