[Editor’s note – I would like to give credit for this but do not know the original author, since it was forwarded around the Internet years ago without attribution. If anyone knows who is the original author and can prove it, please let me know to give them their just credit for writing one of the true classics of all time.]
A parable about schedules, cycle times and shaping new behaviors
Once upon a time, there lived a man named Clarence who had a pet frog named Felix. Clarence lived a modestly comfortable existence on what he earned working at Informix, but he always dreamed of being rich.
“Felix!” he exclaimed one day, “We’re going to be rich! I’m going to teach you how to fly!”
Felix, of course, was terrified at the prospect: “I can’t fly, you idiot…I’m a frog, not a canary!”
Clarence, disappointed at the initial reaction, told Felix: “That negative attitude of yours could be a real problem. I’m sending you to class.”
So Felix went to a three day class and learned about problem solving, time management and effective communication…but nothing about flying.
On the first day of “flying lessons”, Clarence could barely control his excitement (and Felix could barely control his bladder). Clarence explained that their apartment building had 15 floors, and each day Felix would jump out of a window starting with the first floor, eventually getting to the top floor.
After each jump, Felix would analyze how well he flew, isolate on the most effective flying techniques and implement the improved process for the next flight. By the time they reached the top floor, Felix would surely be able to fly.
Felix pleaded for his life, but it fell on deaf ears. “He just doesn’t understand how important this is….” thought Clarence, “but I won’t let nay-sayers get in my way.”
So, with that, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out (who landed with a thud).
Next day (poised for his second flying lesson) Felix again begged not to be thrown out of the window. With that, Clarence opened his pocket guide to Managing More Effectively and showed Felix the part about how one must always expect resistance when implementing new programs.
And with that, he threw Felix out the window. (THUD)
On the third day (at the third floor) Felix tried a different ploy: stalling, he asked for a delay in the “project” until better weather would make flying conditions more favorable.
But Clarence was ready for him: he produced a timeline and pointed to the third milestone and asked, “You don’t want to slip the schedule, do you?”
From his training, Felix knew that not jumping today would mean that he would have to jump TWICE tomorrow…so he just said: “OK. Let’s go.” And out the window he went.
Now this is not to say that Felix wasn’t trying his best. On the fifth day he flapped his feet madly in a vain attempt to fly. On the sixth day he tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think “Superman” thoughts.
But try as he might, he couldn’t fly.
By the seventh day, Felix (accepting his fate) no longer begged for mercy…he simply looked at Clarence and said: “You know you’re killing me, don’t you?” Clarence pointed out that Felix’s performance so far had been less than exemplary, failing to meet any of the milestone goals he had set for him.
With that, Felix said quietly: “Shut up and open the window,” and he leaped out, taking careful aim on the large jagged rock by the corner of the building. And Felix went to that great lily pad in the sky.
Clarence was extremely upset, as his project had failed to meet a single goal that he had set out to accomplish. Felix had not only failed to fly, he didn’t even learn how to steer his flight as he fell like a sack of cement…nor did he improve his productivity when Clarence had told him to “Fall smarter, not harder.”
The only thing left for Clarence to do was to analyze the process and try to determine where it had gone wrong. After much thought, Clarence smiled and said: “Next time…I’m getting a smarter frog!”
Here’s a poster I created for this parable: