Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Old Fables New Morals - The Goatherd and the Wild Goats

You know, there are these times from Aesop got quite the wrong moral from his own fables. Yeah, I know that I did say once earlier that adults makes a mess of learning morals from stories but for the very guy, who is messing up with children's minds by telling stories with morals, to get it wrong...

Take this one, for example, about the goatherd and the wild goats. This chappie, apparently, went out with his goats and a snowstorm hit the place. Finding some wild goats also in trouble, he drove them also to his place. Intending to entice them to stay with him, he fed them better than his own goats for as long as the snowstorm lasted. When the snowstorm stopped storming, the wild goats scampered away. Hearing the goatherd fuming about their ingratitude, when he had taken better care than his own goats, they said, "That is why we are leaving. If we stay, the next time you find some new goats, you will neglect us and take care of them." AND Aesop thinks that the moral of that story is, "Old friends cannot be neglected with impunity for new ones."


To be honest, I thought so too. Till I used that fable once with a bunch of management guys from different areas of specialization. They opened my eyes to the reality of the moral of the tale.


"So, you think that fable tells me I should not offer attractive schemes only to new customers? Nonsense. As usual, you have got the moral all wrong."


"What? What have I..."


"See, does the tale tell anything about any of his old goats scampering away? So, exactly how has he lost? His old friends are still with him. AND, if even one of the new lot had stayed with him, he is better off by one more goat. I think the moral should be more of 'Change is difficult for people. You may not get the new, but you will not lose the old.'"


"Yeah, Right!" chimed in the HR guy. "We entice people from other companies with better pay and perks. That does not cause an exodus of our own people. Pity! There are some we would happily give a farewell party to..."


"You mean, you do not lose any old customers...or employees..."


"Don't go wholesale like that. It is alright for fables to talk in either-or. Whether it applies to wild goats or no, when it comes to people, some 'wild goats' will stick to us...and some of our own 'goats' may leave. The point is, we generally gain in the process."


Hmmm! Either Aesop got it wrong or human beings are a whole lot more stupid than wild goats!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Old Fables New Morals - Hercules and the Wagoner

So, there was this wagoner driving his cart on a rainy day when his wheels sank down in the slush and the cart would not move. The poor chap goes down on his knees and prays to Hercules to help him by lifting the cart out of the slush where it was stuck. Hercules appears and says, "Put your shoulder to the wheel and push it yourself. You will find your prayers fruitless if you do not first try to help yourself first."

The moral, apparently, was that 'Self-help is the best help' according to Aesop. But, then, the Wagoner probably had not done an MBA. Now, if you can conceive of an MBA actually doing things like driving carts on rainy days, instead of making reports about the logistics problems caused by rains, the story would have not ended with Hercules' statement.

"How may a mere mortal accomplish a task that is beyond the strength of mighty Hercules?"

(Note that he would not say, "I bet you cannot lift this cart off, you bum!" That MAY have had the cart off the mud but would leave the wagoner buried in the ground.)

"Lifting this puny cart is beyond my strength? What makes you say so?"

"Else why would kindhearted Hercules decline to help a mortal in distress? If he does, it must be because the task is beyond him."

And that would have the cart off the slush, Hercules' ears ringing with praises and apologies.

The moral of the story would really have been, "IF stroking the ego does not work, try wounding it."

Monday, August 27, 2018

Old Fables New Morals - The wind and the sun

This comparison thing that I was talking of some time back seems to have infected everything. Like, there is this fable by a laddie called Aesop (who seemed to believe that no child should ever listen to a story without being burdened by a moral at the end). And, you know what, even the wind and the sun apparently indulged in this comparison game.

So, apparently the wind and the sun were arguing about which of them was the strongest. Like all big-shots, they did not want to fight each other and risk being injured themselves. So they decided to try their strength on a poor traveler who was wearing a cloak. The deal was that whichever of them made the traveler take off the cloak was to be considered the mightier entity.

The wind had the first shot at it, with the sun retreating behind a cloud and allowing a free hand. The wind huffed and puffed, blew and gusted, buffeted and pummeled the poor chap, causing him to hold on to his cloak all the tighter. At last, the wind retreated in defeat.

Now the sun came out and shone on the traveler. He started getting hot under the collar...err...cloak, and removed it.

