A repost day today, which includes one of my favourite Russian fairy tales of all times. It comes into my mind once at least every day….
My eyesight is tolerable.
I remember being tested, and given my first glasses, and marvelling at the sudden serendipitous clarity of every leaf-edge, every faraway face.
I felt like that far-sighted man in a Russian fairy tale; I know it as The Four Friends.
Prince Nice-But-Dim falls in love with the wrong girl.
This is because Princess Perdita has been stolen by the evil wizard, Chornoy, who uses the princess as the most sinister of bait. For he is a collector of the souls who try to rescue her, but who fail.
Undeterred, the Prince sets off. And on his way, he offers a job to an unlikely threesome: Long, who is impossibly tall: Wide, who can swell to the size of a small mountain: and my favourite, Quick-Eye, whose gaze is so far-seeing and piercing he tends to set light to things.
When the Prince arrives with his friends, he finds the statues of those the wizard has petrified, before stealing their souls.
Each night the beautiful princess is hidden in a place impossible to find. And all night every prince who has ever tried searches in vain. With sunrise, their soul becomes forfeit, and another statue joins the collection.
Of course, while the Prince is not gifted, his friends are. Quick Eye spots the princess every night, leagues away from the high tower which is their nightly starting line. Long transports them to retrieve her: Wide expands to fill whole lakes and render them fathomable.
Prince wins challenge, vanquishes wizard, marries extraordinarily beautiful princess and lives happily ever after.
I say the Prince is not gifted, but I find I am inaccurate. This unassuming King’s son had startling powers of a far less noticeable and showy kind.
He is a people person.
These three, they are a little unorthodox. One could have denied their requests for employment because, lets face it, they really didn’t fit the Courtier profile. But for Prince Nice-But-Dim, they were the wisest employment choices of his life.
He may not have had the far-flung-sightedness of Quick-Eye: but he had another kind of vision. he could work out how people ticked. He could wrap them in his own view of things, so a man would move heaven and earth to help him achieve his goal.
It is an elusive talent, this. To know not only what you want, but how to explain and motivate and lead to achieve it.
One of my favourite leadership parables is that of Apollo 13. You all know it, it has passed into folklore. But we all love listening to fairy tales.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and by 1970,the world was less frenzied about the miracle of space travel than it had once been. People were not tuning in to watch the television footage in the same numbers. Life moves on.
Right up until the moment an electrical fault inside one of the service module’s oxygen tanks set off a catastrophic explosion which lost them vital electricity. They were 200,000 miles from Earth.
The Command module, meant to support the three crew members and take them safely back to earth, was critically low on electricity.
Lead Flight Director Gene Krantz immediately aborted the mission and it simply became imperative to save the three lives on board.
The ingenuity under pressure, from both the crew and Ground Control in Houston, are legendary and awe-inspiring. The crew realised they had no instrumentation to direct their rocket during re-entry.
Then they realised there was a large spherical point of reference in the window of the module. The Earth was simple but effective, there, staring them in the face.
It was dubbed the successful failure, because everyone refused to accept the death of three crew members as an option. Everyone survived.
The team was of like mind: a shared vision.
It is only when one finds oneself with un-like minds that one realises how utterly vital a community’s shared vision is.
Today I was talking, explaining my vision for a piece of work I have been doing, in much the same way as I do here. And I became aware that I was inspiring the most mountainous incomprehension.
I was on one planet, and my attentive, polite listener was on another, and we were in a vacuum and consequently it seemed the sound would not carry. We did not, you see, share an understanding of how things should be.
I might have been talking another language.
There are some times one should simply stop talking.
While I will not change anything dramatic about my life- a salary is a salary- I am working on tactical withdrawal from this particular arena, worthy of ground control at Houston.
My eyesight is tolerable.
My vision is much better.