“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” -Aristotle
Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce had a problem. He had ascended the throne in 1306 to a fragmented kingdom. Many Scots did not recognize the Bruce as their liege, and other factions vied for control of the Scottish throne. To add to the new king’s woes, the English had also laid claim to Scotland, and England’s armies held strategic points throughout the country. Three months after his coronation, the Bruce and his army were ambushed by the English at two key battles that resulted in three of Robert’s four brothers, as well as his sister, being executed. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce fled the battlefield and took refuge in a nearby cave to escape capture.
His family, army, and country broken, the Bruce surely thought his life couldn’t get much worse and considered leaving Scotland behind. Sitting at the cave’s entrance, the king saw a spider weaving an intricate web. The Bruce had nothing better to do and watched the spider for hours. At one point, the spider tried to connect two far-apart strands. Six times the spider tried to leap the gap and six times he failed. Finally, on the seventh try, the spider made the jump and connected the loose ends. The King of Scotland thought that if a tiny spider wouldn’t give up, neither would he. Robert the Bruce went on to unite his kingdom and defeat the English eight years later at the Battle of Bannockburn.
The story of Robert the Bruce may be a simple legend, but it illustrates more than perseverance. When we don’t succeed, we must be receptive to seeing “failure” from a different point of view. Had Robert the Bruce stomped that spider out of anger over his situation and not observed the creature’s lesson, the history of Scotland would be quite different. While some people advocate the adage, “Don’t just sit there—do something,” often the best adaptation of that adage is, “Don’t just do something—sit there.”
Don’t Just Do Something – Sit There!: Accelerators
- In what areas of your work or business are you prone to “give up” prematurely?
- What areas of your work or business are perplexing you right now? Spend some time some time contemplating those areas.
- What three actions can you take today to move the ball forward in your work or business?
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff spends the vast majority of his time helping organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at JeffStandridge.com.