Dave Trott's blog: Leave the woman at the river

The author urges readers to forget about a decision after making it rather than worrying about it

Sep 27, 2022 09:49:00 AM | Article | Dave Trott

There’s an old Buddhist story: an older and a younger monk are on a pilgrimage when they come to a river.
 
There’s a young woman standing by the river sobbing.
 
The older monk asks her what’s the matter.
 
She says she has to go to see her sick mother but she’s too frightened to cross the fast-flowing river.
 
The older monk says she should hop on his back and he’ll carry her across.
 
So she clings on to him as he carefully wades across the river, the younger monk looking on.
 
When they get across, the young woman thanks him and goes on her way.
 
As the two monks walk on, something is clearly bothering the younger monk.
 
His brow gets furrowed, his mood gets darker.
 
After many miles he can’t contain it any longer, he bursts out: “We are not supposed to have anything to do with women, but you carried one on your back, how could you?”
 
The older monk looks at him indulgently and says: “I left her back at the river, but you’re still carrying her.”
 
I always like that story because it’s a guide to decisions.
 
For me the lesson is to make the decision then forget about it, don’t keep worrying about it and remaking the decision in your head.
 
All that does is slow you down and stop you from moving on.
 
Make the decision, then do it.
 
If you’re not prepared to do it, then you haven’t really made the decision.
 
That’s why people find me brusque, I don’t like to keep going back over decisions.
 
Once they’re made, let’s act on it and move on.
 
If we agree that someone will do something, then we get out of the way, we don’t keep hovering over them, we let them do it.
 
If we’re not prepared to let them do it, then we shouldn’t have agreed to it.
 
I know “binary” isn’t a very popular expression at present, but I like things binary.
 
I like black and white, up and down, in or out, yes or no, on or off, hot or cold.
 
I like clarity.
 
Grey decisions just mean a fudge, there’s no clarity so no-one’s responsible, everyone’s got an excuse, somewhere to hide.
 
But clarity means responsibility, and that’s uncomfortable for most people.
 
That’s why they find me brusque.
 
I like to work with people who like responsibility, people who want ownership of their job, people who don’t want other people looking over their shoulder.
 
For me that’s how a team works, you do your job and let me do mine.
 
I hate working with people who can’t do their own job and so they want to do mine.
 
That just means they screw up two jobs.
 
The best agencies I’ve known are where the art director, the copywriter, the account handler, the planner, the media person, the client, all concentrate on doing their own job the best they possibly can, instead of interfering in mine.
 
If you don’t think someone can do a job, don’t interfere, fire them and get someone who can do the job.
 
As long as people are interfering in other people’s jobs, they’re not doing their own job properly.
 
That’s what I learned from that old Buddhist story.
 
Make a decision and stop thinking about it, move on.
 
Stop thinking about past decisions or other people’s jobs.
 
Leave the woman at the river.
 
Dave Trott is the author of The Power of Ignorance, Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three