Thanks to Andrew for telling me this story last night. We were talking about clients, customers, staff… the nature of all the different people we meet.
This story has been told since the third century BC, from Babylon to India, Nigeria to Europe. Sometimes with a frog or turtle, a scorpion or snake. People come in many different guises. We’ve been facing these same dilemmas for a long time!
Coming to a raging river, a scorpion and a turtle meet at the banks. The scorpion asks the turtle to carry him across – naturally, the turtle is afraid of being stung during the trip but the scorpion argues that if it stung the turtle, the turtle would sink and the scorpion would drown. What does the turtle do?
What decisions do you make when you’re asked to do something? Do you try to help? Think you can make it work? Ignore the red flags? Even when there’s no suggestion of a good outcome? No history to go on which points to things working out well?
The turtle agrees and begins carrying the scorpion but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the turtle, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature.
The fable is used to illustrate the we can’t expect unnatural behaviour – it’s pretty inevitable that people are creatures of habit, no matter how they are treated and no matter what the consequences.
Even more harshly, this illustrates that a person (turtle or frog) is to blame for the trouble they are in if it was caused by associating with another (scorpion or snake) they know to be no good. Even more pessimistically (realistically?) in some versions, the final words of the scorpion are “It is better we should both perish than that my enemy should live.”
Who do you have in your life that’s never been very happy, never yet celebrated success, seems to sabotage their own decisions? Who doesn’t want you to succeed because that’ll point the spotlight on their lack of success?
As my then-14-year-old son once said, “Mum, there are 6 billion people in the world: why would you keep one who worries you?” Now there’s a billion more than that for you to choose from.
Make life easy. That’s Optimising Business. “Get good people around you”.