Have you heard about the fox and the grapes?
It’s a popular fable by an ancient Greek storyteller named Aesop (hence the name Aesop’s Fables).
As the story goes, there is a famished fox roaming for food in the forest. Suddenly she sees some delicious grapes hanging from a vine high above.
She jumps and jumps but cannot reach them. The grapevine grows up a tree and twists out onto a limb, so the fox carefully climbs the tree and crawls out onto the limb to free them.
Just as she is about to bite them off, she slips and falls to the ground. After repeated attempts, she finally gives up.
As she is walking away, embarrassed and trying to hide her disappointment, she thinks to herself, “Those grapes are probably sour anyway, I must be a fool for trying that hard to get them.”
The moral of the story is: There are some things you can’t have no matter how hard you try. That doesn’t mean your “grapes” would have been sour, it just means those grapes were never going to be within your reach. Think of the fox’s grapes as unattainable dreams.
It’s a great life lesson I learned at a very early age. No kid could have tried harder to make the high school basketball team. My toes were bloody, my knees ached, and my palms were raw. But no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t have the speed, agility, and I couldn’t palm a basketball with my rather small hands.
Nevertheless, even though I clearly lacked the talent, my hard work paid off and I made the team! Mom and Dad were beaming. I was on top of the world. LIttle did I know, my jubilation would be short-lived.
That basketball season was actually one of the worst experiences of my life. I never started a game and rarely even played. I rode the bench all season. It didn’t matter how hard I practiced – I simply didn’t have the physical attributes to become more than a mediocre player.
That experience was quite a lesson for me. Striving to be what I couldn’t be brought me absolute misery. I discovered a harsh reality – that following a dream might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
I expect most parents do what my parents did – encourage their kids to follow their dreams. But is this really the best advice all the time?
Perhaps our children should first discover what they have the greatest aptitude for, then see if they get passionate about it. In other words, let passion follow talent.
When raising my three sons, I developed a “Four Step Dream Check” to consider:
Evaluate your natural propensities. (Test yourself physically, verbally and mentally early in life.)
Consider the probability of success. (Gifted actors/actresses routinely fail because success in that industry may require connections.)
Assess what life will be like if you succeed. (If you aspire to political office, be prepared to live in a fishbowl.)
Visualize success with your natural aptitude and then ask yourself, “Will passion follow?”
Here’s a nutshell version:
A: Do I have the ability?
O: What are my odds?
L: Is that the life I want?
P: Will my passion follow?
I’ve found it’s easy to love what I’m good at and darn hard to love what I have little talent for.
Dreams are not just for kids. I still have them, and I’ll bet you do too. But my age has hopefully brought wisdom, and part of that wisdom is to run my dreams through the Four Step Dream Check.