The Monk, the cow and the cliff – A story about change

Here’s an old fable someone told me recently:


Long ago, a Monk set out on his travels across a faraway land. Night was falling and he needed somewhere to shelter. Eventually, he found a humble shack, in the middle of nowhere. A poor family lived there and the mother, father and children were dressed in rags. The Monk asked if he could spend the night there. “You are most welcome to spend the night,” said the father. They prepared a simple meal consisting of fresh milk, cheese and cream and the Monk appreciated their simple generosity greatly.

When they finished eating, the Monk asked them how they managed to survive in such an isolated place, so far away from the nearest town. The wife told how they managed to survive. “We have one cow. We sell her milk to our neighbours who do not live too far away. We keep enough for our needs and to make some cheese and cream – that is what we eat.”

The next morning, the Monk said his goodbyes and set out to continue his journey. Not far from the family’s little hut, he came across the cow. The Monk pondered for a moment before leading the cow to the edge of a nearby cliff and pushing it over the edge.

Several years later the Monk again passed that way and found himself on the same road where he found lodging so many years ago. Driven by a sense of curiosity he decided to visit the family. He rounded the curve in the road and to his surprise, he saw a splendid mansion, surrounded by landscaped gardens, in the place where the little hut used to be. The Monk knocked on the door. The father of the poor family answered, now well-dressed and looking healthy. He recognised the Monk immediately and invited him in, inviting him to stay as a guest.

While they ate, the Monk asked what had changed in the years that had passed. The father explained how the family’s fortune changed. “You know, we used to have a cow. She kept us alive. We didn’t own anything else. One day she fell down the cliff and died. To survive, we had to start doing other things, develop skills we didn’t know we had. We were forced to come up with new ways of doing things. It was the best thing that ever happened to us! We are now much better off than before.”

The old Monk smiled.


Change is coming, yo

I love that story. For me, it’s a reminder of the fact that someday – maybe soon – there is a life-changing event that is coming to shake things up for us all. Life might be going smoothly for you now and you have your routine that takes you from day to day. But change is coming.

It will just happen. It might be a small shake – maybe a friend lets you down or you miss out on a promotion. It could be something bigger; that shake might be seismic– maybe you get sick or lose your job. And it might even be something amazing like a lottery win.

Whatever it is, it will happen and it will change your life. And that’s the nature of life. It’s not fair, it’s not malicious, it’s not favourable. It just is.

To use another analogy I’ve used before – life is like one big poker game. You get dealt a hand and it might contain some good cards or it might be a pile of crap. But those are the only cards you’re going to be dealt so you play them.

Now – in this game, maybe you see a nice little straight developing and you bet big as a result. And when your opponent slaps down a flush at the showdown, it stings like a bitch.

Maybe you go all-in with pocket Aces and in the resulting play, you get beat by a guy that was holding a Two and a Seven. It happens and it hurts.


Change can be challenging

Change is new and uncertain. A lot of people prefer the routine and the mundane and you sometimes have to make a real effort to step into a new way. But remember – nothing lasts forever and change is always coming.

So when you get hit by these bombs, how will you react? When change enters your world, how will you handle it?

The thing is – as horrible and as shattering as these things are, we should never let them break us. And never give up. They can also be an opportunity; an opportunity for you to take your life in a new direction or maybe even realise some unfulfilled dreams you always had.

So ask yourself these questions: What are your dreams? What do you really want to do with your life? What’s been holding you back?

We spend too much time doing shit we don’t want to do – then we daydream about the things we actually DO want to do. Imagine if you did instead of dreamed.

Whether it’s through our passion, or because we have our backs against the wall with nowhere else to turn, we are capable of so much. And often, much more than we give ourselves credit for.

Change – it’s inevitable. It’s how we measure time. Ultimately, we have to embrace the change and if we can do that, we will thrive. My man Charles Darwin knew this. Here’s what he has to say on the matter:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

True that. So when someone pushes your cow off a cliff, will you embrace the change?

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