This is an interesting leadership parable about the importance of being aware of what you cannot see and valuing different perspectives. I’ve come across it in several places. Hope you enjoy it and find it as thought provoking as I did.
The Wisdom of the Mountain
In ancient China, on top of Mount Ping, stood a temple where Hwan, the enlightened one, dwelled. Of his many disciples, we know only Lao-Li. For more than 20-years, Lao-Li studied and meditated under the great master. Although Lao-Li was one of the brightest and most determined disciples, he had yet to reach enlightenment. The wisdom of leadership was not his.
Lao-Li struggled with his lot for days, nights, months, even years. And then one day, the sight of a falling cherry blossom spoke to his heart. “I can no longer fight my destiny” he reflected. “Like the cherry blossom, I must gracefully resign myself to my ignorance.” At that moment, after more than 20-years of study, Lao-Li decided to climb down the mountain and give up his hope of enlightenment.
Lao-Li searched for Hwan to inform him of his decision. He found the master sitting before a white wall, deep in meditation. Reverently, Lao-Li approached Hwan. “Excuse me enlightened one,” he said. But, before Loa-Li could continue the master spoke. “Tomorrow I will join you on your journey down the mountain” he said. And Lao-Li left to pack his belongings.
The next morning, before the descent, the master looked out into the vastness that surrounded the mountain peak where they stood. “Tell me Lao-Li,” he said, “What is it that you see?”
“Master, I see the sun beginning to wake just below the horizon. I see hills and mountains that go on for miles. In the valley I see an old town and a lake.” Hwan listened to Lao-Li’s response. He smiled and then took the first steps to start the descent.
Hour after hour, as the sun rose and crossed the sky, they walked. As they approached the foot of the mountain, Hwan again asked Lao-Li to tell him what he saw.
“Great wise one, in the distance I see roosters running round the barns, cows asleep in the flowering meadows, old people resting and children playing in a brook.” The master stayed silent and walked to a large tree where he sat at the trunk.
“What did you learn today Loa-Li?”, he asked. Silence was Lao-Li’s response. At last Hwan continued – “The road to leadership is like the journey down the mountain.” It comes only to those who realize that what one sees at the top of the mountain is not what one sees at the bottom. Without this wisdom, we close our minds to all that we cannot view from our position and as a consequence limit our capacity to grow and improve. But with wisdom there comes an awakening. We recognize that alone one sees only so much – which, in truth is not much at all. This is the wisdom that opens our minds to improvement, knocks down prejudices and teaches us to respect what at first we cannot view. Never forget this last lesson Lao-Li – What you cannot see can be seen from a different part of the mountain.”
When the master stopped speaking, Lao-Li looked out at the horizon and as the sun set before him it seemed to rise in his heart. Lao-LI turned to the master but the great on was gone.
Do you look beyond your horizons to see what others see?