The Oak and The Reeds

A Giant Oak stood near a brook in which grew some slender Reeds. When the wind blew, the great Oak stood proudly upright with its hundred arms uplifted to the sky. But the Reeds bowed low in the wind and sang a sad and mournful song.

“You have reason to complain,” said the Oak. “The slightest breeze that ruffles the surface of the water makes you bow your heads, while I, the mighty Oak, stand upright and firm before the howling tempest.”

“Do not worry about us,” replied the Reeds. “The winds do not harm us. We bow before them and so we do not break. You, in all your pride and strength, have so far resisted their blows. But the end is coming.”

As the Reeds spoke a great hurricane rushed out of the north. The Oak stood proudly and fought against the storm, while the yielding Reeds bowed low. The wind redoubled in fury, and all at once the great tree fell, torn up by the roots, and lay among the pitying Reeds.

As Aesop has suggested in the fable above, the moral of the tale is that “it is better to yield when it is folly to resist, than to resist stubbornly and be destroyed.”

The word “yield” or even the action of “bowing low” may appear to be subservience. In the 1640s, this word “resilience” came to be in use. From the Latin “resilientem”, it means “inclined to leap or spring back”. There is a bounce in the action, a “going with the flow” with understanding and calmly returning to balance. Similarly, in some martial arts training, there are “hard” schools that block resistance (much like the Oak Tree), and there are “soft” schools that yield to the oncoming onslaught and with minimal force, topple the opponent by deflecting the force or using it to unbalance him.

A leader is often tested through trials and tribulations. It is not just the office, or the investors, or the supply chain that is affecting one’s sense of control. Suddenly everything at home, from your elderly parents, spouse, children, to health, or even finance, can come crashing down simultaneously. The world rains on your parade and nothing seems to go well in this difficult moment of your life.

Learn, then, to yield to the problems.
Acknowledge that these tough times are stressing you out.

Take a deep breath.

And yes, sometimes bowing down is what you need to do to surrender to the Divine. Alternatively, it is a symbol of taking a rest and taking stock, much like the child’s pose in yoga. It means self-care. If you have not walked in the park to smell the roses, or soak in the summer’s rays, then it is a symbolic disconnection from nature. The Reeds are part of Nature, as much as the Wind. Grounding yourself in Nature can be a healing process.


Take a moment to breathe in, and out.

When the time is right, and when your body and energies are recharged, you will find the inner strength to bounce back.

Have an immense sense of faith that your leadership skills will pull you through. That means forcing a smile and forcing yourself to show gratitude for the little that you have.

The title of this article is “Life Leadership and Moment’s Resilience”. This means that resilience is always in the moment. And if you take charge of your own life in the long run, you would need to balance it with what you can do today to stay afloat and bendy.

© 2010 | EDMUND CHOW