I have no idea when all of this started, but this may shed some light on the issue. It is the earliest memory I have of me questioning conventional wisdom.
The Story Of The North Wind And The Sun
I was in elementary school in southern California – I don’t remember what grade – when we had an assignment to read this short story. It’s one of Aesop’s Fables. If you missed it, or can’t remember that far back either, you can find it at www.storyarts.org, among other places. As the story was explained to me, it was supposed to illustrate the superiority of persuasion over force or, at the very least, that the sun is stronger than the wind. However, that’s not the way I saw it then. And now that I’ve had years to develop my experience and wisdom, that’s not how I see it today. Even back then it was clear to me that both the sun and the wind had their individual strengths and weaknesses. The north wind, although not feared in the same way as his cousins, the tornado or the hurricane (a.k.a. cyclone, a.k.a. typhoon), is no slouch and has sunk ships, caused massive amounts of damage ashore, and taken lives. The sun may seem benign, even benevolent to those living north of the 40th parallel, but large swaths of land have suffered due to his excesses, and in fact he can only be tolerated at distances greater than around ninety-three million (93,000,000) miles. At the time I read this story, I was not aware of all of these statistics or the full power of either of the contestants, but even then “I wasn’t born yesterday”. We didn’t get snow in southern California, but it can get windy enough to appreciate the north wind’s power. And then there was that story about the three little pigsA, which showed the destructive force of wind (caused in this case by a lone wolf). On the other hand, in the summer the sun was so strong that people used to say they could fry an egg on the sidewalk. By the way, nobody in southern California ever claimed to be using the power of persuasion when they are trying to fry eggs.
It was clear to me back then that the sun was obviously smarter than the north wind, and designed the rules of this friendly little contest to take best advantage of his own talents. The goal was to get the man to take off his coat. Had the contest been to get the man to put ON his coat, most of us can see that the sun wouldn’t have had a chance. The first lesson for the north wind might be to be wary of letting your opponent make the rules.
Secondly, it is crucial to be aware of your own limitations. For the north wind to think that a strong, cold breeze could force somebody to part with their coat is delusional. One can never improve if they don’t even know where they are deficient. And even if it is not possible to correct a particular flaw, as long as you are aware of it, there may be a way to compensate. Odysseus was an excellent example of this in his dealing with the sirens (scroll down to the eleventh section of “The legendary story of Odysseus”). By taking the advice of a women (Circe) and making allowances for his weaknesses, Odysseus was the first person to listen to the Siren’s great song and live to tell about it.
The final lesson to be learned from this story was that a good public relations team is worth its weight in gold. The way they put that spin on the sun’s use of force was masterful. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’ve had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around, to my own peril. Even today I don’t put enough effort into public relations, continuing to hold on to the naive belief that if you work hard, your efforts will automatically be noticed and you will be rewarded – even though experience has disproved this theory time and time again. Seemingly, some people never learn. Being able to learn from your own mistakes is crucial. If you could learn from the mistakes of others, you would be well ahead in the game.