A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen
“If I work very hard and diligently how long will it take for me to find Zen.”
The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply
myself to learn fast – How long then?”
Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then?” asked the student.
“Thirty years,” replied the Master.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student.
“Each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do
you say that?”
The Master replied,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye
on the path.”
– Zen Parable
The first time I read this parable I felt a conflict inside my head. I was convinced that a strong desire to reach my goal was the crucial component to achieve that goal. I also believed that to estimate the time required and to set hard deadlines was the best way to keep me productive.
These approaches have become common sense in our culture: we tend to apply them to everything, not only to work but also in private life. That’s why we find “motivators” and “project managers” in every corner of society. And there are also good reasons for it, of course, because these approaches have their advantages and I will go back to them in a minute. While my common sense was defending goal-oriented project management,another voice in my mind was thinking: “the Zen dude is right though, and you knew it already! Where did you know it from?”
I realized that there were actually many fields in which I never set a goal but I was nevertheless extremely productive and successful, and one of these was: language learning..
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