The excellent writer, Quintus Curtius, recommended a short story for his readers awhile back—“The Country of the Blind” by H.G. Wells. I finally had a chance to read it and I was not disappointed. The story is a classic.
It takes place in the Colombian Andes. A man falls off a cliff, landing into the bottom of a deep valley. There he meets a community of blind people. By the end of the story, the village elders give him an ultimatum—he must blind himself if he wants to coexist with them. The analogy of the story is awesome—every person must, on a certain level, become “blind” to live in a community: think of various relationships, types of work, social circles, etc.
The reason for this ugly truth is stated by Nunez, the story’s main character:
“…you cannot even fight happily with creatures who stand upon a different mental basis to yourself.”
An old friend once told me, “You are who you are.” The phrase has been useful to me, since I find it to be true nine times out of ten. You can’t change a pacifist into a fighter. You can’t turn an alcoholic into a CEO. And you can’t give self-esteem to someone who doesn’t have it. It’s an unpopular idea, no doubt. We live in an era of self-esteem, of self-improvement, of 24/7 female empowerment. And there’s an industry designed to sell people the products that make them a “better you.” But how many people are really capable of change? Very few, I’m afraid…
Are you currently arguing with someone who continually falters? Are you trying to convert someone to a new way of thinking? If so, then you’re probably wasting your time.
There’s an irony to giving advice—the best way to lead is not by words, but by action. If you really want to help people, you’ll have to focus on yourself. Become a champ in your personal life, in your professional dealings. When people see you walking on a path of success, then they’ll come looking for you. And they’ll be taking notes.
If you continue to push your advice on others, to help those that perpetually stumble, I’m afraid you’ll end up like Nunez—a man trying to teach the blind to see.