Setting: No clue. Greece. No, let's say France. Characters: vain emperor, phony tailors, the court, peasants, a child. Vain emperor gets swindled by phony tailors into buying a suit that is so wonderful it is invisible to anyone 'stupid' or 'incompetent.' Believing and prideful little emperor goes parading around town, nose in the air, in his birthday suit while everyone oohs and aahs, too afraid to admit they don't see anything. Finally, a little child shouts out what they all already know, but are too fearful to say. Cover blown, the naked truth exposed, end of story.
Here's what we learn from it:
1. Perception is what we believe to be true. It is the way we see the world, not necessarily reality.
Reality is "the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined." The emperor believed he was wearing 'the suit to end all suits,' but was he? Of course not. His perception or his belief was flawed. It was contrary to reality and thus led to a negative outcome. So it is for us. We each have collected, literally, hundreds of thousands of beliefs/perceptions. They begin accumulating when we are very young and continue to pile up the older we get. Some align with truth/reality, many do not. Here's the scary part, our beliefs determine our actions. Let me say it again. Our beliefs determine our actions--however subconscious they may be. If the emperor believes he's wearing new clothes, what will he do? He will go show them off. If I believe generic brand stuff is junk, what will I do? I will always buy name brand stuff. And on and on and on. So what is the solution? Take your beliefs to the boxing ring and knock out any that don't align with truth/reality. It may take you all 12 rounds to make it happen, but it needs to be done. Until we do, until we align our beliefs/perceptions with truth/reality, we are resigned to similar fates as our naked emperor.
For more on this check out The Power of Perception by Hyrum Smith.
2. Pride undermines leadership.
I can't say that I'm the leadership expert yet, I'm not, but I can say that from this story I can see that pride undermines leadership. When presented with the new clothes, the emperor could not see the many colors or feel the softness of the fabric, but he was too prideful to admit it. Admitting the truth would, in this story, label him as stupid and incompetent. So he held on to his pride, suited up, and went marching around town naked. The outcome? He did look stupid and incompetent. Being a leader requires a foundation of trust. People have to trust you, or they will not follow you. Trust is built through integrity, humility and, service. Pride goes against all three. If you want to lead, get rid of pride.
3. Fear cripples progress.
Fear is a relentless little bugger that keeps far too many of us, far too often (including me) from progressing. It keeps us from achieving our goals, it keeps us from living our dreams, it keeps us from exploring, and experimenting, and going to new heights. At just the thought of greatness, fear shows up at our front door with enough suitcases for an extended vacation. We fear the crowd; we fear failure; we fear the lions, tigers, and bears along the road to success. So we stay put. We don't speak out, stand out, or stand up. We stay seated, quietly, but safely. I love that in this story it is a child that finally shouts out the truth. As you've probably observed, children are fearless (and honest to a fault :)). They dream big, and they go big. They are not crippled by fear. Neither should we be.
4. Be true to your gut.
This one is simple, yet tremendously important. Not only will your gut lead you to a good burger, but it will lead you to the right path and help you make good decisions in critical moments. If the emperor, or his court, had just trusted their gut they would have avoided paying for a suit that only bought them humiliation. (Given, that if they would have done that the story would have been horribly anticlimactic). Trust your gut. It will help lead you right.
Next time your read this funny little tale to you kids, remember these four lessons: 1. Perception is what we believe to be true. It is the way we see the world, not necessarily reality. 2. Pride undermines leadership. 3. Fear cripples progress. 4. Be true to your gut.
photo by http://roweig.deviantart.com/