Lessons from Donkeys on Finding the Path

Lessons from Donkeys on Finding the Path

By Carol Taplin


Excellence is spontaneous; perfection is conformity.

Excellence is accepting; perfection is judgment.

Excellence is giving; perfection is taking.

Excellence is confidence; perfection is doubt.

Excellence is the willingness to be wrong; perfection is being right.

Excellence is risk; perfection is fear.

Excellence is powerful; perfection is anger and frustration.

Excellence is flowing; perfection is pressure.

Excellence is journey; perfection is destination.


I strive to be the best that I can be. I do this in different ways to others. In order to strive for excellence, I certainly don’t have to be perfect. So often, like many others, I can confuse or interchange the words ‘excellence’ with ‘perfection’.

The first step toward excellence is in recognising the valuable learning grounds I spend time in every day. Opportunities to learn, grow, re-think and therefore improve the ways I do things surround me. In effect, every conversation, each project, every repeated routine task provides the chance to assess, to critique, question and learn. I simply need to willingly surrender myself to the wealth of opportunities that are presented to me in every day.

Unfortunately like many others, I can find myself stuck to tried and true ways. In not trying new ways or learning from my mistakes, I risk doing to same thing as I have always done and so getting the same that I always got. A willingness to step outside the box, to take the courage to risk, opens up incredible opportunities to learn new ways of doing things, new things about myself and possible new passions and skills. I am, after all, striving for the experience of being alive; happiness is passion, excitement and bliss. If excellence is a journey, then I have to move! Once I’ve identified the learning grounds around me, I actually need to learn from them!

Quite a few years ago, I had a ‘problem’ with a piece of office furniture in my office space. For nearly a year I wore a bruise on my left thigh from where my obstructive piece of furniture and I came into contact at a significant rate of knots at least once a day. The fact that I did absolutely nothing about this was amusing, to say the least, to those around me, most of all to a good friend who subsequently told me the following story.

In India, very small donkeys are used on mountain trails for transportation. They are Very Small—many tourists are not, but these donkeys diligently bear the load, trekking miles up windy, unkempt, perilous trails. The trails are littered with rocks and ruts and potholes. However, once a donkey has been ‘inducted’, that is, simply led up and down a trail once, they never again miss their footing, seeming to know precisely where every rock and hole and rut is. The point my eloquent friend was making was that in not learning how to avoid a bruising, I had failed to display at least the same intelligence as a donkey!

To learn that there are better places to plant my feet, better ways of doing things and other trails by way to get somewhere, is indeed a life skill. In order to grow from my mistakes, I do however need to make mistakes. In order to make mistakes, I need to move out of my comfort zones into unfamiliar territory. To be excellent, to be alive, is to have a go, take a risk. It is to recognise that the pursuit of excellence is a journey that grows with each new bend in the road, and of course, it is to appreciate, and have faith, that even donkeys are great at finding the best path!


Share this post