Good people are found, not changed. They can change themselves, but you can’t change them
You can’t send a duck to eagle school is a metaphor for the truism: You can not give what you don’t have. A duck can try but it can never soar as high as the eagle. It is not in the DNA of the duck to soar that high, even if you send the duck to an eagle school. The same is true for humans, we all have limitless potential but until we nurture it, push our boundaries, leave our comfort zone(s), take risks continuously, and fail forward. We would continue to be ducks unless we unleash the eagle in us.
Just like dynamites, the power’s on the inside and nothing happens until the fuse gets detonated. The same goes for us all. We obey Newton’s first law of motion which states that a body at remains at rest or if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted upon by a net external force. Our human natural tendency is Homeostasis.
Homeostasis is derived from the Greek words for Homeo (same) and Stasis (Steady). It refers to any process in which living things use to actively maintain fairly stable conditions necessary for survival. As American Psychologist Abraham Maslow noted in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, human needs are represented as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. We tend to first deal with survival needs such as our Physiological needs (Food, Water, Sleep, Selter), Safety needs (Health, Personal and emotional Security, Love and social belonging needs (Family and Friendship) before tending to Esteem Needs, Cognitive need, Self-actualization, and transcendence.
Good people are found, not changed. They can change themselves, but you can’t change them
American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. Jim Rohn observed that the first rule of management is: Don’t send your ducks to eagle school. He writes:
The first rule of management is this: Don’t send your ducks to eagle school. Why? Because it won’t work. Good people are found, not changed. They can change themselves, but you can’t change them. If you want good people, you have to find them. If you want motivated people, you have to find them, not motivate them.
I picked up a magazine not long ago in New York that had a full-page ad in it for a hotel chain. The first line of the ad read, “We do not teach our people to be nice.” Now that got my attention. The second line said, “We hire nice people.” I thought, What a clever shortcut!”
Motivation is a mystery. Why are some people motivated and some are not? Why does one salesperson see his first prospect at seven in the morning while the other sees his first prospects at 11 in the morning? Why would one start at seven and the other start at 11? I don’t know. Call it “mysteries of the mind.”
I give lectures to a thousand people at a time. One walks out and says, “I’m going to change my life.” Another walks out with a yawn and says, “I’ve heard all this stuff before.” Why is that?
The wealthy man says to a thousand people, “I read this book, and it started me on the road to wealth.” Guess how many of the thousand go out and get the book? Answer: very few. Isn’t that incredible? Why wouldn’t everyone go get the book? Mysteries of the mind.
To one person, you have to say, “You’d better slow down. You can’t work that many hours, do that many things, go, go, go. You’re going to have a heart attack and die.” And to another person, you have to say, “When are you going to get off the couch?” What is the difference? Why wouldn’t everyone strive to be wealthy and happy?
Chalk it up to mysteries of the mind and don’t waste your time trying to turn ducks into eagles. Hire people who already have the motivation and drive to be eagles and then just let them soar.
Don’t waste your time trying to turn ducks into eagles. Hire people who already have the motivation and drive to be eagles and then just let them soar.
Author and founder of Simple Truths and Successories Mac Anderson open his book “You Can’t Send a Duck to Eagle School: And Other Simple Truths of Leadership” with the following words:
I once had lunch with a top executive from a company known for their legendary retail service. My wife and I are both huge fans, and over lunch, I shared with him some of the great service stories his people had provided the Anderson family. I said:
“With the service your people give, you must have a training manual two inches thick.”
He looked up and said, “Mac, we don’t have a training manual. What we do is find the best people we can find, and we empower them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer.” Then he said something I’ll never forget: “We learned a long time ago that you can’t send a duck to eagle school.”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“You can’t send a duck to eagle school.” He said, “You can’t teach someone to smile; you can’t teach someone to want to serve; you can’t teach personality. What we can do, however, is hire people who have those qualities, and we can then teach them about our products and teach them our culture.”
