Tales My Mother Told Me Volume 2- Tale 2: Grind an Iron Pestle into a Needle

Grinding a Iron Pestle into a Needle

The little old tale I’m going to share with you today has helped me to be who I am me today.

I’m a very hard working and determined person, and I believe that everything is possible through hard work and dedication.

So how did mum come to tell me this tale?

As a young boy I was an ‘A’ student, and captain of my class. But one day I got bored and decided to let everything go. I stopped studying hard and spent more time at my friends’ place playing games rather than doing my homework.

Mum noticed that I was not doing any homework, and my teachers had also told Mum that I was lacking focus and my grades were also been affected.

“My little one where are you going?” asked Mum as I skipped out the door one day.

“I am going to Kim’s place to play Mum.” I said, in a hurry to leave.

“Have you done your homework for today?” Mum asked with a raised eyebrow, and a knowing tone.

“Aah I’ll do it later Mum,” I lied. “I told Kim I’ll be over his place to play games” I said anxiously wanting to be on my way.

“No my little one, finish your homework first and then you can go over his place to play. You always did all your homework and study before played, what’s changed my dear boy?” Mum asked as she stroked my hair.

“I don’t know Mum,” I said. “Other boys in school don’t seem to care about homework, and they’re all okay and having great fun. So I’m just trying to be like them. Sometimes studying hard is really boring. Is this wrong Mum?” I asked with a guilty voice.

“It is okay to feel like this,” Mum replied. “Sometimes we keep doing the same things over and over again. So sometimes that can get boring. What you can do is think of a way to enthuse yourself and make it fun again so that you want to learn more.”

“How you are feeling right now reminds me of an old tale about a famous poet named ‘Li Bai'” Mum continued.

“Tell me the story Mum please!” I said with excitement.

“Okay, now sit next to me, and I want you to listen well.” said Mum.

Back in the old Tang Dynasty in China there was a little boy named Li Bai. He was very smart, but he was quite naughty too. He loved playing, and did not like to attend school. Li Bai often pretended to go to school and then skipped classes to wander the streets and explore. When Li Bai in school, he loved day dreaming and seemed absent minded most of the time. His parents and teachers did not know how to handle him. They recognised his great potential to be someone extraordinary, but were concerned with his attitude.

One beautiful day, Li Bai decided to skip classes again and headed out to the town to fulfil his desire to explore. He just loved to explore for interesting things rather than studying. As he was walking and admiring the blue bright sky he came across an old lady vigorously grinding a thick iron pestle against a block of stone.

Li Bai was very curious and walked over to the woman and asked; “Granny, why are you grinding that iron pestle?”

“I’m grinding this iron pestle into a sewing needle” the old lady said as she lifted her head and smiled.

“What? Are you serious granny! A sewing needle?” Li Bai exclaimed. “But it’s so thick! It will take you forever! How could it be possible?” Li Bai was shocked and amazed by the idea.

The old lady stared at Li Bai and stopped grinding. In a very serious voice she said; “My child, as long as I work harder than others I can grind this iron pestle down to a needle. Nothing is impossible. Just remember this; when you are doing any task you just have to work hard, persevere, and you will certainly succeed in what you do.”

After his conversation with the old lady Li Bai immediately understood what she meant. He was very thankful  for her advice and quickly ran back to school. He was quite ashamed of his own actions, skipping classes and his day dreaming.

From then on, he set his mind to study hard. No more skipping classes and no more being absent minded in the classroom either. From what he learned from the old lady with her pestle, Li Bai lept into any challenging tasks. He would think of the old woman’s wisdom and her advice often, and it enabled him to continue studying diligently.

Through his hard work and dedication to his study Li Bai became a well respected poet in China. Today, Li Bai is considered one of the most outstanding poets in Chinese history.

So what can we learn from this story? How can you apply it to your Art & Design Practice?

  1. Passion – Define your passion. And review your attitude regularly. Know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. Passion will give you a real purpose and a reason why you’re pursuing your path.
  2. Tricks of the trade – Work hard and learn the detail of all aspects of your business. Understand all the “in’s and out’s” of the business. Keep in touch with the industry you are in, and build great connections with expert people in industry and your ideal customers.
  3. Nuture your business – Have clear goals and milestones. Understand where you are, and where you want your business to be.  Define your strengths and your weaknesses. Stretch yourself. Move out of your comfort zone and set challenges so that you can grow.
  4. Work hard by working smart – Working hard will give you the results you want, but you need to be working smart too. Always test and measure business performance. If how you run your business is not working for you, then define what’s not working and make changes. There’s no point in expending energy you don’t need to – there’s no point to grinding a pestle down to a needle if you don’t need a needle, or if another needle is easily available to you.
  5. Focus on your purpose and what really matters – Set and review goals. Most importantly, establish WHY you want to achieve these goals. Having real purpose and great action plans will keep you on track. That way you won’t get distracted by other shinny objects.

Vinh Van Lam
the authorVinh Van Lam
Vinh Van Lam, co-founder of ArtSHINE, is a visionary art coach and entrepreneur with a passion for fostering creativity. With a diverse background in art and business, he brings a unique perspective to empower emerging artists, enabling them to thrive in the dynamic art industry through the innovative platform of ArtSHINE.

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