Getting Out of a Hole (a Parable)

A guy falls in to an eight foot deep hole while at work. His boss comes along and the guy says, “hey boss can you get me out of here?”

The boss says, “Things are pretty tight around here so we can’t afford to buy a ladder, but we have this old shovel sitting around. I’ll throw it down and you can dig yourself out.”

It takes a long time, but after a lot of trial and error (sometimes even digging in the wrong place and making the hole deeper) our guy manages to dig himself out of the hole. And of course, he’s damn proud of himself for that accomplishment. It certainly wasn’t easy. He’s recognized far and wide for his perseverance.

The boss is so impressed that, not long after, the guy gets a promotion. And, while everyone thinks it’s a bit odd, the guy never goes anywhere without that old shovel.

A couple of years later, company revenues have grown significantly but, alas, holes still happen and one day the guy’s replacement in his old job falls into another eight foot hole. Sure enough, our guy is the first person to walk by and he hears, “Hey, can you get me out of here?”

Still holding on to that old shovel, the guy jumps down in to the hole, too.

“What the hell, man? Why didn’t you just reach down and pull me out?”

“Don’t worry,” our guy answers, “I’ve been down here before and I know how to dig us out.”

HoleLadderAfter a couple hours of digging, the boss comes by. He looks down in to the hole and shakes his head. “Hold on a minute, guys, we can afford a ladder now. I’ll be right back.” He walks in to a nearby hardware store and returns a few minutes later with an extension ladder and lowers it in to the hole.

The new guy climbs up the ladder and walks away.

But our guy looks distrustfully at the ladder and keeps on digging.

A couple of days later, the boss walks by the hole again and, to his surprise, the guy is still down there digging, only now the hole is 12 feet deep. The boss kind of shakes his head and laughs, but when customers question why the hole is getting deeper, he just tells them this guy has done this before and knows what he’s doing.

Days later, a crowd has gathered and they’re all exasperatedly trying to tell the guy that all he has to do is extend the ladder and climb out. Pretty soon, a reporter shows up and asks the guy why he won’t use the ladder.

“We’ve got a lot different revenue streams now,” says the guy, “but if you’ve got to try to get out using a ladder, you’re probably going to fall. It just doesn’t work.”

Soon after, the boss walks by again and he doesn’t seem as amused now. These people gathered around are all potential customers and the guy in the hole is making him and his company look foolish or like they’re too cheap to give the guy the right tools to get out of the hole.

The reporter asks the boss to comment on the guy digging in the hole and the boss replies, “We have to acknowledge we probably have to use that ladder to get out of that hole.  Our guy is committed to using the ladder. He can speak for himself, but I believe he’s enthusiastic about doing that.”

Of course, the guy continues to dig.

Eventually, the crowd turns angry because the hole just keeps getting bigger and the police have to clear the area until the only people left are the guy in the hole and his boss.

When he’s certain nobody but the guy in the hole can hear what he says, the boss looks down in to the hole and says firmly, “Enough with the digging. Use the damn ladder to get out of that hole. Now!”

Of course, since there was nobody else around to hear it, we can’t be 100% positive that’s what the boss finally said.

But I sure hope it is.

- JC

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