Monday, July 15, 2024
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Opinion/ColumnWalk the Talk with Paul Kearley

Building on strengths: working together in times of crisis

To know others is intelligence; to know yourself is true wisdom

Paul Kearley

A young warrior came running into his village shouting, “The enemy is coming! He is about half an hour away.”

Upon hearing this, the whole town panicked. They grabbed their belongings, gathered their families, and as a group rushed out of the village and into the surrounding hills in search of safety. In their haste, they left behind a man who couldn’t see and a man who couldn’t walk.

Despite their pleas for help, the townspeople refused to take them, leaving the two men alone by the roadside.

“This is a fine situation we are in,” said the man who couldn’t see. “What shall we do but wait to die?”

“We will not die here today,” replied the man who couldn’t walk. “If you listen to me and do what I ask, we will survive.”

He continued, “I have lived many years, and though I am new to your village, I have seen many things. I have very good sight. You, though you cannot see, have worked the fields and helped many people build their huts; you are a very strong man. If we work together, we can both escape this calamity safely.

“Here’s what we shall do,” he said. “You are strong and can walk but cannot see. You will carry me on your back, and since I cannot walk but can see, I will be your eyes to guide you. Together, we will move forward from the village.”

So, the man who couldn’t see scooped up the man who couldn’t walk, placed him on his back, and together they set out on a different path than the other villagers. The man who couldn’t walk guided the man who couldn’t see, and the man who couldn’t see carried the man who couldn’t walk.

Before long, they had overtaken the villagers, and together they all found their way to safety.

I heard another version of this Kenyan parable recently and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. After hearing it, I remembered the words of Jesus, who said after many of his parables, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”

What I heard in this story mirrors what happens in many businesses and relationships and what we can do about it.

Let’s break it down: first, one person comes running into the village shouting, “The enemy is coming!”

No one asks him any questions, no one seeks clarification, and no one stops to think clearly. Because he shouts his fears, everyone panics and prepares to flee.

It seems that in nearly every crisis these days, people only need one event to happen before they bail out and run for safety, leaving everything they have worked for behind.

Second, the villagers leave the two men who can’t walk or see behind to fend for themselves. They don’t take the time to evaluate where their strengths lie or whether they can stay and fight. Instead, they follow the herd mentality and go off on a path that leads to another crisis, leaving their values and strengths behind.

The first casualty of panic is often the connection to one’s values and strengths. When faced with a fight-or-flight scenario, many people choose flight, abandoning any instinct to strategize or evaluate what they already have. Their desire to run to safety overrides any planning instinct, causing them to forget the strengths that define them. They believe that a new direction is better than building on existing strengths.

Third, the two men, realizing their predicament, decide to support each other and use each other’s strengths. This is where the parable truly resonates with me. It demonstrates that while we may have certain disabilities, these can become another person’s strengths. If we take the time to recognize what we already have, we will see a solution.

Fourth, when they overtook the villagers, they didn’t shun them or shut them out. They forgave them and encouraged them to follow, and together they moved forward. Pride can be our worst enemy in building relationships or companies. If we think we have all the answers or know the only path to happiness or success, we will soon find ourselves on a lonely road. Be willing to forgive others and to listen, and you will arrive where you need to be, often sooner than expected.

Be willing to be someone’s eyes and share your experience to help them see what is possible. Be willing to be someone’s strength, supporting them when they need a shoulder to ride on to overcome an obstacle. This week, take the time to evaluate your strengths and find someone who can complement them. When you do, you’ll find that success, once thought impossible, is just around the corner.

Make this your best week ever.



Paul Kearley is a professional leadership, communications and sales coach for businesspeople who are taking command of their career and making an impact. He has worked as a business coach and trainer, Virtual Trainer, and speaker since 1985.

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