Sunday, 10 May 2009

The importance of observation

Once in ancient Thailand, the King led his Ministers on a hunt for deers. They passed by a small village and the King decided to stop by for a visit. The villagers welcomed the King and his entourage with great warmth as they passed through. The pompousness and the grandeur of the entourage contrasted greatly with the humble nature of the village, with the royal hunting party decked out in the finest of silk and gold. One of the villagers was offended by this disparity and made a disparaging comment, which the King overheard. He called for the villager to be brought forth...

"I heard you are displeased with the fine clothes and food that my ministers are having," the King said. "Your Majesty, we are all human beings. Why should some be treated so much better than the rest?" the villager asked.

The King did not say anything more, but he asked the villager to go ahead of the hunting party and come back with what he saw. The villager soon returned, and the King sent forth one of his Ministers with the same task.

While the Minister was gone, the King asked the villager, "What did you see?" The villager replied, "There's nothing there, just some wild dogs."

"How many dogs are there? Tell me more about the dogs." the King asked.

"Well... I did not really count, but there are probably eight to ten dogs. Some are puppies and they are just playing around in the woods," the villager said.

The Minster returned and the King asked him the same question.

"There are eleven dogs in the pack, out of which four are females, three are males, and the other four are puppies around one year old. They are brown with short-fur, do not seem to belong to any pedigree species, and are probably mongrel breed. The dogs were abandoned by some villagers who moved out, and an old lady living nearby has been feeding them. One of the female dogs look pregnant, so the group population is likely to increase by the end of this month. The old lady did say the dogs usually keep to themselves, and do not pose any danger to the children playing nearby."

The King turned to the villager and said, "the rule of the land requires the best people to serve, and the ministers that I choose are incredibly perceptive and analytical. While many people see only the superficial issues, great men go above and beyond to see the circumstances and repercussions. While we are all human beings, our responsibilities vary greatly and this is reflected in their standings in society."

The powers of observation and analysis go beyond this ancient tale, and they are more relevant in today's society than ever. Where others see obstacles, the most perceptive and talented individuals see opportunities. As Einstein is often quoted, "there is opportunity in every difficulty". In your daily life, observe what is happening around you and dig deeper into your analysis of why things happen in certain ways, or why people behave the way they do. Gain precious insights of the world around you. People like politicians, businessmen and marketeers will kill to gain insights on how people behave, but it is something that you cannot glean from textbooks. Question everything, assume nothing. Keep your eyes open, and your mind even more open.

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