This Taoist tale came to mind when one of my clients expressed frustration with the lack of growth in his business. "I might have to get a job," he said. "Horrible!"
"We'll see," replied the farmer.
When his horse returned with three other wild horses, they exclaimed "How wonderful!"
"We'll see," he said.
Then his son was thrown while trying to ride one of the untamed horses and broke his leg, The villagers, of course, offered their sympathy.
"We'll see," said the farmer.
Because of his broken leg, the son was passed by when military officials came to draft young men into the army.
Responding to the villagers' congratulations on his good fortune, the farmer replied, "We'll see."
His anxieties brought to mind my own concerns early in my career. I tested an online version of the John Holland Occupational Themes and found I was admirably suited to be a dental technician!
Seeking a logical solution may be helpful to some, but the failure of logic can be a cue to access your intuition. Maybe you'll only feel a nudge ("Something feels right about this, though I'm not sure why"). I've learned, even through experience that seemed to be a failure, how important it is to keep your vision intact:
After completing my PhD, I quit the job that had carried me through graduate school to start my own business. Managing to squeak by for almost nine months, I finally reached the point where I couldn't pay the rent, and was getting desperate when a friend called. One of his former students worked for Shillito's Department Store's HR Department, and they were looking for an internal training consultant. The salary was barely a living wage, I regretted having to bypass my vision of independent consulting, but I had no other options.(An earlier version of this post was part of an article published in Enneagram Monthly, September, 2005.)
Among other duties, I was responsible for sales training -- a real stretch for me. During my time there, I also worked on a project for the Director of Executive Development from the parent company Federated Department Stores (FDS), only a block away in downtown Cincinnati.
Three years into the Shillito's job, I was offered a job by a friend for twice as much as my current salary, working as an educational consultant with a software technology firm. I left Shillito's feeling somewhat disloyal, but I was barely making ends meet and couldn't turn down the extra income.
Three months after that, out of the blue, the FDS Director whose project I'd supported offered me a corporate OD job that again doubled my income. He said internal policies were such that I would not have been a candidate for that job if I hadn't left Shillito's.
In the corporate OD role, I gained experience coaching senior executives in Federated's many retail companies who were being primed for key positions in company leadership. Four years later, FDS was bought in a hostile takeover and their OD department eliminated. The severance pay was enough to live on for at least six months, but I didn't see any particular opportunities in my future.
A week later the Senior Vice President of Human Resources for CSX Corporation hired me as a private consultant for senior executive development in their subsidiary companies. I negotiated a contract with CSX that took me all over the U.S., yet left time to develop other business. I would not have known how to close that deal had I not had the sales training experience. And I'd not have been approached by the CSX HR person except for my work with Federated's executive development methodology, which he'd adopted for his corporation.
In the early stages of my new career as an organization consultant, a Cincinnati client introduced me to the Enneagram, which he'd learned in a spiritual retreat with Richard Rohr. Fascinated with how this model gave me useful insights into my clients' patterns, I started teaching it to all of them and taking extensive notes. This was early in the Enneagram's development beyond a small group of seekers, and no one was writing about its applications in business settings.
Intrigued by a request for articles on business applications from Clarence Thompson, then editor of The Enneagram Edicator, I contacted him, he began publishing my articles, became a dear friend and eventual co-author of Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram.
I could not have predicted or planned for the wavering trajectory of disappointments and opportunities that fulfilled my vision of having my own business, but on a scale of much greater experience and learning. Nor could I have known that path would eventually lead me into coaching by phone with clients all over the world.
As for what happens next, We'll see.