I fell in love with Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, in fourth grade. It is the story of two unlikely friends — Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider — whose friendship endured until death. Even now, over 40 years later, I tear up thinking about the story. As I have matured, everything I need to know about relationships (both personal and business) I learned from Charlotte’s Web and its fictional character, Charlotte.
From a personal standpoint, Charlotte proved that neither size, gender nor attractiveness matter in true friends. Charlotte was a bastion of loyalty and love. The little spider was smarter than everyone around her, but still humble. She had a wicked sense of humor, and she used truth, kindness and compassion to change the hearts of humans and her barnyard companions. Finally, she understood the importance of legacy. That understanding provided relationships for her children, grandchildren and beyond.
From a business standpoint, Charlotte’s ability to organize a variety of generally uncooperative, agenda-driven barnyard animals to do what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, was a stroke of organizational brilliance. From convincing the not-so-bright sheep to create distractions, to energizing the lazy rat Templeton, to finding what she needed for her web creations — it is all a guide for effective leadership. Charlotte was able to pinpoint and use her neighbors’ individual motivators to accomplish her ultimate goal: saving Wilbur’s life.
I must have read Charlotte’s Web 30 times growing up, and the last time I read it was sometime in high school. I remember thinking that it was also an allegory for my faith, as well. It taught me that there is no truer love than to sacrifice oneself for a friend, and no greater gift than to put another’s interest first. One person, no matter their size or importance, can make a difference and have an impact on their world. I believe the world would be a better place if we all embraced our inner Charlotte.
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