How Being Positive Ruined the Day! A Nice Bedtime Story
The Power of Positive Thinking only works when the positive thinking is based in reality. When you’re told your life is full of rainbows and unicorns, but you’re really headed for disaster, you need someone to just plain tell you the truth…
The emperor hung on to the window railing for balance inside his best horse-drawn coach. The crowds lined the parade route… craned necks for a better look… shouted out accolades in praise and honor of their emperor. Oh my! You should have seen it! The emperor rode the finest golden coach, drawn by the handsomest of horses, attended to by suave and sophisticated servants and footmen. And his wardrobe! Well! His wardrobe! You just had to see his wardrobe!
Weeks before, two tailors walked through the gates into the imperial city. The claims they made about the threads they sold caught the attention of the emperor’s palace clothiers, and in no time they were in audience before the emperor himself. The emperor’s wardrobe was immense. That was because fine clothes were his passion… so much so that he changed his clothes every hour of the waking day!
The pair of tailors make an incredible claim: If the emperor will retain them to make the finest suit of clothes he’s ever worn, they will do the job just for the testimonial he’ll give them. In addition, the clothes will be made of the world’s finest threads… so fine that he won’t even feel the weight of them on his body. Not only that, these clothes will have a bit of magic in them:
Those who are unfit for their position, or stupid or incompetent will NOT be able to see them!
Magnificent! The tailors are enlisted to begin immediately, all expenses paid, and they retire with their materials and tools to a special room provided by emperor.
For two weeks the lords and ladies in waiting, and all the personnel in the emperor’s palace hear the whizzing and whirring of the spindle and loom. The emperor is beside himself with eagerness.
So he sends his prime minister to check on the tailors’ progress.
Upon entering the room, the prime minister is highly impressed by the industriousness and energy of the tailors. “Almost finished!” they exclaim. “Look at the work for yourself,” as they lead him to the rack where hang several cloak hangers.
“Well, what do you say?” the tailors implore. Chagrined by only seeing the hangers themselves, but no clothes, the prime minister recalls the words of the tailors, “Those unfit for their position, or stupid or incompetent will NOT be able to see your fine clothes!”
Not wanting to appear unfit for his position, or stupid or incompetent, the prime minister replies (with “positive thinking”), “Magnificent! Wonderful! You will be highly rewarded! The emperor will look better to his people than ever he has!”
Returning to the emperor, the prime minister is begged for his report. “Magnificent! Wonderful! You will look better to your people than ever you have!” The emperor beamed, unable to hide his anticipation.
A week later, the tailors call for the emperor. Upon entering the room, the emperor is highly impressed by the mess of threads scattered in piles around the floor, a sure sign of industriousness and energy. “Finished!” the tailors exclaim. “Come to the mirror and we’ll dress you in your new clothes. See for yourself!”
And he does.
Being fitted, he remarks that indeed the clothes are the lightest he’s ever worn, lighter than a single feather of down. Finishing the last of the buttons, they turn him to the full-length mirror where, while the tailors beam with delight, the emperor at last gets his first glimpse of his new clothes.
Barely maintaining his composure, the emperor gazes at the mirror. He turns left. He turns right. He sucks in his gut and sticks out his chest. His is the posture of grandeur, of unquenchable self-confidence, of… well, of the most regal of all emperors.
…his posture in the mirror is the only thing he sees. He does not see a piece of clothing. He does not see trousers. He does not see a shirt. He does not see a coat. He sees no clothing. Not a single thread.
“Well, what do you say?” the tailors implore, hands steepled, fingertips tapping. Chagrined by only seeing his body, but no clothes, the emperor recalls the words of the tailors, “Those unfit for their position, or stupid or incompetent will NOT be able to see your fine clothes!”
Not wanting to appear unfit for his position, or stupid or incompetent, the emperor replies (with “positive thinking”), “Magnificent! Wonderful! You will be highly rewarded! I will look better to my people than ever I have!”
Hanging on to the golden coach’s window railing for balance, the emperor’s parade generates electricity among the neck-craning crowds. But nothing like the electricity upon seeing the emperor pass by. Because not one individual can see any clothes on the emperor. Not one person understands that any other person sees no clothes either.
Chagrined by only seeing his body atop the golden chariot, but no clothes, each onlooker recalls the words of the tailors, “The stupid and incompetent will not be able to see your fine clothes!”
Not wanting to appear unfit for his position, or stupid or incompetent, each onlooker shouts in feigned exuberance, “Magnificent! Wonderful! You look better to us than ever you have!”
On down each block of the parade, streets crowded with citizens of the empire, the emperor proudly displays the tailors’ work, and his own newest prize… his new clothes. And block after block of the parade, not one citizen knows that not one other citizen sees any of the emperor’s new clothes.
Nevertheless, not wanting to appear unfit for his position, or stupid or incompetent, each onlooker still shouts in feigned exuberance, “Magnificent! Wonderful! You look better to us than ever you have!”
The emperor, not wanting to appear stupid or incompetent himself, proudly and exuberantly waves back.
…toward the end of the parade, a young boy who had no position to be concerned about, no pride to worry about intelligence, no tasks with which to exhibit competence, this boy, stunned by what he sees, calls out shrilly and above the crowd…
… “the emperor has no clothes!”
- Everyone told the emperor what they thought he wanted to hear, even if it wasn’t true.
- Everyone was concerned about how they came across to each other and to the emperor, even if it wasn’t true.
- The emperor wanted everyone’s approval, even if there was nothing to approve of.
In short, what the emperor needed more than anything, from the very beginning, was someone to tell him the truth. He needed feedback that was not emotionally involved with the situation.
In the end, nothing will be more valuable to you than being authentic. Why be something you’re not. Talk to someone who will tell you what you need to hear without worrying about your approval or disapproval, or about their own security.
Telling you what they think you want to hear is just hot air! Telling you that things are just magnificent, when they’re headed for disaster is just wrong! And it can ruin you.
Get feedback that’s authentic, so you can be authentic.
Authenticity is the most attractive clothing you can don.
As always, please leave your comments here!
This article is dedicated to two friends who told me to stick with what I know and to write from my heart… at a time when I slipped a little off course. Thank you! And may you, my readers, be so blessed with friends willing to tell you the truth.