Friday, 3 October 2014

Cow doesn’t know the use of its tail

I read recently that a dog started to walk on its hind legs after having an accident which resulted in damage to its front legs.  I have seen dogs standing upright while reaching for items but never seen one walking around on its hind legs. 

I thought it interesting that the dog started to walk on its hind legs after finding that its front legs were non-functional.  Could the dog do this before but simply didn’t? Had the front legs not been broken would that dog have learnt to walk on its hind legs?  This situation reminded me of the men and women who participate in the paralympic games, going after gold and often achieving more than when they did when they were fully able-bodied.  I wonder why many paralympians and indeed the dog were not inclined to do the same before they lost the use of their limbs.  Does it suggest that the loss of a limb or the occurrence of misadventure raises the level of consciousness of an individual and forces him/her to be creative and fearless?  Does this explain the phenomenon where people embark on charitable ventures for the wider good after experiencing particularly challenging life-changing situations?

Some may argue: “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” suggesting that if we have two legs why bother to learn to hop.  When I was a child my parents often told me “When others are jumping to two legs you’re better off jumping on one”.  This Jamaican proverb had me seriously perplexed for a number of years until I came to realise its significance- Don’t feel that you have to be like others, there is no there is no shame in being different.  I now realise it can also convey the importance of being resourceful - not feeling that we must have everything in order to be successful in our endeavours.

This story made me realise that we are equipped with what we need to pursue our goals.  Sometimes we look at our situations and we fail to see a way; we find reasons why we can’t, instead of seeing opportunities where we can.  There is a Spanish proverb:  A la ocasion la pintan calva - Strike when the iron is hot. We often wait until our backs are against the wall before we explore our latent talents in order to find solutions. 

If we maintain an open mind and adopt an attitude of gratitude in the presence of opposition, seeing it as a challenge to dig deeper, we will be better able to look into and beyond the opposition and spot the opportunity.  After the storm there is calm and it’s in that still moment that our Eureka shows up.  We can’t keep running; sometimes we have to stop, assess, plan strategy and start again.  We have to be creative in our thinking, embracing a “yes and” attitude instead of a “yes but” one.  Instead of waiting for a better moment or another solution we should explore our options or better still, be the solution.  There is no time like the present. 

When we ignore our innate ability we crave things that we believe we need to solve our problems.  We think that if only we could get this or that all would be well and we would be happy.  Not so long ago we attempted to potty-train our little girl.  She became dry by day quite quickly but we did not believe in our ability to achieve a similar outcome at night.  We were referred to a clinic that specialises in this field but there was a long wait.  While we waited we started the process of waking her up at a certain time of the night.  To our surprise, it worked almost immediately.  By the time we got access to the treatment we no longer needed it.  We had mistakenly assumed that because the child has special needs it was beyond our capability to get her over this hurdle, not realising that we were indeed equipped with the tools we needed.  We learnt not to make unfounded assumptions – the proof of the pudding is in the eating; try it!

There is a Jamaican proverb that says:  when trouble tek man pickney shut fit him (similar to:  any port in a storm) - when our backs are against the wall we find ways of coping; we find solutions, even if they are not ideal.  We shouldn’t wait until we find ourselves in a jam before we start to explore.  We shouldn’t have to lose a leg before we decide to climb a mountain.  In the same way, we don’t have to wait until we suffer misfortune before we embark on a venture that benefits others.  We all possess much  undiscovered, unexplored talent which we haven’t nurtured. 

It is normal to harbour feelings of inadequacy in the face of uncertainty.  Inexperience, doubt and fear often override our confidence and make us feel incapable.  We are born with solutions which may not resemble those employed by others but are nonetheless relevant.  The solutions we enjoy today were first introduced by people who initially had no experience and who would have failed several times.  However they did not allow their enthusiasm, drive and ambition to give way to the fear of failure.  They didn’t give up and thanks to that dogged determination and positive attitude, we enjoy a host of products and services today.

As business people what new, innovative steps are you taking to keep your organisation growing?  Are you tagging along on four legs or are you trying to balance on two?  What would happen if you break a leg, could you still thrive?  What happens if two key staff members resign; would it impact adversely on your competitiveness?  What key skills have you identified in your company that could help to reduce cost and promote job satisfaction?  Very often we have the skills we need under our noses but because we are so far removed from the ground we fail to spot them.  It is fine to have a helicopter view but it is also good to pay attention to details.  We have to respect the competence of our most valuable assets – the people who help us deliver the products and services that keep us in the game.  Involve staff in your decision-making; they understand what customers need and could save you thousands which you may otherwise pay to consultants which often do not have firsthand knowledge and understanding of your marketplace. 

Get to know the use of your “tail” before you lose it.