Once upon a time, there was a small business owner who had a huge debt with a loan shark. Every month, the interest rates would increase and the burden of instalments threatened the good man with losing everything he had worked so hard for.
In an attempt to negotiate some relief, he went to the loan shark, who was an old, nasty, and remarkably ugly man. The loan shark listened, deceitfully nodding his head to the pleading of the business owner. It seems the loan shark had a single goal in mind … marrying the delightful, smart and beautiful young daughter of the business owner.
After the business owner stopped talking, the loan shark said, “I am happy to release your burden of the loan if you give me your daughter to marry.”
The business owner was devastated and begged to see if there could be any other solution to the situation.
“Well,” said the loan shark, “we could make it a fair gamble and see whether luck is on your side. Come to my house with your daughter tomorrow afternoon.”
The business owner did not know how to tell his daughter, but eventually put all is courage together and spoke to her. Her response was telling. “We will find a solution father.” She was focused on finding a solution, rather than dwelling on the seemingly hopeless nature of the problem.
The next day, the loan shark met the two in his garden. He said he would place two pebbles into a bag, one white and one black. The daughter would then have to reach into the bag and pick out a pebble.
If it were black, the debt would be wiped out, but the loan-shark would then marry her. If it were white, the debt would also be wiped out, but the daughter wouldn’t have to marry the loan-shark.
Standing on a pebble-strewn path, the loan-shark bent over and picked up two pebbles.
Whilst he was picking them up, the daughter noticed he had picked up two black pebbles and placed them both into the bag. The loan shark then asked the daughter to reach into the bag and pick one.
The daughter was perplexed and nervous. The situation seemed hopeless, as she quickly contemplated her choices:
1. I could refuse to pick a pebble from the bag, but this would not resolve my father’s loan situation.
2. I could take both pebbles out of the bag and expose the loan-shark for cheating, but this might make things even worse..
3. Or … I could just go along, pick a pebble from the bag, knowing it was black, and sacrifice myself for my father’s freedom.
Have you, dear reader, ever been in a situation like that of the daughter, where every possible obvious option was unacceptable … where there was literally no way out “alive,” almost as if someone had a gun to your head?
How do you react in such situations? Do you panic? Do you try to run? Do you freeze? Do you give up?
Here is what the daughter did:
“Please give me a moment to gather my nerves as this will be the most important choice I may ever have to make.”
With that, she took a stroll through the garden. Her mind was racing, but she managed to take some deep breaths and regain her composure. “There must be another solution”, she thought. She refused to give up. Looking at the pebble strewn garden path, she experienced a flash of genius.
She went back to the loan shark and drew a pebble from the bag. But, before looking at it, she dropped it “accidentally” into the midst of all the other pebbles on the ground.
She said to the loan-shark: “Oh, how clumsy of me. Never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”
The loan shark had been outsmarted. The pebble left in the bag was black. He didn’t want to be exposed for cheating, so he was forced to play along, pretend as if the pebble the daughter dropped was white, and clear her father’s debt.
Here is my challenge to you at the beginning of this new year. Whenever you face a seemingly hopeless situation, remind yourself of the two black pebbles and the brave daughter.
Take a breather. Go for a walk on a pebble-strewn path. Sleep. Go to the gym. Talk with a friend. Do whatever it takes to move beyond the hopeless thoughts and allow your wonderful mind conjure up new and creative solutions.
I think you will discover the ways out of intractable situations are far more plentiful than we can possibly imagine at first glance.
All you need to do is focus on possibilities, rather than your seemingly hopeless situation, and give the creative genius within you a chance to light the way forward.
Happy, Healthy & Successful New year 2020!