How to Stay on Top of the World

August 31, 2016

An interaction with young people during any of my ‘Opening Doors’ workshops is always an eye opener. I learn a lot from their responses, questions and feedback.

I recently did a few sessions with students of Unity College and Unity Mission School in Lucknow, India.

At the outset, I asked students to identify themselves either with an animal, a musical instrument or any other object. They were given options to select from. The student group chose an interesting array of animals and items such as a horse, lion, guitar, tabla and even a cricket bat to turn the spotlight on their individual strengths.

Needless to say, none of the children identified themselves with a donkey, a species considered to be wanting in intelligence. When the students jocularly remarked on this, I shared a well-known story with them:

One day, a donkey fell into a deep pit and struggled to get out. He brayed for hours while his owner tried to figure out what to do. When the owner realized he couldn’t rescue the animal, he gave up and decided to bury the donkey alive. With a shovel, he began filling the pit with soil. Suddenly, he noticed an amazing thing. As the soil was thrown on him, the donkey would shake it off and step on it. With each shovel of soil, the donkey rose higher by simply shaking off the soil and standing on it instead. Eventually, the mound grew high enough for him to jump out of the pit.

We then discussed lessons emerging from the story:

  • Shake off the dirt: Life is going to throw dirt on you. Don’t allow it to affect your self-esteem. Just shake it off and step forward.
  • Learn from difficult situations: Every obstacle, setback and challenging situation provides an opportunity for learning.
  • Never give up in life: With sustained efforts, we can get out of the deepest trouble. Rather than thinking of the problem or people, who pull you down (even bury you alive!), think of what you can do to get out of the situation.

And, when it comes to learning, we can learn from anyone, just by looking at their strengths. A donkey is known for its endurance and stamina but people have always looked at it as an object of ridicule, overlooking its strengths and usability. I hope my young friends will remember these lessons and put them into practice.