I once heard someone teach, “the moment you start giving excuses, is the moment you turn over your power and ability to actually turn things around in your life.” Here’s a wonderful story that teaches this important life lesson.
Two cousins grew up together in a small village in Southeast Asia. Both boys were the same age and came from similar backgrounds. But as they matured, small differences in their attitude toward work became more and more evident. One cousin eventually became an advisor to the king, while the other found employment as an oarsman for the royal canoe service. One evening, as the king and his court were making their annual tour of the kingdom, the canoe was landed for the night and the oarsmen were gathered around their cooking fire. Tired, sore, and sunburned, the oarsmen grumbled as oarsmen sometimes do, with the one cousin doing most of the talking.
“What an easy life those advisors have,” complained the cousin. “We strain our bare backs in the hot sun all day long, while they sit under the canopy and talk. We can talk as easily as they! Do not we have intelligence, and wisdom and experience? We would make fine advisors to the king! And yet it is we that toil to the point of exhaustion, and they who relax in the shade!”
The cousin went on like this for several minutes, not knowing that the king, who had paused during his walk in the trees, and could hear everything the oarsman was saying. Later that night, when the whole camp was asleep, the king awakened the oarsman.
“A mysterious sound interrupted my sleep,” said the king. “Go up the hill and find out what is was.”
The oarsman obediently set off up the hill, then came back a few minutes later to report. “It is nothing of concern,” he said, “just a mother cat who gave birth to a litter of kittens.”
“What kind of cat?” asked the king. The oarsman hadn’t taken notice, so he went back up the hill, and returned a short time later.
“Siamese,” he reported.
“How many kittens?” asked the king. Once again, the cousin trekked up the hill, for he hadn’t bothered to note the size of the litter. Soon he came back to the king.
“Six,” he replied.
“How many male, and how many female?” was the king’s next question.
Another hike up the hill, and the obedient oarsman returned with the answer: “Three male, three female.”
“Very good,” said the king. “Now come with me.” The oarsman followed the king over to the sleeping advisors, where the other cousin was shaken awake. “A mysterious sound interrupted my sleep,” said the king for the second time that night. “Go up the hill and find out what it was.”
Quickly the advisor went up the hill to investigate. After several minutes, he returned and addressed the king. “It is of no concern,” he began. “There is an overturned barrel at the top of the hill. Inside a Siamese cat has given birth to a litter of six kittens: three male and three female. The cat belongs to the mayor of the local village, who apologizes for the interruption of your sleep. He would be honored if you took the pick of the litter as a royal pet.”
Based on human nature, it probably took several of these incidents before the oarsman got the picture. But did you get it? The attitude you take toward any venture directly affects your approach to it. How you approach any endeavor greatly determines your likelihood of success. And your success – or lack of it- has an equally direct effect on your attitude. It’s all tied together, and it can be a spiral staircase up, or a spiral funnel down.