Once there was a poor farmer who was deeply in debt to a tyrannical warlord.
The warlord came to the farmer and demanded payment, which he knew the farmer could not pay. The warlord had an alternative motive for calling in the farmer’s debt at a time he knew the farmer could not pay.
The farmer had a beautiful daughter that the warlord wanted for a bride. The warlord offer the option of cancelling the debt in exchange for the daughter, or the warlord would take the farm.
The farmer did not want to lose his farm, and he consulted with the daughter who did not want to marry the warlord. Now there is a dilemma for all
involved. The daughter does not want to see her father lose the farm, but does not want to marry the warlord.
The farmer is faced with losing either his daughter or his farm; and the warlord who would have to except the money or the farm in payment of the debt, really wants the daughter and is only using the debt as ploy.
It does seem that the warlord has the most power, but may come away without what he wants most, the daughter, but will not lose no matter which decision the farmer makes.
The farmer seems to have the power of choosing between his daughter and his farm, but will lose no matter which choice he makes.
The daughter is a pawn and a prize, and seems to have no power what so ever.
The farmer told the warlord, “I know I owe you money and you have the
right to demand payment, but it is impossible for me to choose.”
The warlord who was more experienced in these matters proposed a solution.
I will place a black stone and a white stone in an empty moneybag. Your daughter can reach into the bag and pick a stone. If she pulls the white stone, you can keep both your daughter and I will cancel the debt you owe me. If she pulls the black stone I get your daughter.
The farmer thought he had no other options and agreed. The warlord try to
divert the attention of the farmer and the daughter as he bent to pick up the two stones to place in the bag by asking the farmer a question about a building on the farm.
The farmer turned to look at the
building, but the daughter stayed focused on the warlord and the
stones hoping to detect a difference in size or shape that would enable her to pick the white stone without looking. Instead she saw the warlord pick up two black stones and place them in the bag.
No matter which stone she picked she would have to go with the warlord.
Now the daughter appears to have some powerful knowledge that the
warlord is cheating, but she knows it would be death for and perhaps
her father if she confronted the warlord. Her fate seemed sealed.
She had but a single option, to pull a stone from the bag, and her fate
would be determined for the rest of her life, the farmer would stand-by helplessly and watch as he lost his daughter.
The daughter closed her eyes and reached into the bag. She felt each
stone as if trying to select the one that would win her freedom.
Finally she selected a stone, but as she pulled it from the bag she dropped it before anyone could see the colour.
Once the stone was on the ground there was no way to tell which stone was pulled white or black. Now there was a decided power shift. The daughter apologised for her clumsiness, and said there was really no harm done. They could just look at the remaining stone in the bag to determine the colour she had drawn.
The warlord could not argue with the logic, and had to agree lest he be caught in his scheme to cheat the farmer. So even though he was unscrupulous he could be publicly found to be a cheat.
So by thinking beyond the apparent options the farmer’s daughter, who
had no real say in the matter, decided her own favourable outcome.
There are many lessons to be learned from this story.
The first and foremost is that when faced with a seemly impossible problem there are always favourable solutions.
Another is not to let your opponent set
the options or parameters, or if he does, think beyond them.
A third and important lesson is that even though the daughter knew the warlord was cheating she could not directly use that information to confront
him, but employed it subtly against him.
Often employees feel because their boss has stepped out of bounds that they can prevail by confronting him.
Not always the case. Had the daughter accused the warlord of cheating he would have killed or imprisoned both the farmer and the daughter.
Be skilful on how you use special or secret knowledge. Going public is not the panacea against management it seems to be. They still hold a lot of the power.
One of the most important and often missed lessons was the daughter’s ability to stay focused under duress. Often when faced with an impossible situation we lose our focus.
From a wise man on CQN.