Whenever I stress the importance of fundamentals, I like to tell the story about the guy who walked into the pet shop to buy a bird.
He noticed several of them were listed at $1.90. When he went to buy one, the pet store owner said, "You don't want those birds, sir. I have the ideal bird here for you and it's only $692."
The guy looked at the bird and said, "Why it's just like all those other birds. How come it's so expensive?"
The store owner replied, "Ah, but this bird is different. It can talk and sing. The other birds just sit there."
The guy thought for a minute and said, "Gee, it's a lot of money, but I live alone and would love to have the company." So he bought the bird for $692.
The next day the customer returned to the store, found the owner, and complained, "I paid $692 for that bird and it doesn't talk or sing."
The owner said, "Well did you buy the bird a mirror?"
The guy says "No".
The owner said, "if you buy the bird a mirror he will look at himself in the mirror and I guarantee he will talk to you, I've got a mirror here for only $23." So the customer purchased the mirror.
He returned irate the next day and complained, "My bird looked at himself in the mirror, but he still doesn't talk or sing."
The owner replied, "That's impossible. I have the same type of bird as you. Why, just today he got up, looked at himself in the mirror, and then ran up and down his ladder."
The guy stopped him and said, "What ladder?"
The owner said, "You mean to tell me that you didn't buy the ladder! That bird won't talk or sing unless he first gets his exercise on the ladder. We have a ladder on sale today for only $27." The guy bought the ladder.
Over the next three days the storekeeper sold him a mirror, a ladder, and a swing.
At the end of the week, the customer returned in tears. He told the storekeeper, "My bird looked at himself in the mirror, climbed up and down in his ladder and swung on his swing, and keeled over in his bath. Just before he died, he looked over to me and said, don't they sell any food at that store?"
- Lou Holtz
Winning Every Day