A scorpion, who wants to get across a pond, spots a friendly frog. The scorpion says to the frog, “How about a lift to the other side of the pond? I can’t swim and I would appreciate your helping me out,” The frog replies, “No way. I know what scorpions are like. You promised not to sting me one time in the past when I gave to you a lift. Yet you didn’t keep your commitment and stung me. I almost died. This time you’ll probably sting me halfway across the pond, from where I won’t be able to swim to shore. I don’t want to drown.”
The scorpion counters, “Don’t be silly. If I am on your back, I am dependent on you to get across the pond. If I sting you, I will drown too. Why would I want to do that?” The frog thinks a bit and relents: “I guess you’re right. Hop on.”
The scorpion climbs on the frog’s back and they take off the other side of the pond. Halfway across, the scorpion gives the frog a big whopper of a sting. As both of them start to go under, the frog says to the scorpion, “Why in the world did you do that? Why didn’t you keep your commitment not to sting me? Now both of us are going to die.” The scorpion’s answer is one you have heard many times before from human scorpions: “I couldn’t resist it. It’s just my nature to be that way.”
The lesson here is that if someone has failed to keep a commitment with you in the past, there is 95% chance that he or she will fail to keep a commitment with you again in the future. This is a hard lesson for most pf us to learn. In fact, many of us keep relearning this lesson throughout our entire lives.
You will notice that people who back out of business deals or social commitments tend to do it again and again. This behaviour is best explained by two phenomena – people are only human and people seldom change. Human nature is such that even if people have apologized for a past transgression, and promised that they wouldn’t do it again, they will likely to do it again. You have to decide what is the best way to respond to people who don’t keep commitements.
Personally, I refrain from dealing with people who regularly cop out of business or social commitments – whether or not they apologize. I don’t need the hassles and aggravation. Whenever people continue to fail to show up for meetings, I don’t contact them again. If they call to apologize with a good reason, I give them one more chance, and possibly two chances – but three strikes and they are out. By following this principle, without any exceptions, I end up with a few quality people who are good at keeping commitments.
In short, if a person has let you down before, be on guard when he tells you he will come through on another occasion, whether it’s business deal or a social engagement, no matter how enticing and promising, it’s best to focus your interests elsewhere. Otherwise, you will find out the hard way that the first transgression was no accident.
As the old saying goes, “The person who steals an egg from his farmer friend will eventually steal the chicken as well.”
(source: 101 Really Important Things You Already Know, But Keep Forgetting, by Ernie Zelinski)