#1604 Areté +1° #45: You & an Elephant

A Parable about Blind Guys and Perspective

Hi, this is Brian.

Welcome back to another Areté +1°, a micro-chapter (one of 451 micro-chapters) from Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential.


Once upon a time, in a land far away, six blind guys had never seen an elephant before. They had no idea what an elephant was or what one looked like.

They each walked up to the elephant at a different spot.

The first blind guy touched the side of the elephant and declares: “This is like a wall!”

The second guy touches the tail and says: “No! This is like a rope!”

The third guy touches the trunk and declares: “This is like a snake!”

The fourth grabs the tusk and says: “This is like a spear!”

Our fifth fellow touches the ear and says: “This is like a fan!”

And, finally, our sixth blind guy touches a leg and says: “This is like a tree trunk!”

Here’s what’s interesting. All those blind guys are 100% sure that they’re 100% right. Of course, they’re not. Their perspectives are only partially true.

We laugh at this story.

But, guess what? Same rules apply for us and that last political debate we had. Or that little argument with a spouse or child or colleague.

We tend to think that we’re 100% right and that the other person is 100% wrong.

But, as Ken Wilber says, NO ONE is smart enough to be 100% right about anything. Nor is anyone smart enough (or silly enough) to be 100% wrong about anything.

There’s always a PARTIAL truth to every perspective. And, if we want to optimize our communication, we’d be wise to start our dialogues by trying to see the other person’s perspective, finding a place of mutual agreement, and then (and only then) respectfully tiptoeing to the outer edges of potential disagreement.


The +1°: The next time you feel a little frustrated during an interpersonal interaction, take a moment to see if you think you’re 100% right. Then see if you can step back from your certainty and try to see the other person’s perspective.

Remember the blind guys and their six different elephants as you embody a little more humility and curiosity today.

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