When the great library of Alexandria burned, the story goes, one book was saved. But it was not a valuable book; and so a poor man, who could read a little, bought it for a few coppers.
The book wasn’t very interesting, but between its pages there was something very interesting indeed. It was a thin strip of vellum on which was written the secret of the “Touchstone”!
The touchstone was a small pebble that could turn any common metal into pure gold. The writing explained that it was lying among thousands and thousands of other pebbles that looked exactly like it. But the secret was this: The real stone would feel warm, while ordinary pebbles are cold.
So the man sold his few belongings, bought some simple supplies, camped on the seashore, and began testing pebbles.
He knew that if he picked up ordinary pebbles and threw them down again because they were cold, he might pick up the same pebble hundreds of times. So, when he felt one that was cold, he threw it into the sea. He spent a whole day doing this but none of them was the touchstone. Yet he went on and on this way. Pick up a pebble. Cold – throw it into the sea. Pick up another. Throw it into the sea.
The days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months. One day, however, about midafternoon, he picked up a pebble and it was warm. He threw it into the sea before he realized what he had done. He had formed such a strong habit of throwing each pebble into the sea that when the one he wanted came along, he still threw it away.
So it is with opportunity. Unless we are vigilant, it’s asy to fail to recognize an opportunity when it is in hand and it’s just as easy to throw it away.
- Author Unknown
Bits & Pieces, Economic Press
Bringing a giraffe into the world is a tall order. A baby giraffe falls 10 feet from its mother’s womb and usually lands on its back. Within seconds it rolls over and tucks its legs under its body. From this position it considers the world for the first time and shakes off the last vestiges of the birthing fluid from its eyes and ears. Then the mother giraffe rudely introduces its offspring to the reality of life.
In his book, “A View from the Zoo”, Gary Richmond describes how a newborn giraffe learns its first lesson.
The mother giraffe lowers her head long enough to take a quick look. Then she positions herself directly over her calf. She waits for about a minute, and then she does the most unreasonable thing. She swings her long, pendulous leg outward and kicks her baby, so that it is sent sprawling head over heels.
When it doesn’t get up, the violent process is repeated over and over again. The struggle to rise is momentous. As the baby calf grows tired, the mother kicks it again to stimulate its efforts. Finally, the calf stands for the first time on its wobbly legs.
Then the mother giraffe does the most remarkable thing. She kicks it off its feet again. Why? She wants it to remember how it got up. In the wild, baby giraffes must be able to get up as quickly as possible to stay with the herd, where there is safety. Lions, hyenas, leopards, and wild hunting dogs all enjoy young giraffes, and they’d get it too, if the mother didn’t teach her calf to get up quickly and get with it.
The late Irving Stone understood this. He spent a lifetime studying greatness, writing novelized biographies of such men as Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Darwin.
Stone was once asked if he had found a thread that runs through the lives of all these exceptional people. He said, “I write about people who sometime in their life have a vision or dream of something that should be accomplished and they go to work.
“They are beaten over the head, knocked down, vilified, and for years they get nowhere. But every time they’re knocked down they stand up. You cannot destroy these people. And at the end of their lives they’ve accomplished some modest part of what they set out to do.”
- Craig B. Larson
Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching from Leadership Journal