Recently, I heard a Chinese saying that goes something like this, “We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.”
It is difficult for me, at times, to put myself in the role of the frog. I have always been that guy who knows the answer. In elementary and junior high school, I was the guy who raised his hand to give the right answer. It was so commonplace that teachers grew to expect it and classmates grew to stop trying because “Dave knows it all.” Teachers knew they could count on me and they made sure to share that with my grandparents during conferences. “We’re so proud of you, David,” they would said.
In my professional life, I’ve been a policy advisor/expert in the Michigan House and I went on to be a Legislative Director for a Michigan State Senator. In both of those roles, I was the guy who knew what was coming up, knew how to draft amendments, knew what facts were needed to make the powerful floor speech, etc.
I am the guy who knows.
I think that’s a part of the reason why I am so competitive when it comes to trivia. I have to know everything and when asked I get the chance to be that guy. I get to win!
Here’s the thing (and maybe you caught it earlier). In school, I was so much into being the guy that the other students stop trying. I noticed that my freshman year in high school because that was the time where I started getting the answers wrong. Classmates “depended” on me because I was the guy who had the answers.
And I was screwing up. I was getting the answers wrong.
I felt like I was going to be hated because I was no longer good enough to be their guy. I was going lose friends. I was going to be alone because I was wrong.
It was devastating for me … to get things wrong. No longer was I the guy … and beyond that, I just knew that Grandpa would no longer be proud of me. He would be so disappointed that I lost the gift.
However, in hindsight (thanks to many therapy sessions), I’m realizing that I was getting things wrong because I had finally hit the top of my well. I knew every thing in the well. I could tell you about every little crevice in the walls of the well. I could tell you all about the soil at the bottom of the well. I could tell you all about the water.
And I just knew that what was at the top of the well was it. That was the finish line. There is no more beyond the top of that view from the bottom.
Nope. There’s a whole lot more sky than what you can see from there.
How powerful it is to learn (over and over and over again) how big the world is. How big the Universe is! How massive the power of humanity can be.
So, I’ve gone from being the guy who knows, to being a guy in a well.
There doesn’t have to be anything negative in that. Being in well – that’s good thing. The trick is for me to stop looking down, stop looking back, stop focusing on the sides of the well and to look up and beyond. I’ve got to be like Bruce Wayne and I’ve got to keep climbing for the top.
Being in a well is just fine as long as you keep reaching for the sky.