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Is Free Advice Really Free?

I have always enjoyed stories with a moral or a “learning message”. I was recently reminded of the not-uncommon trap new Supervisors can find themselves in.

The story is of the old man, along with his young grandson, who headed off to town with his donkey in tow. He intended to sell the donkey at the market. Along the way, he encountered a group of people who chided him profusely about making the little boy walk all the way to market because it was very far away. Heeding their advice, the old man hoisted the young boy onto the donkey to rest his legs. After a few more miles had passed they encountered another group of people who simply could not believe that the man was not the one riding on the donkey with the young boy holding onto the rein and walking beside him. Listening to their advice the old man took the young boy down from the donkey and climbed onto the donkey himself. Off again they went heading for town and market. As they finally neared the town they encountered yet another group of people. They too, were full of advice. When they learned that the old man and young boy were headed to market to sell the donkey they acted utterly dumbfounded that the donkey was being ridden at all. Didn’t the old man realize that if the donkey was exhausted when they arrived, it would lower the price he might sell it for? In fact, this group actually convinced the old man that he should be carrying the donkey on his shoulders to rest it for the final stage of the journey. And, that’s exactly what the old man did. With great effort, he lifted the donkey onto his shoulders and headed to town which, was fortunately now much nearer. However, as they got to the edge of town there was a steep bridge over a rushing river that they had to cross to get to the town. As the old man struggled with the donkey on his shoulders to reach the top of the bridge he lost his balance. The donkey fell into the rushing river below and was swept away.

Can you guess what the moral of this story is?

(The way I heard it, the moral is:)

If you try to please everybody else all the time, you can end up losing your a__.

When faced with decisions to be made you may also find any number of people who are willing to give you free advice; especially if they have nothing to lose in the outcome. Along the way, assess their accuracy and reflect on the soundness of their logic as they arrive at their decisions. That way, when the stakes are high you can weigh the advice that comes your way and better determine whether you will choose to utilize their input or thank them and trust in your own judgment.

I’d hate see you lose your….donkey.


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