Woodson’s Fable: The Farmer and the Mule*

Posted by jlubans on October 20, 2021

Caption: oil, attributed to Herman G. Simon (American, 1846-1895) The Stubborn Mule.

A farmer leads his mule to a stream, “and the stream is 3 feet high, moving at 20 miles an hour.” The farmer “forces the mule in, and they both get swept a mile down the stream.” A year later, the farmer and the mule return. The river has receded to 6 inches. “But the mule refuses to go in, because the mule has good memory but poor judgment.”
Like Mark Twain’s cat,
“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
Often it is tempting to remain a victim, to continue in our fear that the stream is as high as ever, or will soon be, and that the water (at 6 inches) remains a formidable crossing.
Back in July, I wrote about how in my native land of Latvia some cling to their victimhood and fail to go on with their lives or, even if going on, it is a circumscribed life, far from its potential.
This following quote from that July blog is relevant to the workplace:
“In my career in libraries, I’ve encountered staff who, like victims, ‘believe they have no control over the way events unfold, they don't feel a sense of responsibility for them.” Instead of “Can Do!” it’s “No Can Do”.
When outside consultants came in and listed out changes, these were rejected by the entrenched staff – they’d say the consultants did not understand the work and that the recommendations were foolish.
All that was needed was more money for increased staff and resources.
That money was not forthcoming, and the aggrieved staff simply grew more so.
It became a several years-long stalemate which was not broken until a new leader appeared. With the full backing of his boss, he dismissed the pessimism of the past.
Perhaps amazingly, without any additional funding and the smart use of existing resources we made great strides toward becoming a ‘best practices’ workplace.”

*Source: THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Robert Woodson by Jason Willick Oct. 15, 2021 5:17 pm ET. WSJ.
Mr. Woodson is optimistic about our ability to move past grievance: “America is thirsty to reward grace and virtue. There’s going to be a revival coming soon.”

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© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

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