See What You Least Want to See

By | April 24, 2020

[April 24, 2020]  Leadership means going into dark places no one wants to see.  Those are the places where one must go if we are to succeed and where fear is greatest, but also where the brave dwell. That is the mark of a real leader, one who summons the courage to go places others surely fear.

An old sergeant, Vietnam vet and mentor, told me this when I was first commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  He was a bit of an oddity to me.  I saw him as old fashioned and out of date, too rough and crude, quick to violence, and a menace to his combat soldiers.  What I failed to see when I looked at his outer shell was that this sergeant would be the way to my understanding of what it means to be a real leader.

“What you want to find is to be found where you least want to find it.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson, University of Toronto

Like the dragon that hoards valuable gold, leadership means getting the job done (the gold), but it also includes many risks (the dragon).  The dragon and the gold story is a meta-story, one that goes back in time since the beginning of humans.  We desperately want the gold, but the dragon continually stands in the way.

To get the dragon’s gold, we must travel to the dragon’s lair and grab what we can as quickly as we can.  Our ancestors told these stories, perhaps in different ways, but this story is retold over and over.  What they were telling us, to use modern language, was that leaders are those willing to confront reality head-on and that our worth and image of ourselves is tied up in that conflict.

The metaphorical dragon pushes us to our limits.  You don’t get those things we want without the danger.  Fear, hesitation, anxiety, self-interests, responsibilities, and a host of like obstacles litter our path to reach for the gold.  The story of Pinocchio tells us the same meta-story but with different characters.

We all remember the story of Pinocchio when he knows that he must go down to the bottom of the ocean to find the whale that swallowed his father, Geppetto.  Pinocchio jumps off the cliff with a stone tied to his leg; downward, he drifts to the ocean floor.  And there he finds “Monstro” an enormous whale.  His task is to confront the whale and be reunited with Geppetto.  Pinocchio has a scheme to save his father, but after getting out, the enraged Monstro chases them, but they both escape.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “See What You Least Want to See

  1. Max Foster

    Hey guys and gals! It would be nice if we could discuss a little more on the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to read some of the arguments for and against the quarantine. What do you all think? I would be happy to lead some of the discussion. The pandemic is a current topic and we are in the middle of it where data is unclear, incomplete, and distorted. We also have irresponsible people purposefully going against the rules and some flat-out lying in public about what is going on. Thoughts?

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      Based on what Gen. Satterfield has written that we must look into the darkest places to find the light, I agree with you Max. I just love the analogy.

    2. Bryan Lee

      Yes, like how the models are wrong and how federal and state policies were based on these models. And, why did many not change their policies when they discovered the models were bad. Good thinking Max. I’m with you.

      1. Max Foster

        Very good. Gen. Satterfield, I know you read most of these comments, so please write about the COVID-19 pandemic and leader lessons we can take from it. Thanks in advance.

  2. Lynn Pitts

    Another excellent and force-me-to-think blog post. Well done and I don’t write that lightly. Could you write an article again on the coronavirus? Maybe give us some lessons learned from the past! That would be worthwhile; keeping as much of the politics out of it as possible.

  3. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    The story of Pinocchio is one of my top stories. I can now see the dragon and the gold theme in Pinocchio. Wow, never made that connection before. Thanks.

  4. Kenny Foster

    These are indeed old stories. The dragon and the gold. Or, sometimes it’s the dragon and the damsel in distress. Or something along those lines. It is actually easy to pickup this theme in most things. In fact, I will be so bold as to say most hero stories are a variation on this. The dragon represents evil while the gold represents something good.

    1. Martin Shiell

      Well said. I had to read this article a couple of times. Maybe Gen. Satterfield could be a little less on the philosophy and stick to the target of making this stuff easier for us.

      1. Dr. William Blake, Sr.

        Perhaps so, Martin. This article looks more free-flowing of his intellect.

    2. José Luis Rodriguez

      Kenny, yes and I think that is what Gen. Satterfield was trying to say. I think, personally and that is just my thinking here, that I do like it best when he writes in this style. Maybe I read it again and again. Each time I get something new and better from the article.

  5. Fred Weber

    Another excellent article for my morning review. ????
    I especially like the use of Pinocchio and the story of the whale. One of my favorites.

  6. Delf "Jelly" Bryce

    Greetings all, I know it has been some time how that I’ve written on this leadership blog but I do plan to come back here soon with an article. Thanks for all who say they are fans; I’m humbled by those comments. What I wanted to add now is that Gen. Satterfield is correct about looking into dark places; that is where the “gold” is located. Metaphorically, he uses gold for anything we desire greatly. That is also where evil resides; it protects the “gold.” My job is to destroy the evil.

    1. KenFBrown

      I look forward to your educational comments, Jelly. Hey, thanks and please write again soon.

        1. Georgie B.

          Yes, very soon. I am one of Mr. Bryce’s earliest fans (I think) and have enjoyed his articles. For those who are new to Gen. Satterfield’s blog, just search on his name or go to Guest Articles in the tab. That’s what I do. Works well and you get a whole new perspective.

  7. JT Patterson

    I see, Gen. Satterfield, that you are trying once again to be some kind of philosopher. Ha Ha. Keep up the good work. I had to read this article three times to really get it. Now, however, I’m still not so sure.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      I was thinking along the same lines. On an occasion, Gen. Satterfield writes this way. I don’t know if it’s his way of mixing things up a bit or just to keep us on our toes or that is the way he really thinks.


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