Lessons from a Donkey: Please all, and you will please none…

Oct 16

The ability to make decisions is vital to be successful. A good decision on time is always better than a perfect decision too late.

Frequently, the problem with making decisions is that people wait to act out of fear of not making everyone happy. However, making everyone happy is not the main factor that you should consider when you make good decisions. There are three very important elements that will allow you to make good decisions:

  1. You must have a plan with specific objectives that you are committed to achieve. Your decision will be guided by your plan, not by how many people it will make happy. What you say “no” and “yes” to, in your decision process, must guide you to achieve your plan.
  2. You must ponder the decision with a clear mind. Some people do this through prayer, others through meditation. I believe strongly in this step and I believe in a God that wants the best for me. Others believe that inspiration can come when a mind is free of “noise”. However you choose to implement this step, understand that inspiration is real and will help you make proper decisions.
  3. Examine your motivation for the decision. Selfish decisions that only provide gain to you may work in the short term, but long term they are a sure way to ruin relationships and prevent long-term success.

The need for a plan and the challenge to achieve success is perfectly illustrated in an Aesop Fable, “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey.” In the fable, a man and a boy take a journey to the city marketplace to sell their donkey for winter provisions.

As they started to town, the father rode the donkey. In the first village, the villagers said, “What an inconsiderate man, riding the donkey and making his son walk!” So the father got off the donkey and let his son ride.

In the next hamlet, the people whispered, “What an inconsiderate boy, riding the donkey and making his father walk!”

In frustration, the father climbed on the donkey; and father and son rode the donkey, only to have the people in the next town declare, “How inconsiderate of the man and the boy to overload their beast of burden and treat him in such an inhumane manner!”

In compliance with the dissident voices and mocking fingers, the father and son both got off the donkey to relieve the animal’s burden, only to have the next group of onlookers say, “Can you imagine a man and a boy being so stupid as to not even use their beast of burden for what it was created!”

Then, in anger and total desperation, having tried to please all those who offered advice, the father and son both rode the donkey until it collapsed. The donkey had to be carried to the marketplace. The donkey could not be sold. The people in the marketplace scoffed, “Who wants a worthless donkey that can’t even walk into the city!”

The father and son had failed in their goal of selling the donkey and had no money to buy the winter provisions they needed in order to survive.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them.

Moral of Aesops Fable: Please all, and you will please none.

The man and the boy would have had a totally different outcome if they actually had a plan before they started their journey. Even if they would have made a plan after they heard their first critique the story could have ended properly. They could have planned when one would ride and when the other would walk. They could have planned for the donkey’s rest to appear fresh in the market. With a plan they could have withstood the criticism because they knew better than their critics. They could have the confidence to know that with their plan, they would have success in spite of what their detractors thought.

Stop trying to please everyone. Create a plan and make decisions that help you achieve that plan, even in the midst of criticism. Minor adjustments are typically required, but with a plan your course will stay true.

Keep your patience and happy demeanor in the face of obstacles and criticism. Have the confidence to know that time will prove your plan correct. Have the courage to be patient as you wait for the results of your plan to materialize. With a plan backed by courage and patience, you can overcome the obstacles you face on the way to success.

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