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Keep a Good Head

mentor motivation Sep 01, 2020

by Nguyen “Tom” Griggs


By the time you read this, we all will have been through pandemic-related frustrations, as well as protests and possibly even riots. Although it is important to be aware of what’s going on so we can react to it, it’s crucial that we remain focused on our schools. That focus is the topic of this column. I’d like to start with a parable my dad shared with me:

Once there was a worm who decided to make the trek to a lush and densely vegetated area. Now, this worm was quite smart. It knew that perils and threats lurked everywhere. The worm knew it was slow, so it mapped out the various paths and different areas that would provide the most safety.

The worm knew that there were all manner of birds, lizards and other predators, plus random stray dogs and cats that could easily hurt it. The heat of the sun also posed a danger. But the worm was clever enough to know that moving carefully and quickly was the key to success.

While many dangers were associated with the journey, the worm saw the reward as being totally worth the risk. The idea of a leafy green area with rich soil was a paradise that just had to be pursued.

The worm set out with caution and patience. When an animal approached or the sun got too hot, it sought shelter and rested. The worm was good at staying safe and being strategic during periods when it could predict danger.

Finally, the worm could see the oasis ahead and was thrilled. Then, it came across a set of railroad tracks. It was able to successfully cross the first track and was quickly moving toward the second. Before beginning the climb, it took a moment to scan the area and check for dangers.

All seemed clear, other than an odd vibration. After a moment, the worm made the final effort to cross the second track. It could see the lush destination a few yards away and was filled with anticipation.

The worm was almost over the second track when the train came along and ran over its tail. The worm was, of course, in shock and pain. Worse than the physical damage was the emotional shock and disbelief, which stemmed from all its planning and efforts to make it safely to the destination having been catastrophically interrupted.

The worm decided to turn around to inspect the damage to its tail. As it stopped to look, the poor creature didn’t pay attention to its surroundings, and the other wheel of the train crushed it entirely.

“The moral to the story,” my dad would tell me, “is to never lose your head just because your butt got hurt.”

Now, my dad used slightly more colorful language, but it didn’t change the message. You’ve probably heard a variation of this story. Here’s why it matters now:

Through the pandemic and the social unrest, many of us have struggled to keep classes going, get funding, etc. But how many of us have a destination in mind? We worked hard, with patience and fortitude, to get where we were before the pandemic. And we didn’t see the pandemic and the social unrest coming.

Now is the time to stay focused on our goals. Remember that during normal times, we — like the worm — can prepare for and deal with problems and with the unexpected. But this isn’t a period of “normal times.” Therefore, our goals and our dreams must remain in our vision, on our minds and within our hearts. Our dream is what kept us going day and night to get where we are now and where we eventually see ourselves.

We all serve as leaders and role models. Remember that what we profess to stand for and how we act have to be in alignment. I’m willing to bet that most of us have fairly similar views; some are just a bit more colorful in how we express ourselves. But as leaders, what we say and do matters to more than just us. We influence many people, including children.

People often say they want to be seen as leaders — until they realize that they are being viewed through a magnifying glass. We need to step up as leaders and keep adjusting, cooperating and truly giving and receiving from each other. Now is the time for us to show the world what being a black belt really means.


Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/speaker on subjects that include teams, leadership and conflict. To contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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