Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The toad and the hot water

Author: Paulo Coelho

By Paulo Coelho

Various biological studies have shown that if a toad is placed in a container along with water from his own pond, he will remain there, utterly still, while the water is heated, even when the water reaches boiling point. The toad does not react to the gradual increase in temperature and dies when the water boils.
Fat and happy.
On the other hand, if a toad is thrown into that container when the water is already boiling, he will jump straight out again, scalded, but alive!
Sometimes we behave like the boiled toads. We do not notice changes. We think that everything is fine and that anything bad in our lives will simply go away – that it’s just a matter of time. We are close to death, but still we sit, unchanging and apathetic, while the water around us gets hotter by the minute. We end up dying, fat and happy, without having noticed the changes going on around us.
Boiled toads do not understand that, as well as being efficient (doing things right), they need to be effective (doing the right things). And for this to happen, there must be continual growth, with room for dialogue and clear communication, room to share and to plan and to build an adult relationship. The biggest challenge lies in having the humility to respect someone else’s views.
There are, however, boiled toads who still believe that the most important thing is obedience, not competence: those who can, lead, but those with any sense, obey. And where does this leave real life? It is far better to emerge from a situation slightly scalded, but still alive and ready to act.

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