NB. Nasrudin (or Nasreddin) was a Sufi scholar and mystic who is believed to have lived and died during the 13th century in what is now Turkey. He appears in thousands of Middle Eastern “teaching stories” which combine subtle humour with learning. The following three stories re-imagine Nasrudin as a cross between a modern day consultant and a mentor; just the person to advise squash governing bodies, elite players and sport development experts alike.
The Mission Statement
Nasrudin was asked to help the leadership team of a squash governing body with their mission statement.
“What is your fundamental purpose?” he asked.
“To what end?” asked Nasrudin.
“So that they will continue to invest in our organisation,” they replied.
“To what end?” asked Nasrudin.
“So that they receive more benefits,” they said, becoming slightly annoyed.
“To what end?” asked Nasrudin, nonchalantly.
“So that they invest further and receive even more benefits.”
Nasrudin pondered this for a while, thanked them and invited them to visit his home later in the week to do some more work on the mission statement. When they arrived, they found him in his allotment stuffing oats into his pet donkey.
“What are you doing?” they asked. “You’re giving that poor beast too much food! It will be so bloated it won’t be able to go anywhere.”
“But it isn’t meant to go anywhere,” Nasruddin replied. “Its purpose is to produce manure.”
“To what end?” they asked.
“Because without it, I can’t grow enough oats in my small allotment to feed the greedy animal.”
The Perfect Squash Coach
An elite squash player, the winner of many international tournaments, was having great difficulty looking for a new coach. After much searching, the player could find nobody suitable and, in desperation, turned to Nasrudin.
Over lunch, the player discovered that Nasrudin was not married and asked him whether he had ever come close.
“Yes,” he replied. “When I was young, I was very keen to find the perfect wife. I travelled throughout the world looking for her. In France, I met a beautiful dancer who was joyful and carefree but, alas, she had no sense of the spiritual. In Russia, I met a wealthy businesswoman who was both beautiful and wise but, sadly, we couldn’t communicate. Then finally, in India, I found her. She was beautiful, wise and joyful, and her charm captured the hearts of everybody she met. I felt that I had at last found the perfect wife.”
Nasrudin paused and let out a long sigh.
The player hesitated for a moment before asking: “So did you not marry her, Nasrudin?”
“Alas, no,” sighed Nasrudin. “She was waiting for the perfect husband.”
The Expert Consultant
One day an expert sport development consultant and author asked Nasrudin whether he would be willing to become his mentor.
“There is nothing I can teach you,” said Nasrudin.
“Don’t be so modest,” said the consultant. “I’ve been told that you’d be the perfect teacher for somebody like me who’s already an expert in their field.”
Nasruddin shrugged and invited the consultant to afternoon tea. He carefully laid the table, brought out his best china and warmed the teapot. When the tea was made, he began to pour and kept on pouring until the tea was flowing over the edge of the consultant’s cup and all over the table. Eventually the consultant jumped to his feet and said:
“Stop pouring, you fool! Can’t you see that the cup is too full to have any more tea in it?”
“Well,” said Nasrudin, “I can certainly see that I’ll have to empty the cup before I pour any more in, but cups are a lot easier to empty than expert consultants.”
These stories are based on anecdotes taken from “The Wise Fool’s Guide to Leadership” by Peter Hawkins is published by O Books.