Have Mercy on Us…

Have mercy on us.

During times of renewal and fresh beginnings – like the New Year – we often seek the help of others we hope can assist us in starting (or re-starting) our journey anew. Those of us who are in business know it is wise to seek the help of experts, particularly in the areas in which we are lacking. We know that sometimes the “expert” opinion is the best route to take. Other times, the “expert” is dead wrong.

This scenario reminds me of one of my favorite stories, The Three Hermits by Leo Tolstoy.  Here’s a quick summary:

A learned, educated and God-fearing Bishop is traveling to a destination with several pilgrims on a fishing boat. The Bishop overhears some of the pilgrims discussing three Hermits who live on a remote island and focus solely on the “salvation” of their souls.  Upon hearing this, the Bishop asks to be taken to the island to meet the Hermits. The Captain of the boat tries to dissuade the Bishop from visiting the Hermits, but the Bishop insists. The Bishop is taken to the island and is greeted by the Hermits. The Bishop tells the Hermits that he has heard of their quest for salvation and asks them how they are serving God. The Hermits reply that they do not know and that they only know how to pray. The Hermits’ simple prayer is: “You are three; we are three; have mercy on us.”

The Bishop decides the prayer will not do. He acknowledges that the Hermits have little knowledge and are ignorant of the doctrine and how to properly pray. As such, the Bishop spends an entire day teaching the Hermits “The Lord’s Prayer.” The Hermits blunder a bit. But once the Bishop was satisfied with their memorization, he instructs them to pray as he had taught them, and continues on his journey.

Shortly after leaving, the Bishop realizes the boat is being followed. It is the three Hermits following the boat. They are walking on water. The Hermits tell the Bishop they’ve forgotten the prayer they were taught. The Bishop tells them not to worry, for their own simple prayer will reach God. The Hermits walk back across the water to their island. The ordeal was a very humbling experience for the Bishop.

I’d like to consider myself an expert in things dealing with communication, marketing, public education, public policy and the like. I’d like to think I’m very proficient in social media, e-mail marketing, media outreach, event planning and, of course, branding and brand strategy.

However, I don’t know everything.

One of my favorite clients is Michelle Williams. The world knows her as #TheIgnitEDTeacher. Michelle is a strong-willed, determined woman who knows her business and has a strong sense of what is best for her brand, IgnitED.

I’d like to think I’m a strong-willed, determined woman who knows her business and has a strong sense of what is best for my own endeavors and those of my clients. I am absolutely right – a lot. I’m also wrong a lot, too. If you’re familiar with DENOR and myself, then you know that the lion that is apart of the company’s branding is not just for decoration. Those of us at DENOR are protective, aggressive and fiercely loyal to those we represent. The lion is most certainly symbolic of that. As such, I consider it my great honor to protect Michelle and guide her and her company into greatness. It’s just what I do.

That, however, doesn’t mean we always agree.

In fact, Michelle and I disagreed about the best online strategy and tactic frequency for some of her marketing efforts. I fought for her to see my point of view. I won – at first. But ultimately, Michelle scaled back her efforts to what she thought would work better for her. Of course, she can readily refer to what we’ve done together, and the things on which I’ve advised her. But, ultimately, she has relied on her own keen sense of her industry to take her business to new heights. To date, she’s making more income from her brand than she ever has. And, as much as I’d like to take credit for most of it – I know that I cannot. For a lion like myself, such public acknowledgement is a very humbling experience.

If you ask Michelle about me or about DENOR, she will no doubt say wonderful things. Just like if you asked the three Hermits in Tolstoy’s story about the Bishop, they’d likely have nice things to say.

The moral of the story? There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Just because Michelle does not share my communications background and because she did not implement the entire online marketing strategy I suggested, doesn’t mean she won’t be successful.

Just because the three Hermits did not pray or worship in the same way as the Bishop, did not mean they did not have a strong relationship with Him. It is obvious the Hermits had great faith as they walked on water – like Jesus – to ask the Bishop about the prayer he’d taught them.

All of us have different perspectives and ways to do things. Sometimes we are absolutely right about our approach, and sometimes we’re absolutely wrong. Both are OK. I think that’s a part of business and it is most certainly a part of life. I just hope someone, somewhere has “mercy on us” while we’re figuring it out.


Perhaps I can be of some help.

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