The Second Arrow

Last week my Vistage CEO group had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Srikumar Rao who presented his Creativity and Personal Mastery Workshop. Dr. Rao has been one of the top-rated and popular professors at many top Business Schools – including Columbia, Kellogg, Berkeley, London Business School and Imperial College.

The message in Dr. Rao’s presentation: we create our own happiness. Some call it mindset, he calls it creating and living an alternate reality.

One of the most powerful stories he told was one from Buddhist teachings.

It is said the Buddha once asked a student:

  • If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?
  • If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?
  • The Buddha then asks, Then why did you shoot the second arrow?

Most of us react to this statement with “huh?”

Dr. Rao illustrated the second arrow with this story. A woman goes on a date with a man she met online. They were both looking forward to the date after their positive correspondence. The date ends abruptly with the man leaving and saying he is not interested. Brokenhearted, she calls a friend who tells her, “why did you think it would work out, you are uninteresting and have fat thighs”. What friend would say that, we ask? No one. The friend was herself.

In short, the second arrow is our negative self-talk.

So next time you don’t win the business you want, or a key employee leaves or, or, or… Perhaps we can learn from Dr. Rao and the Buddha, and instead of piling on with negative self-talk, create an alternative reality that looks for the opportunity in what appears to be a loss.

On November 14, my Vistage CEO group is hosting one of our semi-annual guest days. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about Vistage, this is a low-key way to meet our members and hear a great speaker, Andrea Simon, who asks “Who will be your customers in three years?” Please contact me directly for an invite: Elisa K Spain.

For more about the members of the group click here

For more about the speaker on November 14, click here

You can read more of my blogs and leadership quotes here.