Have you ever run into a person in your travels who some would deem a competitor? Did that person greet you with hugs and smiles and lay it on really thick as if he were your long-lost friend? And after he was gone, did you just not feel good?
Back in the ‘80s, I encountered some psychological warfare when a competitor invited an associate of our company for a series of lunches and drinks. These meetings eventually lead to discussions about what wasn’t working with our company.
The next thing we knew, the competitor had convinced our associate that there was a job waiting for him and that he should go and talk to their president. So the associate made an appointment with the president to talk about the job opportunity. The president asked, “What job opportunity?”
In 1983, Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, wrote a book called People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. Peck describes several people who came to him for help and whom he found particularly resistant to receiving help. He came to think of them as “evil” and described the characteristics of evil in psychological terms, proposing that it could qualify as a psychiatric diagnosis.
I can share the remedy for this type of evil through the story of the scorpion and the frog.
One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river. The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn’t see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.
Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.
“Hello, Mr. Frog!” called the scorpion across the water, “Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?”
“Well, now, Mr. Scorpion. How do I know that if I help you, you won’t try to kill me?” asked the frog hesitantly.
“Because,” the scorpion replied, “if I try to kill you, then I would die, too. For, you see, I cannot swim!”
Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked, “What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!”
“This is true,” agreed the scorpion. “But then I wouldn’t be able to get to the other side of the river!”
“All right, then, how do I know you won’t just wait till we get to the other side and then kill me?” asked the frog.
“Ahh…,” crooned the scorpion, “because you see, once you’ve taken me to the other side of the river, I will be so grateful for your help that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now, would it?”
So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog’s back, his sharp claws pricking into the frog’s soft hide, and the frog slid into the river.
The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the stream, his webbed feet paddling wildly against the current.
Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog’s back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.
“You fool!” croaked the frog. “Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?”
The scorpion shrugged and did a little jig on the drowning frog’s back.
“I couldn’t help myself. It’s my nature.”
The moral? Sometimes you just need to recognize your competitor for what he is and not help him across the river.
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Simon Reilly of Leading Advisor Inc. is a financial advisor coach, speaker and writer. Simon writes a daily blog and can be reached at www.leadingadvisor.com/blog.