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10 January 2011 0 Comments

Forget New Year’s Resolutions; Beware the Baobabs!

Picture and all quotes from The Little Prince (Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Originally published: New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1943. Translated from the French by Katherine Woods.).

If good things come in small packages, then I understand why the French story The Little Prince is so good. This brief classic is rich with deep truths spoken by an innocent youngster.

The book and its protagonist are both very small. This childlike ruler is the only inhabitant of an equally small planet.  The little prince sets off on a journey to other planets and ultimately encounters the narrator on Earth. Through their brief dialog, the narrator rediscovers some of the childhood wisdom he lost while growing up – and learns some new insights from this young sage.

The lesson of the baobabs is particularly poignant.

The narrator knows baobabs only as monster trees 50-100 feet tall with cork-like trunks 25-35 feet in diameter found in the savannahs of Africa and India. But as the little prince observes, “Before they grow so big, the baobabs start out by being little.”

You see, the prince’s planet is about the size of a house. Each morning he would carefully search the whole surface of his planet for newly sprouted baobab seedlings. The narrator understood the seriousness of this daily chore:

“A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet.

It bores clear through with its roots.

And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces.”

How true this can be in our own organizations; if we allow the small evils to persist – soon we find it impossible to get rid of them. They bore their roots deeply into the organization, and eventually split it into pieces.

There is a personal application too, of course. New Year’s resolutions are fine, but as the narrator warns, “Watch out for the baobabs!”

What About You?

  • Are there “baobabs” in your organization? What are they and how can you get rid of them?
  • How can you introduce a regular discipline to identify and attend to the “baobabs” in your life or your organization?

Leave a Reply below to share your response.

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Picture and all quotes from The Little Prince (Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Originally published: New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1943. Translated from the French by Katherine Woods.).

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