As long as I live, I will never forget this simple analogy about hiring people. It is branded on my brain forever. And since that day, with every hiring decision I’ve made, I find myself asking this question:
“Am I hiring a duck, thinking they will become an eagle?”
Author and Leadership expert John C. Maxwell shared the same sentiment on not sending a duck to eagle school, in his book: Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading. Maxwell writes about the nature of ducks and eagles in parallel to human relations:
“I place a high value on people. I sincerely believe that every person matters. And for years, I believed that anyone could learn just about anything. As a result, I repeatedly tried to send my ducks to eagle school. Here’s why I no longer do that.”
1. If You Send Ducks to Eagle School, You Will Frustrate the Ducks
Ducks are not supposed to be eagles—nor do they want to become eagles. Who they are is who they should be. Ducks have their strengths and should be appreciated for them. They’re excellent swimmers. They are capable of working together in an amazing display of teamwork and travel long distances together. Ask an eagle to swim or to migrate thousands of miles, and it’s going to be in trouble.
Leadership is all about placing people in the right place so they can be successful.
Leadership is all about placing people in the right place so they can be successful. As a leader, you need to know and value your people for who they are and let them work according to their strengths. There’s nothing wrong with ducks. Just don’t ask them to soar or hunt from a high altitude. It’s not what they do.
2. If You Send Ducks to Eagle School, You Will Frustrate the Eagles
Eagles don’t want to hang around with ducks. They don’t want to live in a barnyard or swim in a pond. Their potential makes them impatient with those who cannot soar. People who are used to moving fast and flying high are easily frustrated by people who want to hold them back.
3. If You Send Ducks to Eagle School, You Will Frustrate Yourself
Have you ever led people who never did rise up and fulfill your expectations? No matter how much you motivated them, trained them, provided them with resources, or gave them opportunities, they just didn’t perform according to your expectations? That’s happened to me many times.
“Cats do what cats do, ducks do what ducks do, and eagles do what eagles do. If you take a duck and ask it to do an eagle’s job, shame on you. As a leader, your job is to help your ducks to become better ducks and your eagles better eagles—to put individuals in the right places and help them reach their potential.”
You shouldn’t ask someone to grow in areas where they have no natural talent. Why? Because our ability to grow and change is very different depending on whether or not we can make choices. In areas where we have choices, our growth potential is unlimited. Attitude is a choice. Character is a choice. Responsibility is a choice.
So, for example, if I have a terrible attitude—a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10—I can improve it all the way up to a 10 by making the right choices. I can choose to have a great attitude.
In contrast, natural ability is not a choice. It’s a gift. You have whatever you have. The only real choice you have is whether or not you will try to develop it. And if you do, the growth in that area will not be as dramatic. After training and mentoring people for forty years, I’ve found that people can improve only about two points out of ten in any given talent.
Therefore, if a person is born a 3 in a given area, he may be able to become a 5, but he’ll never go from a 3 to a 10. So if you have someone who is a great swimmer and loves to fly in V formation, send him to duck school. No matter how motivated or intelligent he is, he’ll never become an eagle. You cannot put in something that God has left out.
Natural ability is not a choice. It’s a gift. You have whatever you have. The only real choice you have is whether or not you will try to develop it. And if you do, the growth in that area will not be as dramatic.
American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once quipped “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” I try to see the best in everyone I come in contact with, I see eagles in each person. We all have the potential to become the best versions of ourselves but we have since forgotten our uniqueness as a result of indoctrination through schooling. social programming, domestication, and religious dogma. There comes a time, we all have to come to the realization that some people are stuck in their ways and are not ready to change.
“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ask yourself: Am I dealing with a duck? Is this person willing to change and take the next step for greatness? They are lots of skills and values that cannot be taught such as character, self-discipline, integrity, drive, honesty, etc. Don’t send a duck to eagle school, it is not worth it.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.