05/20/2010 02:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Change Agents - Advice We Can All Use

We attended a graduation recently and one of the speakers told the students a story. As we sat there listening we thought, that's good advice for everyone.


Here's what she told the audience:

A young woman went to her mother complaining that things were so hard for her. She didn't know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as soon as one problem was solved, another took its place.

The mother said nothing but proceeded to fill three pots with water.

In the first, she placed carrots.
In the second she placed eggs.
And in the last she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them all sit and boil. About twenty minutes later, she turned off the burners.

She asked her daughter to feel the carrots. She did, and noted that they felt soft.

She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg inside.

Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity - boiling water - but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, had softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid center. But, after sitting in the boiling water, its insides had become hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water!

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your
door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

The carrot seemed strong, but with pain and adversity, it wilted

The egg started with a malleable heart, but hardened with the heat.

The coffee bean actually changed the hot water. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you instead of letting it change you.

That was the end of the story.

We sat back and thought, this has great applicability to the business world, which is always looking for "change agents", people who can make the company into something bigger and better. The hot water in the story is really the crises we face every day in our jobs. How we choose to respond to that heat determines the type of business leaders we will ultimately become.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success