In his valuable new book Linchpin – Are You Indispensable? Seth Godin has a short section called “Teaching Fire a Lesson”. He writes: “Fire is hot. That’s what it does. If you get burned by fire, you can be annoyed at yourself, but being angry at the fire doesn’t do you much good. And trying to teach fire a lesson so it won’t be hot next time is certainly not time well spent.”
He goes on to describe how easy it is to succumb to a need to try to teach people a lesson, to fix them. I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone. For a long time I had a boss who frustrated me with his narrow thinking, inflexibility and out of the blue pronouncements of “policy”. I fought back, digging in, arguing, resisting. My secret name for him was Mr. Stupid.
Sometimes, when we’re finally ready to get a message, to listen, we hear it more than once. It comes from different sources. The message has always been there. We just haven’t been listening. Seth Godin concludes his thought by saying, “The ability to see the world as it is begins with an understanding that perhaps it’s not your job to change what can’t be changed. Particularly if the act of working on that change harms you and your goals in the process.”
Or, as my neighbor Sherry Shaver reminded me at the dump today, something her father used to say, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Let’s hope I’ve learned that lesson.