Have you heard the Aesop’s fable (story) of the father, son and their donkey?
If not, here it goes.
A long time ago, a man and his son were going with their donkey to the market (several towns away). As they were walking along with the donkey, a man passed them and said, “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?” So, the father puts the son on the donkey, and they go on their way.
But as they pass the first town, a group of men saw them and said, “Why in the world is that young boy with his fresh legs sitting on that donkey while his poor old father has to walk?”
So, the man orders his son to get off and then sits on the donkey himself. But they haven’t gone far when they pass two women who say, “Shame on that lazy father who is letting his young son walk while he sits royally on the donkey. What is this world coming to?”
Now the man is confused but decides to take his boy up before him on the donkey and move towards the next town. Here people are shocked. “That poor little donkey carrying two people. Are these guys crazy?”
The father then pauses for some time and comes up with a genius idea. He buys a bamboo pole and a thick rope. They tie the donkey to the bamboo pole and set off carrying him to the next town.
In this town, they are met by another group of people who laugh at them and say “Who in the world carries a donkey? Have you ever seen a funny sight like this?”
They carry on until they come on a bridge, when the donkey getting one of his feet loose, kicked out causing the boy to drop his end of the pole. During the struggle, the donkey falls over the bridge and because his forefeet are tied, he drowns.
What is the moral of the story?
You can’t please everyone all the time. Try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one.
There is another important lesson that is super applicable to us.
“Who do you listen to?”
There are many who will tell you things such as –
- Go through yet another technical certification program and all of a sudden, your practice will flourish magically.
- Do Social Media Marketing. Everyone is doing it.
- Why aren’t you on CNBC or a radio show?
- Sell something to someone, so you need to have all the products. Get your foot in the door
- This business model has worked in the US. It will work in India too. You are way ahead of the curve and thus will need to go through the pain we went through in the US.
While listening to everyone and acting on it is a serious problem, an even bigger problem is not listening to someone when you hold opposing views.
In our profession, there are many who hold very strong beliefs. Some of them are so aggressive that they don’t even want to hear a different view. While I got some amazing feedback (from many of you) for my last week’s iFast post, one gentleman tells my colleague “Amar Pandit should shut up (will do an interesting post on this soon).” This gentleman seemed to be afflicted by something called as confirmation bias (God bless him).
As we all know, confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and to ignore information that contradicts them.
If we believe something is the future, we will only read columns about it. We will only hang out with people who believe in it. Many are now looking out for a new platform because iFast has shut shop. But instead of looking for a new platform, the questions to be asked are:
- Do I have the right strategy?
- Am I missing something? Have I got the right business model?
- Is the US customer the same as ours? What are her/his preferences?
- Are the structure and dynamics of the Indian wealth management business the same as they are in the US? If they are, why have so many global wealth management giants shut shop in India? Do you think UBS, Morgan Stanley, Macquarie, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC Private Banking and Citibank are not intelligent enough to run this business in India (I bet they have first-rate intelligence)?
Confirmation bias is important as it allows us to make quick decisions but what is even more important is first-rate intelligence.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
Darshak Rana in his Medium Post “5 Signs you are highly intelligent (even if you are not aware of it)” writes “The ability to see both sides of an issue even if you have a strong opinion, is a sign of intelligence. Scientists call it first-rate intelligence – the ability to hold opposing concepts and still function.
It also means you can critically evaluate information and make decisions based on evidence rather than emotion. The reason for such intelligence is fearlessness. If you aren’t scared to change your mind when presented with new information, it’s a sign of high-level intelligence.
The questions then are –
- What new information have you been presented lately?
- Are you afraid to change your mind even in the presence of new (credible) information or will you be bold enough to incorporate this new information and change your mind?