Two ways to be strong

When people are strongly opposed to collaborations for any of the reasons I explored yesterday, they only have one way to be strong. One way I've facilitated others' migration to effective collaborations gives them a second way to be strong. I simply tell them my version of an old Rudyard Kipling story about a stick in the mud. Here's how it goes:

Once there was a stick in the mud on the banks of a gently flowing stream. In it's vicinity were numerous tall blades of grass rooted in the same mud. Obviously the stick was much stronger than any wimpy blade of grass. The stick expected to come out the winner in any test of strength, size or endurance.

Later that day, a cloud burst filled the stream with a torrent of water that came raging along to where the stick was stuck in the mud. The water overflowed the banks of the stream and submerged everything nearby. The force of the water broke the stick in two and carried what remained downstream. The blades of grass yielded to the flow while remaining rooted in the mud. When the water subsided and the sunshine returned, the blades of grass stood upright again. As they waved in the breeze and deepened their roots, they each grew a little stronger too.

When we're proud of being strong, we have no idea our strength is rigid, brittle and vulnerable to getting broken. We assume we have nothing to lose by getting even stronger in the only way there is to be strong. We become more confident, determined and convicted in our self righteous stance. We become a stick in the mud.

Once we've been broken, we find a different strength within. We realize we're not totally destroyed by having our confidence shattered, pride humbled and superiority knocked down a peg or two. We stop trying to become stronger and let go of our ambitions to win contests of strength. We discover the rooted strength that blades of grass teach us to emulate. We let go of our rigid stance and yield to others validity, dignity and value. We give ourselves the same new-found respect regardless of comparisons to others. We transform our mind to be suitable for collaborating.

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