I’m sure you’ve met a lot of donkeys and some of you will say, ‘Well, there are donkeys and then there are mules. But they’re all asses, aren’t they?’ All I can say is that I am yet to meet a smarter donkey than this Jordanian one who managed to teach me a lot about travel and management. The art of navigation is how I would want to define this.
I know there are the Mammoth Jackstocks from the US, the Anatolians from Turkey, the Abkhazskaya from the Russian federation, the Pyrenean breed from France, the Algerian donkey, the Abyssinian from Ethiopia, and even the nearly endangered Asinara from Italy.
‘Aren’t there any donkeys in Morocco?’
‘Of course there are… they’re there in Croatia, Serbia, Haiti, China, Iran, Spain, Brazil as well… and I’m sure even in Syria.’ Well, we also have people who behave like donkeys sometimes, don’t they? But let me say here that this Petra donkey stepped out from a group of five or six and stood by me. The owner had no option but to say, ‘Yes, this one for you.’
This happened in Petra
Petra in Jordan is known as one of seven wonders of the modern world. The tourist pamphlet calls it a ‘remote dead city’ that hides behind seemingly impenetrable mountains and gorges, magnificent rock-cut monasteries, tombs, and palaces that have been cared or sculpted top to bottom into gigantic cliffs of red and orange sandstone. I’ll talk about Petra in a different post though.
Let me just say that after our long early morning brisk walk to reach the Ai-Khazneh or the Treasury before the majority of the tourists arrive, we decided to walk up the more than 600 steps cut into the rock to reach the High Place of Sacrifice… but at one point our GAdventures CEO or the Chief Experience Officer announced, ‘From here we leave the steps and climb the rock mountain to go up and down and reach the special point from where we see the Treasury from the top. A sight that hardly any tourist gets to see. Yalla!’ Well, we’ll talk about all the climbing and trekking we did in Petra in a separate post… I mentioned this simply to tell you that by lunch time we had climbed to the top and some really fine view points and were really exhausted.
This was when Ayman, our CEO said, ‘Just another 800 steps and some climbing and walking to the Monastery now! After that we come down and head for the tombs and the amphitheatre… and then head back to our hotel and an early dinner. By the time we finish, you will all have completed at least 21 kilometres, if not more and your legs will feel like logs.’ After a pause he added, ‘You can opt for a donkey too… but only up to a point. There will still be a steep climb and around a hundred steps remaining.’
‘A donkey ride!’ I said to myself. Of course I was tired and my thighs already felt like logs with no sensation… and this was partly the reason I opted to ride a donkey for a part of the way up to the monastery. Another reason was a wish to experience as much possible in Jordan… and this also included riding the camel, buggy, and a donkey! That this donkey ride would make an indelible impression upon me was something I did not know then. And yes, the donkey chose me, as I have already said before. I’d say this donkey was a rather proactive one and isn’t this what the management pundits call the rule #1 if you’re learning about excellence in management? Choose your goal. Choose your path. Choose your team. ‘So yes, this donkey could easily have been a manager… or maybe a VP or even a CEO in some previous birth,’ I thought and smiled. It was navigating well.
My donkey’s interpretation of good management
During this donkey ride I was literally made to revise a few lessons in good management. Let me describe the precarious ride up to the dismounting point a few hundred yards below and away from the monastery in Petra and relate it all to management rules for you.
Seek your task before tasks seek you
A rather beneficial one I’d say and conforms to the widely held belief that in any interview an interviewee can answer in ways that paves the way for the questions that he wants to be asked. I guess it is the same with tasks.
This donkey chose me as his next task and then started walking slowly but with a lot of firm steps towards the stairs that went up to the monastery. No, he did not wait to even hear his master’s instructions and so I guessed that he must be managing his master well. All that his master said was, ‘Ah! The donkey knows his task.’ Well, this is what good management is all about.
Any fool can direct humans. It is directing donkeys that matters
This was another management rule that this donkey taught me. This smart donkey knew that directing his human master was far easier than making sure that the other donkeys in that organisation called ‘Petra’ knew what they had to do when he was around.
This donkey made rude noises or stamped his foot authoritatively the moment some other donkey tried to pass him and I noticed that his tactics worked. He was able to get the other donkeys do what he wanted them to do… though it made him work harder and snort harder. His master passively came walking slowly way behind us. My donkey was a leader in every sense.
Roads only go to destinations. Leave the road to explore
Every now and then my donkey tended to leave the stony path or the stone stairs, wherever they were and went to the left or to the right to see what the rocky mountain had to offer. His master did try to call him back but that was obviously a weak call, though he did tell me, ‘Sir, this donkey will never hurt you or slide down these treacherous rock strewn slopes. He is safe.’ I nodded and though I was a bit apprehensive initially, I noticed that the donkey always went over to nudge a few rocks, sniff with an informed snobbish air like many of our top echelon manager do, and then returned back to the path that was known to lead to where we were anyway going.
So yes, this donkey respected the road and the destination but loved the spirit of adventure and exploration. I guess all successful managers are the same though not with 62 chromosomes. This one was an apt representation of what an anonymous writer once wrote: ‘What freedom to be tied up, and still have the capability of ignoring ridiculous, silly conversations.’
Spread awareness without hard-selling your talent
Well, well, well, don’t we all know this already? It is only the lesser mortals who go and hard-sell their talent and their product. The suave manager who will finally lead the organisation knows intuitively that spreading awareness is half the job done.
This donkey wasn’t forcing me to take decisions… but paused at every place where the locals were sitting and trying to sell Petra-souvenirs or even different types of stone samples from different eras. He paused for just enough to whet my appetite and then moved on… he was navigating well through the lanes of my needs and desires.
When you want something done, ask… with a smile
This donkey knew the value of a smile and at the spot where I was supposed to dismount and trudge up the rest of the way to the monastery, the donkey lovingly nudged me and gave the broadest smile I have ever seen. His master, of course interpreted this as, ‘Sir, he is asking for a special tip!’ But I knew better… why would this donkey with a mind of his own be following the ridiculous begging tactics of his master? No, this wasn’t just possible. This donkey was far smarter than getting trapped into mundane actions for small benefits.
This donkey wanted to be remembered. This matters.
Seek out bloggers and pamper them because they are read
…and if you really want to ask, ‘Why would that donkey want to be remembered by me?’ My answer is, ‘Well, he sensed that someday I would sit and write about him and make him immortal.’
The donkey also had the final management lesson for all organisations: seek out the right bloggers and pamper them. They are the ones who are read.
Well, this donkey wasn’t just any donkey. He was a thoroughbred manager, an MBA.
Yes, his master told me at one stage, ‘Sir my donkey is MBA.’
‘Yes sir, I mean My Brilliant Associate.’
‘Aha!’ I replied, and then wondered what the MBAs of this world would think, and smiled. I guess they are all brilliant associates of their masters.
So far as I am concerned, I loved this navigation through my travel memories from my trip to Jordan. I have loved sharing this article… do respond by telling me what you think of this one.
More pictures from my Jordan trip:
25 January 2016