If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree ....
There is no end to learning. Every day provides a new opportunity to learn something new, an opportunity to do something different, an opportunity to upgrade your mindset, an opportunity to refresh your thinking, an opportunity to use the unused part of your brain. Yes! Believe it or not, no matter how much you feel like your brain/mind/head is full, you can never use up your brain completely. In trying to understand how the brain works, since I am no doctor, scientist or geek, my explanation is that God created the brain in such a way that it has a self-preservation mechanism that helps it renew itself and create “space” for more information every single minute. That’s my theory, and that’s what I’m sticking to.
This theory was put to test earlier this week when I thought my brain was totally tired and too filled up to accommodate anything new. You see, my job entails coming up with creative ways of empowering my customers’ products/businesses, through managing their brands, training their staff, organizing their events and managing their social media. It therefore goes without saying that we are tasked with the responsibility of coming up with new ways of accomplishing all the above mentioned tasks without applying the “copy and paste” technique from any previously done jobs. Everything has to be unique, all the time. Now that you know what my day-job entails, you can understand when I say sometimes my brain just feels like it can’t take in any more, or give out any more for that matter.
One of the things we were doing this week is creating a new brand for a certain new product that will soon be launched into the market. The product already had a logo but on looking at it critically, we all agreed that it needed to be tweaked in order to really portray the actual business represented by the brand. This was done and on showing the client the final outcome, there was no doubt she was ecstatic about it. Having agreed that everything had been done, the designer who was dealing with that particular project left the office to attend to a personal matter. As fate would have it, the client called me 30 minutes later to tell me there was a slight change she needed done. One thing you need to know is that I have nil knowledge of designing, though I have all the relevant software needed for this. I therefore called the designer and explained to him what was needed and in his words, “that’s something very easy, just open the logo in its raw form and I’ll direct you on how to do it”.
Let’s just say 45 minutes later I still hadn’t done that “simple thing”. Fortunately the designer had left with his laptop and so he corrected the logo from wherever he was and sent it to me via email. Though the client was sorted out, I somewhat had this anti-climax kind of feeling because I couldn’t do what my designer called a very “simple thing”. I really felt daft and dumb and a result I decided to take my frustrations to Google. As tired as I was, I browsed the relevant tutorials addressing my temporary dumbness, followed the instructions to the letter and after almost two hours, I was able to do what I initially couldn’t. True to the designer’s words, it was actually something very simple.
I felt I had accomplished something and as I was about to log off from the internet, something very interesting happened. You know those Google adverts you find on almost every web page? Well, there was one about “a daily dose of motivation” that caught my attention and being a lover of motivational quotes, I decided to click on it. When the link opened, the quote that was displayed on my screen left me dazed.... it read: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid..” – Albert Einstein.
This is not the first time I’m seeing this quote but I can tell you for free that on this particular day it made sense to me more than it ever has on any other day. I felt like God had manifested Himself through that screen to deliver a very specific message to me. That quote totally changed my mood; whereas I had been feeling low suddenly I felt elated and uplifted and the earlier feeling of “dumbness” suddenly evaporated.
You see, I was judging myself by my ability to design. Something I don’t know, something I don’t have the passion for and definitely a task I realized I had no patience for. I put myself down and even thought of myself as being dumb because of this hence forcing my tired brain to learn something new just to prove a point to myself. Thinking about it now I feel sorry for my brain. All the same, I must admit that even though I was harsh to myself, I was able to learn something new on that day. Something I will never forget and as a result, I upgraded my brain. I now know what to do the next time something similar happens and none of our designers are around. Which goes to prove what I had said; the brain has this self-preserving mechanism that is just impossible to understand… one minute it’s tired, the next it’s alert.
The truth is, we apply this judgmental attitude enough times, sometimes to ourselves but most of the times to others.
If you are an employer, how many times have you judged a particular employee “by his ability to climb a tree?” Have you ever taken the time to actually understand why he is not able to do what you had expected him to do? Has it ever occurred to you that you could have placed him in an environment that is not conducive to him? Just like in my case, you could be forcing him to become a designer, whereas his strengths are elsewhere. Before you fire that man, take time to understand him better and you might be surprised to realize that if you put him in the right environment, he could be your most motivated and productive staff member.
Same case applies to relationships. We need to understand each others strengths and weaknesses so that we concentrate more on building the strengths of our partners, as opposed to eroding them. Words we speak, things we do will either make them feel like they are being judged by their ability to climb a tree or their rightful ability to swim. Let’s learn to create the right environment for each other in order for our individual genius to be seen.
As you start this week I encourage you to see everyone as a genius. Whatever you do keep Einstein’s quote in mind: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid..”
Wishing you all a non-judgmental week.
PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 26th May, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"