[July 11, 2019] Leadership comes in many styles, and sometimes it hits you that even an occasional oddball style can work well if enough hard work and thinking are correctly applied. It reminds me of the time, as a young child, I was in a small mud pit with a bunch of other boys and a greased pig. Any boy catching the pig would get $20; a high motivating factor.
There was a bit of weirdness in this chaotic boy-mud-pig scene but trying to catch a greased pig teaches some valuable life’s lessons. I won’t cover them all but here are a few:
- Life is hard (harder if you’re stupid).
- You can’t get something for nothing.
- Stay focused on your objective.
- Avoid reckless people.
- Nothing beats a team to get the job done.
- Sometimes it takes more than hard work.1
- Control your emotions.
- Pigs in the mud are damn hard to catch and near impossible if greased.
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” – George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, polemicist, and political activist
Later in my military career, I often thought back to those times as a little boy and what were the specific events that had a profound influence on me and my leadership abilities. This was one of them. Frustration, anger, and eventually calm as I realized (albeit very slowly) that the point of the pig chase was to have fun, not to catch the pig.
Those who came to nearly catching the pig were only when two or more boys teamed up to corral the pig in a corner, then pounce all at once. Such a tactic came with risks. One boy broke his arm, and another had a long gash on his forehead. But I remember the chase and I’m sure others do too.
Getting mad solved nothing and made it more difficult to catch the pig. You had to remain calm, stay focused, and jump on the pig when the thing slowed down. I had my hands around him many times, but he just slipped away. Leaders often find themselves in such no-win situations. Sometimes the best thing they can do is muddle through, encourage others to maintain a good attitude, and learn from it.
I still believe no one ever caught a greased pig; it’s simply too difficult for young boys.