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Utopia Academy & The Unpredictability of Horses

by Craig

There is an old Taoist story that often comes to mind these days. I described it in another article some time ago, but if you aren’t familiar with it, it goes something like this…

A farmer was working in a field one day when a wild, but docile horse appeared. He approached the horse and brought it into his stable.

When he shared the news with his neighbors, everyone was delighted and said how good that was. As a simple man, the farmer shrugged his shoulders and stated he didn’t know much about ‘good and bad,’ but was thankful for the new horse.

A few weeks later, the horse escaped the farmer’s field and ran off. When the news broke out, everyone was dismayed and said how unfortunate that was. Again, the farmer said he didn’t know much about ‘fortune or misfortune,’ and quietly went back to work in the field.

Then, a few days later, the horse returned grazing with a group of horses, and the man’s stable multiplied. Surprised by this turn of events, everyone remarked at how great that was.

As the man’s son was riding later that week, he was thrown from the horse and broke his leg. Everyone was upset and said how terrible that was. The farmer just shrugged his shoulders and went home to tend his son.

Shortly later, the King’s army came through conscripting all able young men for a war. But seeing the man’s son limping on a splinted leg, they passed him over and moved onto the next village.

And so the story continues…

The moral of the ‘Farmer and Horse’ parable seemed quite relevant when reflecting on a different story this week—the tale of the Farmer’s Apprentice and Utopia Academy. It goes something like this…

Once upon a time, a consultant and business owner had grown restless in his position. In his heart, he was a farmer’s apprentice and occasionally dreamed of shedding his fancy title in favor of a simpler life and freedom to focus on his occupational passion without the complexities of business. So one day, the consultant shared this secret desire with a friend, another farmer’s apprentice, who offered an encouraging statement of wisdom: “It’s all right also should you decide you don’t want to play that role any longer.”

The consultant already knew those words were true, yet felt trapped in his role due to business entanglements, commitments, and his role as the breadwinner of his family. In his mind, exiting this role for another would require a surprise opportunity outside of foresee—a gift of grace. He was concerned that shedding his role for a new one without a perfect alignment of stars would result in painful consequences for a number of people.

As he contemplated the friend’s words during the following week, a special gift arrived initiating a new lesson in farming.

He received a message from a recruiter inviting him to apply for a position as the Senior Stuff Manager for Utopia Academy, a new foundation created for building hundreds of special schools in under-served communities. He had received similar messages from recruiters in the past, but this one was different. Something about it seemed uniquely appealing on many levels.

The mission of the organization sounded simply beautiful. And the idea of designing and nurturing a stuff program for schools from a blank canvas was very exciting. As a foundation capitalized with the kind of money only possessed by billionaires, they have the opportunity to do stuff-related things that are often impossible in other schools due to politics or budget constraints.

As for qualifications and job responsibilities, he seemed like a “perfect” match! As a result of his history as a consultant, he had considerable experience designing solutions for the types of growth challenges Utopia Academy was going to face. It was the type of work he loves most (designing stuff programs to address complex challenges) and does very well.

And the compensation and benefits they offered were nothing to ignore. His role over the years as a consultant and business owner hadn’t been as financially beneficial as his title and status might suggest. And challenges in recent years had strained his finances further resulting in a number of sacrifices and questions about funding his children’s education. When calculated, the pay offered by Utopia Academy would remedy those matters completely!

What an amazing opportunity—an “ideal” job, with an “ideal” organization, offering “ideal” compensation, for which he was “ideally” qualified! As a student of farming, he pondered, “Could this be a glorious herd of champion horses arriving at the stable?”

And so he applied and cruised effortlessly through the selection process over a period of weeks. In the meantime, other stars seemed to come into alignment. Hank, one of his old team members, rejoined his company and alleviated concern about leaving his business partner with a critical void after his departure. So he started training Hank in preparation for a possible exit. Then some new projects emerged, “ideal” opportunities (perfectly sized and diverse) for training Hank and other team mates. And best of all, when he described several preexisting commitments scheduled into the new employment period (and wish to fulfill those obligations for the benefit of many), Utopia Academy viewed his intention as a favorable demonstration of character and integrity. What more could he ask? Just simply “ideal” in every way!

And so he arrived at the week of final interviews. Out of more than a hundred applicants, it was now down to him and one other contender. Although he sensed a ‘cosmic humor’ in the “ideal” nature of events to this stage, the funniest of all occurred as he sat for his first live interview. As his new boss appeared, he almost spit his coffee out when he saw her. She was a breathtaking example of his “Perfectly Attractive Woman”—long, soft dark hair with a face that could ‘launch a 1,000 ships’ (complete with a perfect birthmark near her lip). Oh, this “ideal” thing just doesn’t stop!!!

And so the interviews went quite well. Maybe even, “ideally.” And then it was time for Utopia Academy to make the big decision.

Throughout most of the process, the consultant, who aims to be a farmer, felt rather free with whatever result may come. Yea or nay, either way was okay. But something began stirring as he waited for Utopia Academy’s final decision. A sense of hope, anticipation, and enthusiastic importance started welling up.

Then after four long days, he got the big phone call. And the “ideal” organization offering the “ideal” job for the “ideal” candidate, decided the other candidate was “more ideal.”

And boy oh boy, did a feeling of disappointment well up in magnitude that he hadn’t felt in a very long time! Although he suspected early in this affair there was an obvious lesson at play, he had bitten the apple of temptation nevertheless. And now a parade of Not-I’s, complete with floats and a drum band, marched through the street of Awareness for a good day or two.

Watch. Watch. Watch. And then peace. Not-I’s begin yelling! Watch. Watch. Watch. Peace. Not-I’s kick and scream! Watch. Watch. Watch. Freedom returns.

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After a few days, he woke up with a smile. And a consultant, who aims to be a farmer, was deeply thankful for a valuable lesson about the seduction of ideals and the unpredictability of horses.

Sometimes horses come, and sometimes they go. And sometimes they run away just as they seem to be entering the stable. That’s simply what horses do.

And it’s never the end of the story.

Despite our tendency to think of personal life experience as partitioned stories, it is truly all one inseparable event. Every moment we presently experience is the result of all preceding occurrence— every so-called “challenge,” “blessing,” and even the most seemingly inconsequential events. When we truly discover that nothing is separate – only changes in perceived circumstance in a dynamic field of experience – everything is recognized as a gift.

Thank “X” for school lessons taught by Utopia Academy and all those beautiful, unpredictable horses!

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