8th March 2018

The Cow

Johann Hari relates the story of a Cambodian farmer who lost a leg in a land mine explosion in his brilliant book ‘Lost Connections’. He goes on to tell how the farmer became depressed and despondent because even though he had had an artificial limb fitted working in the paddy fields was painful and caused endless stress. If he had gone to the doctor in the modern western world he would probably have been prescribed anti- depressants. What happened was that his local doctor got the community together and the anti-depressant was to buy the farmer a cow. It meant that the farmer could continue to do meaningful work, using his existing skills and talents without the discomfort caused by working in the paddies. The solution, although unique was an anti-depressant.

So what is my point? Well, the farmer could not have possibly come up with this solution himself. Why? Because he was far too depressed. He was too locked in the situation. He couldn’t see beyond what he could already see. He only knew what he knew. It took the input of a compassionate outsider to point the way.

So often we lock ourselves, as business owners and business leaders, into situations in exactly the same way. We only know what we know and what we know doesn’t contain an appropriate solution. If we knew the solution you can be pretty sure we would have successfully deployed it already. The more stuck and desperate we feel, the less likely we are to find better ways to deal with what is troubling us.

As a business coach I frequently see people who are stuck, cycling through the same ineffective solutions. Every time they fail to work the business leader gets more and more fatigued and becomes bound up in a sense of defeat that eventually wears them down, constantly decreasing the chances that they will ever find their own way out.

What is needed is the equivalent of the doctor and the community buying a cow for the farmer. It needs an external someone who has the business leader’s best interests at heart; a different perspective; a different level of knowledge and experience to help him find solutions that suit him better and are more effective.

There is a danger that the business owner can be so invested in his own solutions that he applies it with more and more force and vigour that it wears him down completely, and as Jim Rohn once said ‘If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.’