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Cast Down Your Bucket

A metal bucket. Image taken on 2007-04-12 in L...Image via Wikipedia

When someone recommends a new approach, or comes up with an idea that seems really far out, what do you do? Most leaders drop that idea onto the "sieve" in their brains that analyzes new data and a couple of things can happen.

  1. The idea might fall right on through because it doesn't line up with perspectives and philosophies that have formed their "screen" over the years. It doesn't catch. It's dismissed out of hand. 
  2. Sometimes though, because the idea is so unusual in contrast to what's already seen as ok, do-able, or right, it's grabbed up. It's weighed rather than tossed.

The story is told of Booker T. Washington's 1895 Cotton States Exposition address, where one of his illustrations alluded to this need for intentionally weighing an idea that at first blush might seem outlandish.

"A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, 'Water, water; we die of thirst!' The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, 'Cast down your bucket where you are.' A second time the signal, 'Water, water; send us water!' ran up the distressed vessel, and was answered, 'Cast down your bucket where you are.' And a third and fourth signal for water were answered, 'Cast down your bucket where you are.' The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River."

It's especially hardest when we're stressed and our options seem limited to be open to new ways of seeing things. It's easier to let what might be a perfect solution fall through the cracks because it doesn't align with our hardwired options.

When was the last time you caught yourself grabbing hold of a new idea that you first wanted to dismiss? Did it end up becoming your new norm?

P.B. Medawar said, "The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it." Grab ideas and at least weigh them before tossing them aside. "Cast down your bucket where you are."

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