AND Aesop wants you to learn that gentleness serves you better than force. But, then, we can forgive the poor chap because, in his time, performance appraisal was not invented yet. As you know, this decision of who was the more useful, mighty, whatever of the two can hardly be left to them to decide. It has to be decided by HR professionals after a due process of appraising the performance.

So, the wind goes in first for this performance appraisal interview.

"What do you think of your performance?"

A shamefaced wind says, "I tried my best with all my strength. Despite my best efforts, I could not make the man remove his cloak."

"Yes, we know! We saw how much effort and dedication you brought to the task. You are a good team-player."

And then comes the Sun, confident that this time he would get a great rating.

"So what do you have to say for yourself?"

Nonplussed by a certain coldness in the query (That passive-aggressive thingy people talk about? Who do you think are the best experts at that?), the Sun said, "I successfully accomplished the mission."

"Nonsense! You were just hanging around, grinning all over your face, doing nothing. Just because the traveler chose to take off his cloak then, you claim you made him do it?"

That, dear friends, is the real moral of the story. "It is better to make visible efforts, even without results, than to get results without making your efforts visible."

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Comparison game

Like all of us, my first introduction to this comparison game was as a child. Of course, I had no idea that this is the game I was expected to play, and excel in, all my life. In fact, this was what most people called life.

There I went, grinning from ear to ear and practically dancing all the way home. A most unnatural happening for me, let me tell you, especially when I was carrying home test results. The norm, under such circumstances, was to drag my feet as though I was struggling forward against the giant pull of Jupiter.

The reason why dancing featured on the agenda on that day? In a moment of aberration, my physics teacher had given me 89% in that test. So, I proudly present it to my dad and...

"What did Kumar get?"

Nothing pricks the balloon of your happiness faster than a question like that, I am sure you will agree.

"95", I said in a small voice, as though lowering the voice would make 95 less than 89.

Well, it did not.

You know, there are these people who go 'Awww' when someone puts up a meme saying "I cried because I had no shoes till I saw a man who had no feet". My dad, unfortunately, was not one of them. I mean, yeah, I did sort of hint that there were these guys who had not even passed the test, a lot who had scored less than me and that 89 really was not all that bad especially considering what I usually got and all that eloquence dashed in vain against the rock of the fact that Kumar scored more than me.

You know, I had always envied the guys who could celebrate the fact that they passed their test, every now and then, just to vary the monotony and claimed that their parents celebrated the fact. I passed every time (barely, perhaps, but still...) and there were no signs of celebration at my home, ever.

That is the strange thing about comparisons. If you dither around wondering if you will pass or fail, a pass is an achievement. If you are habitually in the 50s, a 60+ is ecstasy, but just passing is agony. And so on till you go and dash against someone like Kumar, who always out-scores you. And HE, I am sure, was always on tenterhooks lest someone pushed him to second place and HIS father got on his case.

This comparison game is a mug's game, let me tell you. I mean, yeah, it sounds rather high-brow to talk of shoes and feet and all but it is a teeny bit ugly to feel happy because someone is more unfortunate than you. (Yeah, I know, it was meant to shut up that 'self-pitying whine app' in people but it seldom works that way. It is mostly used by people who have a tendency to gloat). And the problem is that you are still playing the comparison game when you do that. By the nature of the game, you spend a couple of nano-seconds on looking at people worse of than you and then start thinking, "That's all very well but look at all those guys up there" and back you go to feeling unhappy.

And then there are those who say 'Compare not with others but with yourself'. That's rather pithy and nice but the problem is that THAT will make you happy only when you are better off today than yesterday. What if you are not? What exactly do you think makes a retired person morose if not because of comparing his yesterdays with his today?

So, you end up with the guys who say, "Compare yourself today with what you were yesterday, not on the basis of what you had, what society thought of you or any such external things. Compare yourself on how you have grown as a person, in wisdom and realization." Nice...but, you know what, one has to be a Saint for that to work. Else, you look to others to see if they think you are wiser now than you were...and find that they are trying to impress YOU with THEIR wisdom. AND, hey, there you go, comparing "Am I wiser than that guy?"

It is a mug's game, like I said before. Play it only when you are sure that you love being unhappy.

OR if you, like me, want to compare yourself on how lazy you can be. THEN you would find that you CAN get too lazy to bother to compare!