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Mental Preparation and Attitude: The Tale of the Scorpion and the Frog

There are a scorpion and a frog on a river bank and the scorpion looks over at the frog and says, “Mr. Frog, would you be kind enough to allow me to sit on your back and could you swim across the river so I can get on the other side?”

“No,” the frog says, “because you are a scorpion and you are going to sting me.”

The scorpion responds “that’s true, but rest assured that I will not sting you because if I do, you will die and drown and I cannot swim and I will drown.”

The frog thinks about it and says “you’re right. I have to cross the river too. Hop on.” So the Scorpion gets on his back and they begin their journey across the river. When they are about two thirds of the way across the river, all of a sudden the scorpion raises his tail and stings the frog. The frog looks up and says “why did you sting me? I’m going to die.” The scorpion says “I couldn’t help it! I’m a scorpion. I sting. It’s just what I do.”

This story packs a powerful message. Think about it, “I’m a scorpion. That’s what I do.” The scorpion had such clarity, he knew who he was and that stinging was ingrained in him. Knowing yourself takes a certain mindset.

You should ask yourself three questions. What is it that you do? What is your mission? What is your purpose? Once you figure that out, be a scorpion and be it to the point where there are no distractions. We as humans are hard wired a certain way so it’s a great way to teach people to be so focused. So figure out what you want to do in life. When you have a clear goal, you can be a scorpion. When you have that clarity you cannot fight the urges or temptations to do anything else – because it’s hard wired in you.

Another way of looking at this principle is comparing story identity with what we do. For example, a gambler gambles, but someone who gambles once in a while is not necessarily considered a gambler. An athlete works out, but someone who works out may not necessarily be an athlete. Alcoholics drink, but someone who drinks wine or beer occasionally may not be an alcoholic. There’s a big difference between having an identity and just doing something every so often. Like the scorpion, his identity as a scorpion means that he stings. We see this time and time again with leaders. A leader leads, but someone who leads every so often may not be a leader. But once they make the shift in who they are as a leader, they buy into who they are and they can’t help but do the things that those people in that identity do. These big shifts happen, especially as we start to get our careers set up and start to get the reference points of where we are. If we get the circle of excellence or the President’s Award and keep getting it again and again we start to believe that this is who we are. We think to ourselves “I am a champion. I am a winner. I am a leader.”

Early on, we may not have those reference points to lean on but over time the more points we build, the stronger our identity becomes and the more we step into the space of who we are. In the beginning stages of our careers, we don’t have those reference points, so we borrow from someone else until we gain experience and build our own.

My children get frustrated with me sometimes because something will come up and I will automatically go into what they call the “teacher mode.” That is, I start teaching a lesson from my own experience. I’m a teacher at heart, as are all the great leaders I know. That’s what I do. I’m a scorpion. We are all scorpions. We just have to figure out what we want to be scorpions of.