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EDITORIAL: Coffee Bean Redux: Simple, worthy lesson

Years back, we were entertained by a lunchtime speech by S. Truett Cathy, the diminutive metro Atlanta businessman who, with his brother, founded first Dwarf Grill and later Chick-fil-A.

Cathy was a man who’d be lost in a crowd, even in Atlanta, not because of lack of talent or insight but because of an unassuming manner and ingrained humility. At his death he was worth more than $4 billion.

Cathy said folks would oftentimes try to diminish his signature sandwich, dismissing it as just a piece of chicken on a bun. Anyone could do that, they’d tell him.

“I know anyone could do it,” he told his lunchtime audience. “That’s why I could do it.”

There’s something beautiful in simplicity, whether the subject is a tasty sandwich or a thought-provoking fable. Today, John Wiley & Sons will publish “The Coffee Bean, A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change,” a brief fable by motivational speaker Jon Gordon and Damon West, a local author who motivates plenty of people himself.

You know this part of the story: West, a former Thomas Jefferson High and University of North Texas quarterback whose drug addiction led to a criminal life that netted him a 65-year prison sentence, earned early parole by turning his life around.

His first book, “The Change Agent,” is a gem. This second book, written with Gordon, is a brief work of fiction that builds on the “Coffee Bean” lesson.

You may know that, too: An older inmate befriended West when he entered the prison system and advised him how to move forward. He compared prison options to three common items that can be boiled in water: a carrot, an egg and a coffee bean. Dropped into the water, the egg hardens; the carrot grows soft. Neither holds a favorable outcome in prison.

The third item, the coffee bean, promises a different outcome: Put it into boiling water, and it changes its environment by turning it into coffee — a happy ending. That’s what West sought to do during his prison time: Change the environment.

The short fable in Gordon’s and West’s book urges people to do just that in their own lives. Appropriate for children and adults, its core message remains the same as told in West’s autobiographical work: Resolve to do right, be optimistic, believe you can succeed, work on what you can control, seek solutions, inspire others. In short, change the negative environment around you to succeed.

It’s not unlike the life Cathy led. His own books, “Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People,” “It’s Easier to Succeed Than to Fail” and “It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men,” were all inspirational. Their lessons were born in simple ideas, not unlike this one:

“Be a coffee bean.”