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My favorite fairy tale growing up was “Toads and Diamonds.”

I had a beautifully illustrated version of this folk tale in a Big Golden Book that was my mom’s when she was a little girl. So not only was the book beautiful and fun to read, but it had sentimental value because the book itself was a family heirloom. (The original copyright was first in 1959, and it’s out of print now. The gorgeous illustrations shown below were created by Gordon Laite, to give artistic credit where credit is due.)

Here’s the nutshell version of the story:

A mother and her two daughters live alone. The youngest daughter goes to the well to fetch water one day, and an old beggar woman asks for a drink. She gladly shares her water and is blessed for her kindness by the woman, who is a fairy in disguise, so that every word she speaks henceforth will also yield a pearl or precious gemstone.

The next day, their mother sends the elder sister — her favorite daughter — to the well, hoping for the same reward. But the fairy has changed her disguise (she now looks like a princess). When the sister responds to her request for water with snark instead of kindness, she gets cursed so that all her words will forevermore come out with snakes and toads.

It wasn’t until recently that a much deeper meaning of this tale surfaced in my understanding, and this underlying meaning is highly relevant to the thought leadership industry.


This is what I realized:

The well is the source, the power in the universe that imbues and inspires all ideas and creative endeavors.

The reason you come to the well is your intention behind sharing your message — what you will do with what you’ve learned, with the water you’ve drawn from the well.

The fairy (disguised as the beggar woman and/or the princess) is your audience. She hears your message, and she is also judging you — not only the quality of your words, but also the motivation behind why you’re sharing them.

The jewels — or the toads & snakes — are what you get from sharing.

What you get reflects the intention behind what you give.

When you present and then close with a sales pitch, you’re coming to the well for the jewels, not for the water.

If you present with the hope that you’ll generate leads, you’re still coming to the well for the jewels, not for the water.


When you speak to sell, you’re in it for you — not for the audience.

The fairy may judge you harshly, as she did in the guise of the princess, and perceive your words as snakes and toads.

When you present from a place of secure generosity, you’re coming to the well for the water, not the jewels.

That doesn’t mean you didn’t get paid to be there — it means you’re not trying to get more, now that you’re present.

It means your needs are taken care of so all your energy can be focused on what you have to share that can help and transform your audience. There is nothing on the line for you, and so your energy is fully devoted to the present moment, and fully connected to the people listening to you, in the spirit of kindness and giving. If not one single person bought from you, you’d still appreciate having been invited.

And then if you get leads or future business, it’s a blessing — not an expectation or a need — and you recognize it as such.

You can most certainly make a living from sharing your message.

But you have to choose which method is best suited to your spirit, and your wisdom, and infuse everything with your higher purpose and true intentions.

To go a bit deeper, because I can’t help geeking out a bit more…

In Anglo-Saxon mythology there is a concept known as “The Well of Wyrd.” While that almost rhymes with “word,” what “wyrd” actually means is something more like “fate” or “destiny.”

It’s also thought to be part of the root of the word “weird.”

The Well of Wyrd is related to the Norns or the three sisters who weave the fates of all mankind. Their names roughly translate to Becoming, Being, and That to Come.

Their tasks include nourishing the roots of the Tree of Life with the water from the Well of Wyrd.

Once more, the water from this well has the potential to feed everything in existence and help it grow and flourish.

And all the Norns are present and future-focused: Becoming, Being, and That to Come.

Not one of them is focused on the past.

So, again… Why are you coming to the well?

For the water, or for the jewels?